Monday, February 7, 2011

I can't really believe I'm saying this but yesterday's Old Firm Scottish Cup tie was a great advert for Scottish football!

I watched four games yesterday and each one should have been a cracker.

As a West Ham fan, watching them feebly fail in a vital relegation clash didn't raise the excitement. Fernando Torres didn't end up with a broken leg in his first game for Chelski against his old Pool team-mates and after Saturday's escapades in the Premiership, that was a first half of lacklustre proportions. Even the usually fiery Welsh derby between Swansea and Cardiff went off without a bang.

Thankfully the Old Firm saved the day and served up the best game of the afternoon. It was a match I'd happily watch again and if they can serve up the same in the replay next month then I'll be extremely happy.

If you strip out the sectarianism bullshit that still surrounds the fixture, and the fact that the big two kill the Scottish game as much as they help it, you're not usually left with a lot except pure hatred.

Hatred in football is not a bad thing. Don't let people tell you it is. I'd always argue that the game needs it to fully thrive. A plain hatred of your rivals though, not what race, colour or religion they are. You also need to have decent football on display to back this up.

The Fifth Round clash at Ibrox was a scintillating affair, with football being what is being talked about and not refereeing controversies.

Every season I watch the SPL kick off in the hope that someone is going to challenge the Old Firm and that all of the clubs, but especially Celtic and Rangers, actually decide to bring through Scottish talent and not Irish and European.

I'm usually disappointed and not least by the football on display.

I've found myself watching more SPL action this season though than in recent years. The horrorshows of Hibernian and McGhee era Aberdeen have helped. You just didn't know what's been coming next with those two. Hearts have been a breath of fresh air this season, but are now sadly looking like they've faded and fallen away and will have to settle for third spot. The Hearts-Hibs New Years Day derby match was a terrific game, played in an electric atmosphere. Overall, there's been some great goals and some great games. Pity the crowds seem to be dwindling all over.

No matter what goes on elsewhere though, everything is overshadowed by the Old Firm and it always will be. Today's meeting was the 391st Old Firm derby we were told, with the 2-2 draw meaning that the Glasgow rivals will be playing each other for a record seven times this season. I'm sure there will be enough hate to go round.

Celtic impressed me no end and if the SPL title isn't heading to Parkhead way come May then I'll be amazed. They are simply a much better all round team than Rangers at the moment. I find it staggering that Rangers are still going to go top if they can win their two games in hand.

Neil Lennon may be despised by many, but he has Celtic playing some nice football at the moment and his decision to go for it with his attacking substitution midway through the second half turned the game, showing some tactical nuance too. If there had been extra time yesterday then Celtic would now be in the hat for the next round.

For those that think that the Scottish game is just all kick and rush, then their performance today would have put many in the Premiership to shame. Long may it continue. We've had some bad years in Scottish football and if a team can win the SPL by playing some football that makes you want to watch them, then that's a start of the comeback.

I have to end by covering my three favourite things from yesterday's game.

Steven Naismith is an absolute prick for taking that dive in the box right in front of the referee. Second booking and off he went. Great to see a ref not afraid to fully punish the player for doing that. If only more were so brave. Can't believe only two players saw red.

I absolutely LOVED Scott Brown's celebration right in the face of El Hadji Diouff. Well worth getting a booking for that. Diouff's moved to the perfect club. A cunt surrounded by dicks. Perfect fit.

Final word goes to Celtic's Green Brigade supporters group. They've been much talked about this season, but they have brought a terrific atmosphere to the terraces in Scotland. More fans need to take note of what they're doing. We need more tifo, more style and more noise in the Scottish game. I've been enjoying that kind of atmosphere for the last three years in Vancouver and loving every minute of it. At a time when fans are voting with their feet and staying away, this is the kind of atmosphere that will bring them back.

Plus any fans that can turn Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough" into a terracing classic, deserve all the praise they can get.

Maybe the signs are there that the death of Scottish football has been greatly exaggerated. All they need to do now is a dramatic overhaul off the pitch.

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