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If you weren’t feeling reasonably confident coming up to this weekend’s Glasgow Derby perhaps the New Years Derby’s history in the last two decades gives the Celtic faithful yet more reasons to smile. There have been 9 in the last twenty years, with Saturday being the first of a new kind of new years derby. Over the course of these last 9, there was one Rangers win coming twenty years ago, three draws and five Celtic wins. Even if it is a standalone tie we all know how important the Old Firm fixtures were in past seasons in relation to determining the destination of the SPL title, right? Well maybe not the New Years derby. Rather annoyingly, Rangers managed to convert all three of the draws and their solo win into title wins by the end of the season while Celtic have only converted three out of five of their wins, the other two rather unsurprisingly going to Rangers. The good news for Celtic fans though is that throughout all of this time, a lead of seven points or greater after the New Year derby has not been clawed back once in past twenty years. Put the champagne on ice!

The biggest win in all of this time came in 03/04 when Celtic managed a 3-0 win at Celtic Park. By the end of this match there was a large point gap between the two teams, a full 11 points. We are already assured, of course, that regardless of the result on Saturday the gap will be bigger than that. Incidentally the biggest points gap in favour of Rangers was 14 points way back in 1996/97 but that was with Rangers having played two games more than Tommy Burns’ side. So with us 16 points up with a game in hand I can categorically tell you what you may have already guessed. Statistics back up the very clear gap in class seen on the pitch.

These games have produced some magical moments for Celtic fans. In 97/98 Lambert emphatically announced his arrival in the east end of Glasgow with an absolute thunderbolt of a strike into the top left corner of Goram’s net, giving a man of the match performance before giving his match jersey to disabled fan in the stand. Celtic were outplayed for large spells of the 98/99 game when a moment of absolute brilliance from consistent Old Firm performer, Alan Stubbs, saw him bend in a shot from the edge of the area, putting Celtic one up against the run of play. He celebrated by cupping his ears in front of the Rangers fans. Can’t help but feel in the oversensitive era of football in which we are in today, a booking would have been a certainty. In 03/04 Celtic were almost as imperious as they have been this season and had the luxury of a gap between them and their Old Firm rivals. Alex McLeish’s side were totally dominated by a Celtic side still hurting from their phenomenal yet totally fruitless 02/03 season, with Petrov’s first half diving header and Thompson’s second half free kick stunner lasting particularly long in the memory.From 2008 until 2011 the level of scrutiny on the performances of referees in Old Firm derbies reached new heights especially from a Celtic perspective as Rangers racked up three in a row matching Strachan’s achievement of the three years previous. A combination of consistent penalty incidents came alongside some absolutely horrific Rangers fouls going unpunished. There was one game in October 2009 where Nacho Novo could quite easily have been sent off a few times over through ridiculous challenges and a deliberate handball. There were a number of clear Celtic penalty claims a number of them involving Weir and Zheng Zhi nearly lost his family allowance to a Kyle Lafferty foul who earlier on in the game had elbowed McManus’ head drawing blood. The game ended in a 2-1 Rangers victory, an utter disgrace and a farcical performance from Craig Thomson. The New Year’s Day game itself of 2009/10, wasn’t much of an improvement.  Fortuné had a clear goal disallowed and Andreas Hinkel was the subject of a very late studs first challenge to the shin at the hands of serial offender Lafferty.

Despite their having been some very fractious encounters since, happily the contentiousness of the refereeing après-match from a Celtic fan’s perspective hasn’t quite been at the same level. The highlight of this decade so far came on 27 December 2011, when Joe Ledley’s headed goal put Celtic top for the very first time that season, leaving egg on the face of Nikica Jelavic who had claimed the league was finished some months earlier. Silly boy!

Hopefully what we’ll get tomorrow is a no holds barred good old fashioned derby like the Old Firm derbies of pre-2012 which haven’t been replicated in recent years, but one which is not tainted by the usual shoddy refereeing. The great Jock Stein once said, “If you’re good enough, the referee shouldn’t matter.” We certainly are good enough but if Mr McLean could not put Mr Stein’s words of wisdom to the test that would be much obliged.

My prediction: 2-0 to the Hoops and no broken toilets in the Away End. Hail Hail and Get Intae Them!

1996/97 Rangers 3-1 Celtic (Di Canio)                                Title: Rangers

1997/98 Celtic 2-0 Rangers (Burley, Lambert)                  Title: Celtic

1998/99 Rangers 2-2 Celtic (Stubbs, Larsson)                   Title: Rangers

1999/00 Celtic 1-1 Rangers (Viduka)                                   Title: Rangers

2003/04 Celtic 3-0 Rangers (Petrov,  Varga, Thompson) Title: Celtic

The calendar had allowed for an Old Firm derby around New Year for the 07/08 season but it was to be postponed due to the very sad circumstances of the passing of Phil O’Donnell, the ten in a row stopper, on the 28th of December. RIP

2008/09 Rangers 0-1 Celtic (McDonald)                      Title: Rangers

2009/10 Celtic 1-1 Rangers (McDonald)                      Title: Rangers

2010/11 Rangers 0-2 Celtic (Samaras x2)                    Title: Rangers

2011/12 Celtic 1-0 Rangers (Ledley)                             Title: Celtic

KEVIN JOHN THOMSON


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