Chris Lowry: Celtic fans should stop gloating, because without Rangers to hate they'd be lost
A GREAT wailing and gnashing of teeth went up all over Ireland when news broke this week that Glasgow Rangers Football Club might go into liquidation. The Scottish giants are already in administration, which was painful enough for their legion of fans here, but liquidation would mean their ejection from the Scottish Premier League (SPL). The very thought has been deeply distressing and not at all hilariously funny for football supporters in every corner of the island.
OK, OK, the above is of course irony, and not particularly subtle irony either, but you get my point. News that the 'Gers could be wiped off the map has caused a collective belly laugh to shake the country.
But should we really be laughing?
Well, on one level of course we should. I don't wish to generalise about a club that probably has its good points but I'll go ahead and do so anyway: Rangers are a disgrace to football. A large part of their raison d'etre - virtually all of it, it sometimes seems - is to taunt, abuse and, whenever possible, physically attack rival fans. So if they're booted out of the SPL then many will say good riddance.
You'd have to go a long way to find another club in world football that's as sick with sectarianism. In fact, you'd have to go about ... hang on, let me check on Google maps ... four miles east, to Celtic Park.
I realise of course that every time anyone suggests such a thing, Celtic fans immediately jump up and down shouting "we're nowhere near as bad". They say "we're pious and peaceable, and anyway, Rangers started it".
But everyone knows how similar the two clubs are. In some ways Celtic might be slightly less bad - they seem to have more songs, for starters - but in other ways they're actually worse. Consider their self-pity, the crackpot conspiracy theories their fans come out with when their team loses (eg that Scottish referees are freemasons out to get them), and, most annoyingly of all, the way they try to take the moral high ground. For example, they claim that the chant "Ooh, ah, up the 'RA" in fact refers to the people who fought for Irish freedom 100 years ago, rather than the guys who blew up Enniskillen.
Come on, who are they kidding? The Rangers faithful may be unpleasant but at least when they sing, "we're up to our necks in Fenian blood" they don't turn round afterwards and say, "actually, our song is one of gratitude to those members of the Roman Catholic community who donated the blood we needed for a transfusion when we were involved in an unfortunate workplace accident".
Celtic's sanctimony fools nobody, certainly not anyone who has ever been in Dublin city centre after an Old Firm Derby. If you think Celtic fans are peace-loving poets, you only need to go onto O'Connell Street on one of those days. Your illusions won't last long. If you can't decipher what the Bhoys are singing, just look at the tattoos on their necks.
Of course we find Rangers' chanting about the famine offensive, and we're right to. But many Scottish people find it equally offensive when Celtic fans chant Provo slogans during the minute's silence on Remembrance Day. Face it - both sets of supporters are as loathsome as each other.
It's true that if Rangers fans disappear, then Celtic fans might grow up. Without rivals who are equally childish, the Hoops supporters might be shamed into behaving like adults. But where would Scottish football be without the Old Firm?
Far better off, some say, arguing that the dominance of the Glasgow teams makes the SPL a lopsided joke. There's some truth to this: no team other than Rangers and Celtic has ever won the SPL in its present form. There have been occasions when every team other than the Old Firm has had a negative goal difference (you perhaps have to be a football nut AND a maths junkie to understand the significance of this but take it from me - it's a freakish statistic).
But actually, without Rangers, the whole house of cards could collapse. Celtic would be the hardest hit. What would point of them if their fans had no pantomime villain to boo?
What, come to think of it, would be the point of Scottish football?