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Expect excitement over quality in Old Firm final

Chick Young | 23:53 UK time, Monday, 9 March 2009

The malcontent banner men of Rangers will put their protests in the cupboard and for Celtic the Scottish Cup slaying in Paisley will hardly merit a mention. The Old Firm are back on centre stage.

Let us pray first of all that it is not a bloody Sunday: that the bigoted insane can stretch their pea-sized brains round the fact that this is a football match, not a re-enactment of Irish social history.

There are decent malt whiskies on sale which have aged more years than the IQ of some of these fruitcakes.

coop_cup_438.jpgOh, how their thunder has been stolen in recent times, by Inverness Caledonian Thistle and by St Mirren. Oh, the red-faced embarrassment of it all. And oh, how the rest of the nation roared its appreciation. Some indeed, with laughter.

It was a stark reminder that Celtic and Rangers have a divine right to the square root of zilch.

For all that, I wouldn't miss the Co-operative Insurance Cup final at Hampden this Sabbath for all the coffee in Brazil.

The prize is merely the third-most valued bauble in the domestic game, but the pair of them seek something more precious than silverware. Redemption.

The rafters will shake if Celtic lose out on a second cup in eight days. And if that happens the whole house might come down if the championship itself then evaporates in the spring air.

But what of Rangers? Defeat could set their house of cards a-tremor, for although they have the possibility of a Hampden return they still face the task of lassoing Celtic in the title race.

And while - I will wager right now - neither Gordon Strachan nor Walter Smith will admit that victory on Sunday will be a factor in the championship, you sure as hell had better believe it will.

This, my friends, will be a belting afternoon, the latest instalment of a Scottish season which has been more Wacky Races than Formula One.

The track record in Europe proved it. We're manure and we know we are.

But that doesn't mean you can't have a lot of fun in your own backyard. Equality can equal excitement.

Rangers are the only team who can win the treble. That'll be the same Rangers who reached a UEFA Cup final while some petted lipped fans were painting up "we deserve better" banners.

As it happens, I don't think Rangers will win the lot. But they could and for sure nobody else can.

The thing is, I'm not sure which of the two of them needs a win on Sunday more. Or, for that matter, deserves it.

Both of them have weaved and stumbled through the season like a couple of drunks on the way home.

And if they forget to pick up the championship on the way up the road then there may be worse than a good lady with a rolling pin nursing her wrath to keep it warm waiting for them.

Messrs Strachan and Smith would sacrifice victory on Sunday right now - for all the wailing that would follow - if it guaranteed the championship itself. But, of course, it doesn't work that way.

So who's going to win? Search me! How can any student of the Scottish game who pledges neutrality - and I have seen most of both of their fixtures this season - possibly work that one out?

They have been as predictable as a shopping trolley with a dodgy wheel and at times just as sleek. But then, unlike players who ignore managers' instructions, shopping trolleys can retain messages.

Maybe, just maybe, events at St Mirren Park will have injected a new urgency into the champions that will drag them over the line.

But don't hold your breath waiting for a classic. This will be another result for excitement over quality.


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