Last weekend's Celtic-Rangers "clash" was a tepid affair. FFT.com's man in Glasgow, Chris Cope, wonders if that's the shape of things to come...
Glasgow staged its third Old Firm game of the season last Sunday. YouÃ¢ÂÂd expect these firecracker games to whip up a frenzy in both fans and pundits alike.But the 0-0 draw at Parkhead would give a bad name to a damp squib.
It was more like a washed-out parody of the extra-Scotland view of what football north of the border is like: devoid of consisent skill, with sloppiness from corner to corner. Colourblind TV viewers might have wondered if they were watching Hamilton Accies vs St. Mirren. With players who have enjoyed English and European exposure Ã¢ÂÂ Pedro Mendes, Giorgio Samaras, Steven Davis, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink Ã¢ÂÂ much more was expected of this game. Or was it? Gordon StrachanÃ¢ÂÂs and Walter SmithÃ¢ÂÂs pre-match press conferences revealed that both managers were content with a draw.A draw? In an Old Firm game? ThatÃ¢ÂÂs akin to saying you want your newborn child to become a petty thief living in a run-down hovel cooking beans in a Pot Noodle tub. To quote an oft-used half-time Football Manager pick-up Ã¢ÂÂ whereÃ¢ÂÂs the passion, lads?
Smith and Strachan watch the clock tick down
Much of the blame will be levelled at Walter SmithÃ¢ÂÂs defensive 4-5-1 system, which all of Scottish football hoped had gone out of vogue last season.
Northern Ireland stick-insect Kyle Lafferty drew the short straw and was banished to solitary confinement up front Ã¢ÂÂ possibly the loneliest job in the world, second to an ice-cream van driver in Siberia.Is this an indictment of the modern games between the blue and green sides of Glasgow?
Perhaps playing each other four times a season with inevitable additional cup battles has led to oversaturation of the derby. Down in England, the blockbuster games gain extra impetus because of their rarity.Have we crawled so far away from rough-and-tumble likes of Souness and McStay that weÃ¢ÂÂre left with McGeady and Lafferty to strike fear into the opposition?
Barry Ferguson and Neil Lennon have been known to enjoy a friendship; bastions of their clubs, bodies coursing with blue and green blood, saliva and other bodily fluids. But are their days numbered?The previous Old Firm game ended in a 1-0 Celtic win at Ibrox. The home side had half an hour to hit back, but Artur Boruc walked through the game largely untested, with Rangers limping to the final whistle like a team whose ingenuity and passion had deserted them in a time of need.In the last few seasons, the Glasgow derbies have had all the panache of a Paul Le Guen masterplan. It was up to the unlikeliest of men to provide a bit of entertainment, the erstwhile Ugo Ehiogu, with an acrobatic overhead kick. It must be yoga or something.
Ugo Ehiogu? Scoring a with bicycle kick?
It all seems a very long time since 2002, when a 3-3 draw in the East End of Glasgow yo-yoÃ¢ÂÂd between blue and green. The next clash Ã¢ÂÂ a 3-2 home win for Rangers Ã¢ÂÂ pulsated from start to finish after a first-minute Chris Sutton strike.
And letÃ¢ÂÂs not forgot those two obscurely outlandish results of 2000. The Millennium bug-addled defenders needed a reboot as Celtic won 6-2 at Parkhead (with Fernando Ricksen tugged off the pitch by his manager after only 20 minutes), before Rangers returned fire with a 5-1 blast at Ibrox.Sure, this seasonÃ¢ÂÂs opening derby ended 4-2 with two red cards. Passion was evident in the stands and on the field, with Kenny Miller a man reborn in front of fans who may have temporarily believed him to be the best player in the history of football.
Maybe every Old Firm game needs a player returning to his first side after having played for the others. Maybe SundayÃ¢ÂÂs dreary derby was just a blip. Or maybe the passion really is seeping away.Perhaps, Smith and Strachan are more than happy to play out tepid draws, not wanting to risk defeat, and rely on the other SPL teams to pick away at their Old Firm rival.
Kenny Miller kills off former club in 4-2 win
More teams than ever are stealing points from Rangers and Celtic, so why lose further ground, and the fansÃ¢ÂÂ patience, by slipping up against your greatest enemy?
Ã¢ÂÂThe Old Firm managers have said in the past, quite rightly so, that the games between Rangers and Celtic decide the league,Ã¢ÂÂ Kilmarnock manager Jim Jeffries said recently. Ã¢ÂÂNot any more.Ã¢ÂÂ Maybe, just maybe, Jeffries is bang on the money.The supporters will always look forward to the game, for this is the Old Firm, and thereÃ¢ÂÂll always be a little something magical about this fixture.
LetÃ¢ÂÂs just hope that the players and their managers remember that.