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Posts Tagged ‘The Old Firm’

The Football Club That Refused to Die: The Tragedy and Beauty of Third Lanark

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 31st 2018

Glasgow’s history has long been the stuff of legend – the stories of Red Clydeside, rent strikes, the power of shipbuilding, the scale of slum clearance – and of course, football.

In Scotland we seem to get too much football and too much bad football coverage. We get a narrow bandwidth of football which results in numerous stories, triumphs, tragedies, and moments becoming forgotten, as we surfeit on a diet of the stale Old Firm (cue a chorus from some that the Old Firm no longer exists).

One of the most poignant tales of our game is that of Third Lanark – a club once at the apex of Scottish football – that tragically went out of business in the summer of 1967. The bare bones of this story are widely known, but the detail of the story isn’t. And it is therefore welcome that purpleTV have made a one-hour long film, simply titled ‘Third Lanark’, aired last weekend on BBC Alba. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Does Football Matter So Much? And is it about something else?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 25th 2016

Football saturates Scotland. It fills numerous conversations and dominates spaces, both public and private – and affects attitudes, thoughts and emotions. According to some measures Scotland is the most football mad part of Europe; in others, it comes third behind Iceland and Cyprus.

This isn’t just an essay about football – so if you aren’t a football fan, don’t stop reading as this affects you. If you are a football fan – and a partisan follower – let me be clear. I do not hate or want to denigrate any of Scotland’s football clubs, Rangers and Celtic included, while I do not see any club as beyond redemption or above reproach.

The Scottish Cup Final last Saturday between Hibs and Rangers was a captivating game of football. Hibs dramatically won the Scottish Cup for the first time in 114 years and then all hell broke loose. Read the rest of this entry »

The Wave of Democratic Protest that Changed Scottish Football will Change Society

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, August 4th 2012

This has been a sensational few months in Scotland. We have the manoeuvrings on the independence referendum, economic worries and wider anxieties about the euro crisis.

Yet, what has captured the headlines has been the state of Scottish football, the implosion of Rangers FC, and their demotion to Division Three. Football matters in Scotland because of tradition, culture and global reach. It also helps that we are the third most fanatical football nation per head in Europe, after Iceland and Cyprus.

The events of this year have been seismic and need to be understood in a wider context. In the last couple of years three of the biggest institutions in Scotland which have defined much of our public lives, Royal Bank of Scotland, the Labour Party and now Rangers FC, have hit crisis, lost their way and suffered ignominy and humiliation.

What has been called by some ‘the Scottish spring’ of football has consequences well beyond the boundaries of the game. Just to recap for non-football fans, it was only due to the unprecedented gathering of fan power that the football authorities were prevented from keeping a Rangers who went into liquidation in the top flight Scottish Premier League (SPL); they then stopped Rangers being ‘parachuting’ into Division One rather than Division Three. Read the rest of this entry »

The People’s Game Still? Punters, Pundits and Change

Part Three

Gerry Hassan

April 13th 2012

Celtic and Rangers never used to dominate Scottish football to the degree they do now. In this concluding piece, I am going to measure the degree to which the Old Firm’s near stranglehold on the game is increasingly driving fans away, then address the role of the media, and end with some observations about how we can change the game.

The scale of Celtic and Rangers attendances and the size of their support has long been one of the defining accounts of the Scottish game, like their love of silverware, dating back to the game turning professional in Victorian Scotland. Yet like the silverware story it isn’t really completely true and warrants further investigation.

If we look at the three periods of Scottish post-war football I previously identified a very clear pattern. In 1947-65, Rangers were the most popular side with an average home league attendance of 34,432, Celtic were on 23,834; Hearts were in third place with 21,720 and Hibs fourth with 20,641; these last two are respectively 63% and 60% of Rangers average attendances. Across the nineteen seasons Rangers were the most popular every season, but Hearts were second on six occasions and Hibs on four with Celtic second nine times (and on three occasions finishing fourth). The season 1960-61 when Hearts finished second was the last time the Old Firm were split in terms of attendances: fifty one years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

The People’s Game Still? Games under the Shadow of Giants

Part Two

Gerry Hassan

April 12th 2012

The story goes like this. Scottish football has always been about Celtic and Rangers. Live with it. Get used to it. This is increasingly the way of the world: oligopoly, closed competition, success following money.

Leaving aside the early days of the Scottish game this perspective invites pessimism and fatalism. And funnily enough it isn’t true.

The economic, social and cultural forces of Scotland from Victorian times onwards favoured the dominance of Celtic and Rangers from the moment the game professionalised. But not to the suffocating extent of today.

The Three Waves of the Post-war Game

To illustrate the changing dynamics of the Scottish game and the drive towards greater dominance by the Glasgow two I decided to look at the pattern of the game over the post-war era. And split it into three distinct periods: 1947-65, the immediate post-war period which saw intense competition for all three domestic titles; 1966-86, the era of Celtic’s ‘nine in a row’ and the rise of ‘the New Firm’ of Aberdeen and Dundee United; and then 1987 to today, with the Souness revolution, Rangers ‘nine in a row’ and the transformation of Celtic under Fergus McCann. Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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