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An Old Firm game to forget

Chick Young | 18:45 UK time, Monday, 16 February 2009

It was a task right up there with emptying Loch Lomond with a teaspoon; finding the highlights of the Old Firm game to edit for BBC Scotland's Sportscene. (but we managed...see below - ed)

I wished the television pan-handlers well in combing the nuggets from that dross. They were as rare as blades of grass at Fir Park.

In August of this year I will have completed a 40-year shift at the coalface of this business and that first 45 minutes of Sunday's Churches' League fixture was just about the worst engagement of Celtic and Rangers I have seen since I first set out fresh-faced and eager with my sharpened pencil and reporter's notebook.

Age brings cynicism, of course, but, if that was entertainment, Artur Boruc is a diplomat.

Still, at least the Polish goalkeeper of Celtic earned back page headlines. He had two saves - one run of the mill and one wonderful, on the end of a wicked deflection off his own captain.

Such was the dearth of genuine quality in the 90 minutes, that was enough to win him the man-of-the-match award.

The television listings lied. Highlights? Lowlights is the word you require.

My colleagues may have seriously considered replacing the alleged action with something more interesting. Say, the test picture?

It was not a thing of beauty. In fact, the teams may have coined a new phrase: drawing ugly.

Not that we went into the match with a bounce of optimism in our step.

Gordon Strachan talked about his fear of losing, Walter Smith confessed that a draw would not be a bad result, despite trailing the champions by two points.

The hints hung heavily in the air.


Clearly, Smith sees a grand plan for Rangers. On the basis that the two rivals will score the same points from the remaining fixtures against other teams in the league, he will gamble everything on defeating Celtic in the single remaining Old Firm league match at Ibrox.

If it comes to that, a 4-1-4-1 formation will hardly herald a cavalier approach and at least on that spring day we may yet have the salvation of the game which is supposed to most titillate this nation.

And here's a thing. With the Co-operative Insurance Cup final to come next month and a Homecoming Scottish Cup tie between the two still possible, will they go about their business at Hampden like chess masters?

Smith and Strachan were Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer, or at least that's what I assumed. The teams eyed one another like nervous teenagers on a first date during that first half, but it turns out that was not at all what the Rangers manager wanted.

He stormed the visitors' dressing room at half-time like a man possessed. Walter's cold stare can be a scary thing: this, though, was a man in a rage.

We can therefore deduce it was the players who rearranged the plot, while not exactly losing it.

Curiously, it seems to be Rangers who are more satisfied with the conclusion of events, despite trailing their great rivals.

Celtic will argue that there is one less fixture available for their old chums to close the gap, but the truth is that Sunday produced the square root of zilch.

If that is the best our league has to offer then things may be worse than we initially suspected. The game was beamed round Europe.

Europe, I suspect, is not quaking in its collective boots.


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