Rangers v Celtic: Stop Making Sense

Match Analysis
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Rangers v Celtic in a cup semi.

For anyone aged over 18 there's nothing especially unusual about such a scenario. Finals, quarter finals, regular games against the old rival were so much part of the course that it was hard to get massively worked up about them, exciting yes but certainly not something out of the ordinary.

Our of the ordinary, though, is exactly what this weekend's game will be.

Not just because there's been a long, long hiatus in games between the clubs. Granted, we clashed last year, but from a blue perspective, if the history books moved quickly past last season's horrific mismatch and pretended it never happened I would be quite happy. This is a whole new scenario, as two teams which maybe felt they knew each other inside out meet with all the uncertainties of a blind date. Much awkward fumbling may ensue...or it may be beautiful.

It's impossible to tell because the clubs are pale shadows of what they were before our dungeon days. For us, this is a positive, as we change from a footballing car crash to a team developing youngsters, creating a spirit and playing progressive football. For Celtic...

Like most Bluenoses I don't watch Celtic's games so I can't really comment on their abilities, but the fact that Aberdeen have pushed them hard for the league title suggests they're not a vintage Parkhead outfit. Leigh Griffiths is certainly banging goals in, but for someone of my age - 45 - he's not Celtic standard, let alone Scotland class. Any Bear who watched Dalglish, Nicholas, or Larsson - or even Andy Walker, for goodness' sake - won't be intimidated by Griffiths. Brown, the midfield throwback, clearly had his best days at Easter Road and is seeing out the Götterdämmerung of his career, raging against the dying of the light amid a welter of rash tackles, torn coupons and ill advised haircuts. It may be a team in green and white we play, but it's not a Celtic as we knew it.

Nor is it a Rangers as we knew it. The rules don't apply anymore. Iron Curtain defence? It's maybe as well that team is currently playing in the afterlife, for who knows what they would make of Warburton's Rangers. In last weekend's Petrofac Final, right back James Tavernier popped up on the left wing...and this in the first half, not some last minute charge. Players meld and shift their positions, as hard for opponents to grasp as mercury . The first touch has been mastered, allowing time to look up and find passes which redefine mathematical angles. It doesn't always come off: I imagine it's a tiny percentage of moves which do work. But when they do....oh, man.

Having suffered the bleeding eye syndrome of the Ally teams, perhaps I was overly ready to worship at the shrine of your actual, passing football that Mark Warburton has brought. So he may go a little further than my stern, Scottish personality would like, and throw defending not so much to the wind as onto the rubbish heap of history. I struggle with this, but like a late life convert I also embrace it enthusiastically. From time to time, this absolute focus on attacking will cost us, but until the tension between playing beautiful, expressive football and conceding loads of goals reaches a critical mass, I'm happy to jump in, fully clothed, into this wonderful sea of total football and ride whatever waves come along.

That downside will doubtless arrive soon enough to kick us in the balls. Let's enjoy it while we can, for it's not every day that you see something you are interested in redefined. This Rangers doesn't so much have unpredictable defenders as no defenders at all - the sight of Danny Wilson running the length of the pitch against Peterhead before firing in a blocked shot pretty much sums up the attitude to the back four - athletic, quick, mobile, adventurous. the Row Z clearance is, for better or worse, a relic which we see only very rarely, like a decent Graham Spiers article or a factual report on Rangers out of Pacific Quay. This Rangers doesn't have hard working, back tracking wingers - well it does, but they can also attack, which is where the similarity with such previous incarnations of this idea, such as Hamed Namouchi, end.

When Talking Heads toured their Speaking in Tongues record in 1983, few at the time realised they were redefining what a rock show could be. When the Bauhaus redefined the everyday utensil to blend form and function in clean, efficient lines, only the cognoscenti recognised the cultural paradigm shift which was occurring. The fans in the stands at Ibrox this season, unless unusually blinkered even for a Bluenose, cannot fail to have realised they are witness to an experiment in our club's history which, successful or otherwise, we're unlikely to see repeated for a long time

No doubt some aspects of this clash will remain the same - there seems no way for us, at least, to scrape the less savoury aspect of the clash off our collective shoes. Last Sunday, the only thing anyone could have objected to about our songbook was that singing 'The Blue Sea of Ibrox' at Hampden has a faintly surreal aspect to it, but it sounded great just the same. Fingers crossed no one gives haters more ammo to fire at us.

That aside, it's a great time to be a Bear. Having lived through the Souness Revolution as a teenager, I can say I haven't been so interested in watching our team for a long, long time. The Scott Brown rule book of Scottish football is torn up when we play, and, unlike the brief Le Guen interregnum, this time the whole club appears to have bought into the revolutionary ethos. Heady days, then, as the New Model Rangers confronts the oldest monolith of them all, an Old Firm game.

We have a chance, and that's more than we could say last year. Our team is attractive all over the park. Tavernier and Wallace have redefined the full back slot, and while they may have their bohemian wings clipped a little next year, let's savour their soaring, free play this season.

Halliday is still, for me, trying too hard - I think when he gets comfortable with (i.e. forgets about) being a fan in a strip and focuses 100% on his game he'll be a class higher than the already quality player we've seen. But who can criticise him for being excited at donning a Blue Strip! Andy Halliday - he's one of our own.

Barrie McKay, who glides smoothly over the pitch as though powered by hybrid technology and who caresses the ball as if he has feathers in his boots, will trouble any defence, lightweight physique or not. Miller is rejuvenated, a David Weir for the 2010's and someone who is clearly set for a career in the Ibrox boot room Warburton is creating. Yesterday's news of Harry Forrester's belated injury is disappointing but we're still in better shape than before last year's League Cup semi.

We may not win, but - we have a chance. Not exactly the battle fever, but in the one step at at time, carefully constructed revolution we are at last on, that'll do for me. Come on The Bears!

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