Wednesday 28 September 2016

Comment: Glasgow Rangers must be applauded for their fairytale return to Scotland's top flight

Tom Rooney

Published 17/04/2016 | 21:36

Rangers' goal keeper Wes Foderingham as he celebrates with team mates after the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final match at Hampden Park
Rangers' goal keeper Wes Foderingham as he celebrates with team mates after the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final match at Hampden Park

As Glasgow Celtic supporters lick their wounds after today’s loss to a resurgent Rangers, they should not lose sight of the fact that, ultimately, the immediate humiliation will soon give way to untold benefits.

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One needed only to briefly peruse social media this afternoon to ascertain that the Scottish Cup semi final between the bitter city rivals had conjured the sort intensity, emotion and, indeed, attention that has been sorely lacking from the domestic game in Scotland of late.

Of course, Rangers must take the lion’s share of the blame for the level of indifference that has seen the Scottish top flight jettisoned to the periphery of European club football.

Four years ago, they were liquidated with debts of £55m and banished to Scotland’s third tier and, in the interim, Celtic have monopolised the Premiership with a near laughable ease.

Since Rangers' liquidation, the Hoops have won the title by margins of 16, 29 and 17 points. Currently, they are eight points clear of Aberdeen and crusiing.

Quite simply, aside from the most zealous of diehards, there are very few who would be compelled to give such a fascicle competition even a moment’s thought. With Rangers returning to the top table next season, perhaps a positive shift is afoot.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - APRIL 17: Patrick Roberts of Celtic reacts after being beat by Rangers in a penalty shoot out during the William Hill Scottish Cup semi final between Rangers and Celtic at Hampden Park on April 17, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - APRIL 17: Patrick Roberts of Celtic reacts after being beat by Rangers in a penalty shoot out during the William Hill Scottish Cup semi final between Rangers and Celtic at Hampden Park on April 17, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Not that the landscape in Scotland has been particularly egalitarian in modern times; Aberdeen’s title win in 1985 was the last occasion neither of the Glasgow clubs were crowned champions.

However, there was always a stirring dynamic to a duopoly that owed much of its resonance to a sectarian hatred that, at the best of times, is repugnant.

From a pure football perspective, if today’s encounter was anything to go by, Celtic will have to transcend their current stasis with great haste if they are to avoid more of the same.

The requirement of extra time and penalty kicks only added to the sense of occasion, while giving the distinct impression that Rangers will not be contented by merely rubbing shoulders with the best their country has to offer.

Indeed, a win over Hibernian in next month's final would be the ideal launchpad for their assault on Celtic's seat of power.

Whatever your football or religious leanings, one can only be captivated by this fairytale return to the top by Glasgow Rangers. The blue half of Glasgow should be applauded for picking up the pieces and propelling themselves back to the Scottish Premier League.

That feat was confirmed last week. Today was very much the icing on the cake as they beat their fierce rivals to reach another Cup final.

The quality of the fare certainly lacked refinement, but the passion and sheer grit was palpable as the defeating din emanating from the four corners of Hampden Park did not once relent.

As the old adage goes, steel sharpens steel and Celtic have been unquestionably blunted by the prolonged absence of their greatest and only legitimate rivals.

Strolling to another title can no longer obscure their undoubted regression under Ronnie Delia, while the implantable prospect of playing second fiddle to Rangers has once more become a reality and, at the very least, should focus the collective mind.

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