The Power of Love: Rangers v Celtic Match Preview

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In 1991 American comedian and actor Steve Martin wrote and starred in LA Story, for me it’s his best film and finest writing. Not everyone agrees with me on this, indeed most people don’t but that doesn’t matter. It resonates with me for reasons that don’t need to make sense to anyone else. Although a comedy, at its heart it’s a love story, firstly to his wife and secondly to his hometown of Los Angeles.

The absurdity style of comedy Martin was associated with through his stand-up work and films like The Jerk and The Man With Two Brains was much more nuanced and subtle in LA Story. Martin manages to convey the irrational and incoherent feelings that love engenders in all of us perfectly. Love is often indescribable, it creates feelings, emotions and reactions that most of us are barely capable of expressing coherently, far less articulating so well firstly in word and finally on celluloid. Martin understood the strength of love, its capacity to endure difficulty, hostility and setback and to be something that only needs to make sense to those engulfed in it at that time. Who among us hasn’t witnessed love blossom in the most unlikely of places, resisting all efforts to extinguish it? Whether it is the Apostle Paul, Shakespeare, Tolstoy or Jennifer Rush humanity has always understood the power of love.

One of the great ironies of love is how encountering hatred seems to strengthen it. As a Rangers supporter I’ve witnessed a fair bit of hostility in my time and in recent years a fair degree of outright hatred. This reached a new low last weekend with the publication of a full-page advertisement in a national Sunday newspaper created and paid for by a group of Celtic supporters purporting to represent their support. Its appearance had been the talk of message-boards for a few weeks prior but I’d written it off as a wind-up, an elaborate hoax aimed at making anyone reacting to it look foolish. I was wrong. It’s hard to comprehend what goes through the mind of the people responsible for conceiving, creating and funding it. My incredulity that it came to pass is only matched by my bewilderment at what they thought it would achieve. Did they think people like me would read it, stop for a moment, nod sagely and agree with them? Perhaps they hoped it would come to the attention of the delegates at Davos 2015 and our reptilian overlords would enshrine these thoughts as a new orthodoxy. If it was simply a reminder to the watching world that there are people in our society who really struggle to find other people who’ll have sex with them then they succeeded, because if ever a group of people really needed to get laid it was the geniuses behind that advertisement.

After years of various blogs purporting to be serious journalism and countless callers to phone-ins you’d think by now I’d be inured to the lengths some of our fellow city dwellers will go too to speak about Rangers. In the end I always find myself asking the same question; why do they care so much? It perplexes me, it really does.  The subtext of their argument made me smile. Is any club exactly the same as the day it was founded? Do the actions of Tonev and Griffiths and the refusal of the Celtic board to pay a living wage fit the popular narrative of Brother Walfrid and his aims then? I look forward to them telling Wimbledon supporters that they should be supporting Milton Keynes Dons.

I find it hard to articulate why I love Rangers and why that love has endured, particularly the torture of the last few years. In the end if I need to try and explain it to you then I’m afraid I don’t think you’ll ever understand. If you really don’t comprehend what makes a football club so special then you’ve no soul and you’ve certainly no business pretending to be a football supporter, whatever club you attach yourself too. However awful we might be just now I still remember the awe I felt when watching a young Ian Durrant make football look easy, the sorrow when I heard Davie Cooper had passed away and the utter elation when Peter Lovenkrands headed in a last minute cup final winner. It doesn’t matter who owns us or how little money we’ve got in the bank, it won’t change those feelings. Rangers aren’t a limited company, they aren’t even Ibrox or the current first team squad, those things will all pass eventually. Rangers are a collection of memories, experiences and emotions, successes and failures, joy and disappointment, hopes and expectations, pride and embarrassment, contained within the collective consciousness of thousands of people just like me. Rangers aren’t unique in this regard, fans of Grimsby and Brondby and Santos will feel the same way. I pity anyone who thinks a football club is a collection of shares and audited accounts. If that’s how we’re defining football these days then we’ve truly gone through the looking glass.

Of course our next match happens to be against Celtic. It’s been nearly three years since we last played our great rivals and clearly absence hasn’t made the heart grow fonder. Much as it pains me to say it Celtic are clear favourites and rightly so. They are on a good run of form just now and sit top of their league. They are playing at a higher level than us every week, have better players than us and, unlike us, enjoy some semblance of stability around their club. They must see this clash as an opportunity to inflict a defeat on us that will be remembered for generations.

We’ve not played a match for three weeks which is probably the only reason we came through January unbeaten. Looking for positives is not easy. It’s a cup tie I suppose that should provide incentive, it’s at Hampden a ground we’ve always done well on and we’ve more players in our squad who’ve played in this fixture before than Celtic do, that might be an advantage. But in truth even the most positive Rangers supporter is going into this match more in hope than expectation.
I suppose if I really did support a club who’d only existed for three years I might be able to ignore this match, watch a big, rich English team instead. I don’t though, so I’ll take whatever comes and store it away along with all my other memories and experiences, good or bad. The good ones are recalled and celebrated, the bad ones worn like scars and brought up in years to come when youngsters start to complain about something trivial, that’s the way of a football supporter.

Steve Martin’s character in LA Story presents the weather on TV. Being based in sunny Los Angeles the weather is fairly reliable. Unlike Scotland where the weather seems to change hourly the predictability of the southern Californian climate means everyone pretty much knows what the weather is going to be like one day to the next. Martin’s character decides to prerecord the weather forecast days in advance, after all he knows what it’ll be like in three days time, everyone does. Needless to say that day a weather front develops no one expects, the weather is entirely different from predicted and the story pivots.

We all know what we’re expecting on Sunday and what’s predicted, but maybe bring a brolly, just in case.