It’s not like we’re really that bothered what ex-Celtic men say. Sutton, Hartson et al have spewed some absolute piffle over the years about Rangers and indeed about their ex clubs, and just how seriously you can take these guys who make their comments for attention is open for debate.
One ex-Celtic man however who does have a bit more respect in the world is Bulgarian Stilyan Petrov. The football world united for him during his horrific (but thankfully successful) battle with leukaemia and the guy has more than a sense of perspective, and appreciated the backing from all corners, not just that of a green and white persuasion. When health comes into it, rivalry goes out.
It’s why his comments recently on Rangers carry a little more gravity and weight than the likes of Sutton.
Sure, a bunch of media used it as a clickbait story and claimed Petrov was taking a big dig at Rangers, but the reality was he was simply calling it as he saw it and pointing out Rangers’ woes are a bad thing for both us, Celtic and the country in general.
“One big club in a competition is not interesting. You need another few clubs to compete and make sure the league will improve, but at the moment it’s just a one-horse race.”
Right now the SPL rather resembles the old Eliteserien in which Rosenborg dominated solely without challenge – today they’re in a lowly sixth with five evenly-matched sides ahead of them. And that’s better for the quality of the league.
He went on:
“I think it’s still a big gap and a long way to go for Rangers. As a Celtic fan, I am delighted because more success for Celtic is better, but it’s not healthy for Scottish football and Celtic as well, because they need someone to compete with. At the moment, if you look at it, people don’t take Rangers as a threat, it’s more Aberdeen or Hibs. Rangers are not one of the biggest clubs. People always say Celtic v Rangers will always be one of the big rivalries, but if Rangers don’t challenge, it will lose its intensity and it’s important for Scotland.”
Unfortunately, going by performances on the pitch, he is again correct. Sure, our stadium is huge and iconic, and we have thousands upon thousands of fans compared with the Dons and the Hibees, but the product on the park doesn’t currently reflect that and while we are a bigger club off the pitch, on it Petrov, at present, is sadly correct.
It’s clear Petrov is concerned about this, and isn’t saying it for point scoring. Celtic fans all miss Rangers being at the old level – right now the lack of quality competition in Scotland weakens Celtic for Europe, meaning they get utterly gubbed in the Champions League season after season.
Which is not to in any way say we want Celtic success, hell no – but we’re talking from his point of view, which is, reciprocally, wanting Rangers to be stronger.
“That’s what Scottish football is all about; the Old Firm and that’s why people all around the world love Scottish football. If that doesn’t come back, it will be very difficult for Scottish football to recover.”
Again, bang on. A Scottish football without a competitive Rangers and a worthy Old Firm is not a Scottish football at all.
Think about the two years the SPL couldn’t even find sponsorship without Rangers in it! This country’s prize is the Old Firm – colossal historic battles between two foes with more than a hint of vitriolic bitterness. When Rangers got promoted, hundreds of sports papers around the world regaled in joy with front page headlines about how the Old Firm was back. It is the focal point of Scottish football.
And Scotland needs it as much as Rangers fans need our team to be strong.