Sunday 2nd May 1999.
The Scottish Premiership title ready to be clinched at Celtic Park. An overwhelming favourite crafted carefully with winners, star-studded internationals by a tactically astute manager was heavily fancied to seal the deal against the determined but naive underdog, and after a comprehensive bodying being dished out by the YCV XI, the famous act of clinching a league title against your rival looked done and dusted when television pictures beamed around the world showed referee Hugh Dallas with blood seeping down his forehead after being struck by a coin(not a missile) thrown from the crowd. I dare say there would have been much worse in Serbia, Croatia or Brazil done to him than have a coin launched at his coupon. Emotions ran high, it was a highly charged fixture, so of course people were going to lose the nut. This is part and parcel of fitba, and Dallas, in a tremendously petty revenge act, awarded Rangers the softest penalty you’ll ever see to ensure they went in 2-0 up at half time to all but clinch the league.
Fast forward to March 2012. Rangers in freefall. Celtic , cantering the league and fresh from blowing the League Cup to Kenny Sheils Kilmarnock, had the chance to forget about that and put it behind them with winning the league at Ibrox against a side who had lost three of their last four games and had went into administration one month previously.
Only one winner surely ?
Well, again, it was Rangers when then Celtic manager, Neil Lennon, inexplicably started Cha Du Ri and Ki, while starting Anthony Stokes ahead of top scorer Gary Hooper. That tactical masterclass enabled our rivals to run out 3-2 winners, as we ended the game with nine men and a monumental red face after thinking we could just turn up, sing about jelly and ice cream and the game would take care of itself in the background.
Six years later, it’s now going to be the third chance in my lifetime at seeing us win the league by beating our rivals and despite me writing about how we were complacent that day in March 2012 thinking all we had to do was turn up to win, I strongly suspect that this Sunday it will take a miracle to stop us sealing the deal.
Rangers do not have players like they did in that 2012 game that could hurt this Celtic team. Despite being in a bad state, they had guys like McGregor, Papac, Edu and Davis, who had been part of winning teams before, and knew how to get a result against us. This current lot have nothing of that calibre and lest we forget, it was only a fortnight ago they put in a dismal and laughable attempt to try and stop us marching towards another final for our inevitable back to back treble.
There has been very little buzz and excitement (online at least) ahead of this game so far, perhaps because of how straightforward it’s likely to be. Will we see more ‘THIS IS WAR’ videos tomorrow onwards ? Will I need to go to the doctors again at 4am on the Sunday morning when the quacks confirm I have battle fever ?
Well, I don’t know but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Just like we’ll have to wait and see yet another stroll in the park for Celtic in a fixture that is becoming as predictable as my predictions!