30 Day Challenges… Day 2
For the football challenge, day 2 is your least favourite match. There’s quite a few that could make the grade there, but one sticks in my mind more than most. And no, it’s not Black Sunday. It’s a meagre 2-0 win for the home team in a Glasgow derby.
Celtic were champions once more in the 2006-07 season. Truth be told we had absolutely skooshed the league that season thanks to the disaster that was Paul Le Guen as Rangers manager. He was gone by January and Walter Smith had returned to try and help Rangers get out of the hole they were in. They’d finished third the previous season and under Le Guen they were possibly heading for fourth. Smith managed to stem the tide, and made Rangers hard to beat again. But the damage was done and Celtic were able to waltz over the finish line with plenty of games to spare. This trip to Ibrox in May 2007 was just a countdown to the Scottish Cup final.
Except these games are NEVER just another fixture to be played. It’s your rivals, you turn up to win no matter what is at stake. At least that’s my belief anyway. It clearly wasn’t Gordon Strachan’s belief, nor was it the Celtic team’s belief that day. Until this point I had seen Celtic outclassed by Rangers, outfluked by Rangers, outspent by Rangers, but never had I seen Celtic just not bother to try against them. We offered nothing to start with, and even let Kris Boyd in to score what would be his only goal against Celtic ever. He never managed it while he was at Kilmarnock, he never managed it at Rangers before this game, and he never managed it in any game for Rangers after this. But on this day, Celtic couldn’t be bothered so he got a goal I’m sure he treasures the memory of forever.
When Charlie Adam gave Rangers a 2-0 lead in the second half it was clear we were getting nothing from the game and Rangers would win. I stood there and watched as Celtic just gave up to Rangers and let them hit us again and again. It got so bad that something happened that only happens once in a generation. The Rangers fans came up with a funny chant all of their own. Filip Sebo – a figure of ridicule by the Celtic support for being SO bad – was brought on for the last half hour or so and proceeded to try and get a goal himself. The chant from the Rangers fans – who knew how bad Sebo was – came… “Sebo’s on, we’re taking the piss, Sebo’s on, we’re taking the piss”. Never felt quite so low in all my life. If he’d scored I’m fairly sure the ground could have swallowed me up and I wouldn’t have cared. As it was he nearly did, but Artur Boruc came to the rescue with some fine saves.
That final whistle couldn’t come quick enough. I was absolutely raging by the end of the game. So much so my anger got the better of me and started booing Celtic off the park. Now, I know you don’t boo your own team and there are many who won’t forgive me for this admission. But in my eyes, I wasn’t booing my team off the park. I was booing a bunch of imposters in the hoops. You don’t boo Celtic? Well Celtic don’t turn up to play Rangers and then fail to try a leg. As far as I was concerned they started it. Of course, the Celtic fans around me didn’t see it that way and I was on the end of a fair few comments. I was trying to explain my rationale to a few of them – and probably heading for a right good kicking since they were as angry as I was but now had someone tangible to direct their anger at – when Artur Boruc came to the rescue again. He pulled a Champions 2006-07 flag from a willing Celtic fan and tried to hand it to Celtic captain Neil Lennon. Neil wasn’t for taking it though – probably for his own good – so Artur held it aloft and jogged off to the dressing room. The statement was obvious – you may have won today Rangers, but we’re still the champions. He got a rousing cheer out of me and all the other Celtic fans around me with whom I’d been arguing. We headed for the exits after that.
I’m not proud of this. It’s definitely not my finest hour, but we all do stupid stuff when we’re angry. And boy was I angry that day. Fortunately I haven’t seen Celtic not try against Rangers since – although I think this was the day me and Gordon Strachan fell out. We’ve lost to Rangers a few times since, but it’s always because we either haven’t been good enough or the referee has been awful (usually both). But it was never for the lack of trying. That’s all you can ask.
So yes, there has been worse games. But I’ve never, ever felt as low as I did during and after this game back in 2007. Partly because of Celtic themselves, but a lot of it was of my own doing too.