The fiery cacophony of noise in Parkhead will betray everything Celtic fans have insisted is true right up to that point.
Against their better judgement, the simmering tension that they have felt in their soul for the past four years will come gushing back to the fore. This isn’t “Sevco”. This isn’t the “Zombie Club.” This is Rangers. This is the Rangers that they have spent decades cursing the very existence of, the club whose demise they laughed heartily at and the one club that can be called their one true rival.
Celtic fans can (and will) try to claim otherwise, but nobody cheers that loudly and that passionately without years of history to back it up.
They’ve missed this, though trying to find anyone who will readily admit to that would be a challenge. In the absence of Rangers, Celtic have won the league pretty much unopposed for the past four years. How is that enjoyable? From a purely footballing point of view, forgetting the outside connotations, surely having a strong rival is better than winning virtually unopposed every year.
Is it really Rangers though, objectively speaking? In an era where business trumps core values in a worrying amount of football clubs, should we be willing the fact that any entity can still survive as a club despite the financial structure collapsing around it (though admittedly, entirely of their own doing), or should we just learn to accept the fact that Rangers, as they were, are now lying crumpled in the ash heap of defunct Scottish football clubs, somewhere in between Gretna and Clydebank?
To the outside world, these ponderings can be discussed neutrally, but in the raging bowels of this rivalry, such talk is used as a weapon. Dismissing Rangers as impostors and pretenders to the old club and its name is a gift that Celtic fans could not have dreamed of being given five years ago, and they damn sure aren’t going to give that up now.
The Glasgow divide is one steeped in religious and political rivalry – in many ways, it doesn’t matter what these two call themselves or how old the company controlling the club is, the “us versus them” mentality that has been the foundation of the derby has been, and will be, prevalent throughout.
However, the absence of any actual football matches between these two clubs has made the rivalry decidedly more petty. This notion of “look how obsessed they are with us” has crept into the feud and it is wholly unbecoming of everyone involved. If anything these two just need to start playing against each other again so grown men can stop behaving like something from Mean Girls on Twitter.
Joey Barton, a summer signing from Rangers, has been trying to get himself involved in the rivalry by goading Celtic fans and new Bhoys manager Brendan Rodgers in interviews and social media. By employing these tactics, Barton is acting like a man who either patently doesn’t get the enormity of what he is trying to involve himself in, or now knows exactly what it has become.
Catty Twitter comments and out-of-context Friedrich Nietzsche quotes will do precious little for Barton when he has 60,000 Celtic fans screaming at him.
For the sake of what this match used to mean, hopefully he is put back in his place because if Joey Barton is allowed to become the poster boy for the Old Firm derby then Rangers really shouldn’t have bothered coming back.
That being said, softening the edges of what has been a deeply poisonous meeting in the past is no bad thing in itself, but doing it through football as opposed to the internet is a much better option.
Saturday sees the first league meeting of these two sides since Rangers’ fall into liquidation in 2012 (or ever, depending on who you’re talking to). They have faced each other twice in that time – both in the cups and both in the comparatively cordial setting of Hampden Park (comparative in the sense that it was on neutral ground, but there were still arrests made).
Celtic won one of those games, Rangers the other. Where the first blow is drawn on Saturday will be massive. They meet on partisan territory for the first time in four years in what promises to be eventful if nothing else.
The tax man might have killed the Rangers, but the Old Firm derby – in whatever form it has taken now – remains as strong as ever.