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Old Firm win will bring final furlong into sight

Chick Young | 13:24 UK time, Tuesday, 5 May 2009

High noon at Ibrox on a summer afternoon - but it will be early dark for the losers as the Old Firm clear their throats for the season's last song together.

Let's not mince words. It's winner takes all. The balance of power could swing in a heartbeat.

I still think Celtic will win the championship, not because I said so before a ball was kicked and I'm not for u-turning, but because they embrace a single, precious point of advantage.

Gordon Strachan and Walter SmithRangers need to win on Saturday, Celtic can afford not to, although a victory would have Gordon Strachan's side within sight of the finish line.

Strachan and Rangers counterpart Walter Smith have spent the season insisting that both would drop points left, right and centre and you cannot deny the accuracy of their forecasts.

Furthermore, if ever, in this last 20 years or so, there was chance to rip up their game of Monopoly, then it might have been the winter just gone.

But in the days that are left in this tortured season, Saturday's victors will not stumble again. Three games will remain and if the defending champions win at Ibrox they can even afford to lose another fixture.

This is the Spaghetti Junction of crossroads for them both.

A year ago, Rangers were getting ready for the Uefa Cup final and yet three months later they had been removed from the following season's European competitions by a team from Lithuania.

That immediately - because Ibrox fans suffer from short-term memory - had Walter Smith stooping like Atlas with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

If he wins the next four matches he will have dealt with the situation like a seal with a beach ball.

The club's owner denies they are in financial meltdown, but it would be wrong to suggest the bank hasn't turned up the heat on the toaster. And therefore the guaranteed Champions' League place that the title would bring would take them to the Pearly Gates of football Valhalla.

In many ways this has been a season of dross. Balls battered black and blue by footballers who couldn't make a pass through the Arc De Triomphe without hitting a wall.

And you can't put footballers on a surface like Fir Park and expect them to paint pretty pictures. All you get is football graffiti.

Barcelona have the look of a once-in-a-lifetime team about them, so it would hardly be fair to compare the SPL's finest but I do sometimes wonder if I am watching a different sport.

And yet for all that, the Old Firm could possibly do what we asked, namely take it to the last seconds of the last minute of the last hour of the season. And so we should really be grateful for small mercies.

Except if Celtic win on Saturday even that small thrill will be denied us.


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