It has been a long time since we have experienced anything like this in Glasgow. As much as you think you can prepare yourself for it nothing really can. You walk into the stadium and the atmosphere is white hot. You can feel the beads of sweat forming on your forehead as you stand there completely immersed in it all. Even though you try not to think about it – about the fierce enemy you are facing – you can’t help but focus on it. It is right there staring you in the face. It is loud and boisterous and colourful and angry; it wants you to know that it is there. It has waited for this day for a long time and it is keen to shine. But you are stubborn and you don’t want to look directly at it, you want to focus on the task at hand, you want to think about Celtic.
Even when the game kicks off your mind is on it. You can’t help it; its searing energy is right there in your face. No matter where you look, whichever area of the field you try and focus your attention on, this rarely seen rival is doing its best to divert your attention.
It was difficult to ignore the hot September sun. From the moment I got off the train at Bellgrove I could feel it blazing from above. Inside Celtic Park it was even hotter. There were many things I expected from yesterday’s game: a few goals, an intense atmosphere, a better half-time pie than my last visit, grown men in Rangers shirts somehow thinking that singing songs about paedophelia is an acceptable thing to do in society. But one thing I certainly wasn’t expecting was to come away from a football game in Glasgow in September with sunburn. My face was almost as red as Joey Barton’s surely was.
This was an almighty, fiery occasion. There was a constant wall of sound accompanying a tapestry of every colour imaginable around the ground. Observing the sea of red, white and blue flags across the ground in the away end, the elderly gentleman from Donegal sitting next to me remarked that he “didn’t know we were playing France today.” We weren’t, but it was a young Frenchman who stole the show as Moussa Dembele netted a hat-trick, with every goal greeted with a booming, searing reaction.
That unfamiliar foe wasn’t going to do down without a fight, however. There was still the long forty-five minute walk back to the city centre during which even the decision to go coatless offered little protection against the balmy elements. It was a sticky and sweaty affair, and never was a post-match pint savoured more eagerly than when I reached The Raven.
Final scores: Celtic 5-1 Rangers
September sun 1-0 JJ
Playlist: Okkervil River – Away
Suede – Coming Up
Justin Townes Earle – Midnight At The Movies
Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creation’s Dark