A Glasgow Ham Double – Part Two
Life is full of strange meetings and coincidences, isn’t it? For instance, when I started playing a silly little game on my phone about three or four years ago, I never imagined it would lead to tickets for a Celtic v Rangers cup final – yet, that’s precisely what happened.
I started playing Matchington Mansion and got fed up with the app always telling me to join a team. So I did what any stubborn person would do, I started my own team instead, fully expecting nobody to join but at least it would stop reminding me to join one.
So it was quite a surprise when people not only started to join my team but we actually became a good team and a friendly bunch too. One of the team members is a Rangers supporter and had said he would try to get me up to a game at Ibrox sometime.
Honestly, I didn’t really expect anything to come of it.
So you could have knocked me over with a feather when he got in touch a couple of weeks ago and asked me if I would like to come to the Scottish League Cup Final between Celtic and Rangers.
So, after yesterday’s visit to New Douglas Park, it’s fair to say we were excited for our second game of the weekend.
Celtic and Rangers, the Bitterest of Rivalries
First off, let’s address the elephant in the room whenever these pair of Glasgow giants meet… the intense hatred of each other.
Football, religion and politics can all cause problems individually, so when you mix all three into two clubs from the same city it makes for a combustible situation.
Things have often gotten out of hand when they have met each other in past games. Perhaps most notoriously in the 1980 Scottish Cup Final. Celtic won with an extra time goal, but the game is better remembered for the disgusting scenes that followed as supporters from both teams fought each other on the pitch.
This riot directly led to the arrest of more than two hundred people and the sale of alcohol at Scottish sporting events was banned.
From what I have since heard, today passed off mostly peacefully.
There was one unsavoury incident in the morning, however. The Green Brigade and Union Bears – the two ultra groups of each club – were given permission to come to the stadium early to prepare tifo displays.
After leaving the stadium, it seems the two groups met for a fight in roughly the same area where we would later be entering the stadium. The police were surprisingly caught unawares and I find that baffling. The two groups of ultras at the stadium, with a low police presence?
Celtic fans blame Rangers, Rangers fans blame Celtic. The truth is, it takes two to tango!
I really hope that one day, this becomes about football and football only and from here on in, that’s what this blog will be about.
Any observations I make are without bias or prejudice, for or against, either team. Though I would be viewing the game with a Rangers fan, in the Rangers half of Hampden Park, my glasses are neither green nor blue.
I am a fan of football, not violence and bigotry.
Celtic v Rangers – Journey and Pre-Game
As we were already in Glasgow after yesterday’s visit to Hamilton, travelling wasn’t much of an issue at all today.
We had arranged to meet my gaming friend at 10:00 a.m. and head for some breakfast. I’m not saying he was excited about the day but I received a message at 09:40 that he was already outside the hotel.
We made our way downstairs and introductions were made between Mrs Hopper, myself and Ally.
We then made our way into the nearby Wetherspoons and ordered ourselves some food. Breakfast is probably the best meal you can get in this pub chain and is always good value for money.
Ally joined us in having a coffee, despite confessing that he had already sunk his first bottle of Buckfast before leaving his house…
It didn’t take long to establish that Ally was a nice guy and we would all be getting on well.
When we had all finished breakfast and Mrs Hopper had finished her second (third?) coffee, we headed off down Argyle Street to the St. Enoch subway station. From here, we headed out west to Ibrox station, in the heart of the Govan district of Glasgow.
After leaving the station, our first destination was right across the road from us, The Louden Tavern.
Before entering, I made a quick detour to the corner of the street, to get a view of the impressive Ibrox Stadium.
Rangers – The Louden Tavern
The Louden Tavern is about as Rangers as it gets, aside from the stadium itself.
There are, in fact, three of these pubs of the same name dotted around Glasgow but this one is the closest to Ibrox and can therefore be considered the main one.
From the outside, it looks a little uninspiring but looks can be deceiving and once inside, it’s magnificent.
The decor is all red, white and blue and framed replica shirts and photographs of players from the past and present decorate the walls. There is even a nod to the Archibald Leitch-inspired latticework you can still see inside Ibrox Stadium, running along the length of the bar.
One thing to note, there aren’t any seats to be had and the tables are all at a standing height.
A corridor leads to an outside area and again, there are multiple photographs lining the walls. A real shrine to Rangers Football Club.
We headed outside to the beer garden, where again, it is nearly all standing room only. There are a couple of picnic tables but this whole place is built for standing with mates around tables. It fits more people in and helps create more atmosphere when the songs start being sung.
There is an outside bar, too, which means not having to keep going back inside for drinks.
The beers were flowing, the music was playing and people were enjoying the build-up to the cup final.
At one point, a member of the bar staff was walking around with a plate stacked with flat sausage sandwiches, free to patrons. Despite not long ago having breakfast, I helped myself to one and it was very tasty with a dash of HP sauce.
What a great little payback to customers.
We were drinking pints of Madri and I finished off with a cheeky little Jack Daniels Honey. We enjoyed the hospitality and atmosphere of the Louden Tavern until 13:15. This is when the coach we were taking to Hampden Park was due to leave.
Hampden Bound With Rangers
Once outside, we placed the poker chips (proof of payment) in a jar and boarded the coach. Again, a big thank you to Ally who had already booked Mrs Hopper and me onto the coach.
We passed Ibrox Stadium as we started the nearly six-mile journey to Hampden Park and she looked lovely in the glorious Glasgow sunshine. I know fans of Celtic and other Scottish clubs have nicknamed the place ‘Castle Greyskull’ but personally, I don’t see the connection.
More singing was ringing out as the coach headed southeast through Glasgow, although I won’t lie, I have no idea what most of it was about.
I still haven’t completely mastered the Glaswegian translations and I’m glad Ally was easy to understand!
Hampden Park and Lesser Hampden
Having already done a full review of Hampden Park on our previous visit for the Scotland v Ukraine game, I won’t go into another in-depth review of it. You can read the original review here if you wish to read more about Hampden Park.
I was curious to see what progress had been made on Lesser Hampden, the future home of Queen’s Park.
It appeared that the stand on the Hampden Park side was looking almost completed. A smaller stand on the other side of the pitch has been erected too but aside from that, there didn’t seem to be a lot of progress since September.
Queen’s Park started the season playing at Stenhousemuir’s Ochilview Stadium. They temporarily moved back to Hampden Park for a couple of fixtures in December but now find themselves back at Ochilview.
This arrangement certainly isn’t ideal for Spiders’ fans and I’m sure the club will be doing all it can to get the new ground finished. Particularly if they win promotion to the SPL this campaign.
Ally had explained to me that segregation at Hampden Park is very stringent when the big two meet. Rangers fans flock towards it from one side of the city, while Celtic approach from the other side. Presumably, fans of both clubs who live on the wrong side of the city, approach it in a slightly less obvious way…
There is a barrier placed across the middle of Hampden along with a cordon of police officers. In a way, it’s a shame that this is what its become. I remember when Stoke played Stockport at Wembley back in 1992 for the Autoglass Trophy.
Admittedly, that was a million miles away from today’s experience in terms of size and rivalry. Having said that, Stoke and Stockport had developed a feisty relationship due to their constant big-match meetings at that time.
The reason I mention this seemingly random match is that on the day, the banter and laughs with the Stockport fans in the pub pre-game was a big part of the day.
Celtic and Rangers now find themselves in a situation where they are kept firmly apart and it’s probably for the best but I can’t help feeling some of them may prefer the banter and violence-free chats in the pub together.
Hampden Park Gallery
Into the Cauldron
It was time to go inside and sample the big match atmosphere as it started to build. Usually, I say where I bought my tickets from but again, a BIG thank you to Ally who gave us these two tickets.
Tickets to big matches like this are like gold dust and we are very grateful to you for your generosity mate!
After scanning the tickets, we headed into the stadium.
We were located in the North Stand, which is the side of the stadium opposite the players’ tunnel. The sun was a problem right up until kick-off. It prevented me from getting decent pictures of the Rangers’ end of the ground, unfortunately.
I did get a few decent photos though, so not all is lost.
Celtic and Rangers’ Tifo Displays
Tifo is an Italian word and the dictionary definition is:
1 – “A coordinated display, including large banners, flags, and sometimes signs or cards, executed cooperatively or performed in unison by the most fervent supporters and ultra fans in the stadium.”
2 – “An element or elements of a coordinated display by fans in a stadium, especially a large banner raised by ropes and pulleys or spread over the people seated in the supporter section.”Dictionary.com
Celtic fans clearly had a phoenix from the flames theme but the sun prevented us from seeing what was held aloft at the Rangers’ end of the ground.
Just a shame I couldn’t capture the Rangers’ tifo in the same light as the Celtic one.
The atmosphere was building by now and as the players entered the pitch, a pyrotechnic display erupted on the pitch. Pyro was employed by supporters on both ends of the ground too, with flares, fireworks and smoke drifting.
All of this was accompanied by Union Jacks and Irish tricolours waving in a sea of people.
It was a really colourful and vibrant scene, to be sure.
Before the game took place, the players of both teams gathered around the centre circle. Earlier in the week, Hibernian chairman, Ron Gordon, had sadly passed away after losing his battle with cancer, aged 68.
A generous round of applause rang out around the stadium for most of it. Unfortunately, a section of the Rangers support chose this moment to start singing their Billy Boys chant.
Having said that, the vast majority of fans carried on applauding and showing their respect.
Celtic v Rangers – The Game
Route to the Final
For Celtic, the route to the final started way back on August 31st. They have played three games in the competition, prior to this one, starting with a 4-1 win at Ross County. In the Quarter-Final, they dismissed another SPL rival away from home. This time a 4-0 win at Motherwell. They completed a hattrick of SPL rival victories when they beat Kilmarnock 2-0 in the Semi-Final in January.
Celtic also came into this game as the defending champions from last season’s League Cup Final.
Meanwhile, Rangers reached the final after defeating Aberdeen 2-1 in the Hampden Semi-Final. They had previously seen off Dundee in the Quarter-Final and Queen of the South in their first match-up.
In the league, as is the ‘norm’ up here, Celtic and Rangers sit first and second in the SPL. Celtic are currently nine points ahead of their city rivals and start as favourites, today.
Celtic v Rangers – Line-Ups
With smoke still drifting and the smell of gunpowder still assailing our nostrils, Celtic’s Aaron Mooy got the 2023 Scottish League Cup Final underway.
In the early stages, every tackle and pass was cheered and booed by each set of fans as they vied for early dominance. It was Celtic who looked the more prepared team though and as the half went on, they looked more and more threatening.
Both ends of the ground were releasing plenty of energy and noise. The Rangers fans around us became increasingly disgruntled with some of their teams players. Most accusations were aimed at the alleged lack of effort they were showing.
Rangers pressed, Celtic passed.
That was how much of the game went, particularly in this first half. Celtic were winning the possession battle but it was Rangers who delivered the first real chance of note.
In the 14th minute, Rangers won a corner and it led to some extended pressure. A short corner routine eventually led to Malik Tillman running the ball back to the byline. The ball was kept in play according to the officials as Tillman cut it back for John Lundstram. His shot was blocked on the edge of the six-yard area and away from immediate danger.
Glen Kamara stroked the ball back to the left flank to Ryan Kent. He cut inside the box and got his shot away. Unfortunately for him, his shot was still rising when it landed amongst the Celtic fans behind the goal.
This was better by Rangers though and the noise picked up again.
The famous Scottish singer, Rod Stewart, is a huge fan of Celtic and apparently he was at the game today. He was also recorded in Glasgow’s Murphy’s Bar later on that night celebrating Celtic’s win.
I mention that now, because on the pitch, there wasn’t much of note to talk about yet.
In the 21st minute, Celtic fans were claiming a penalty but from where we were sitting it looked a definite no. This came as Kyogo Furuhashi collided with Alan McGregor contesting a loose ball in the area. To be fair to him, Kyogo didn’t make a fuss and even appeared to make a ball gesture with his hands, as if to say McGregor got the ball.
If that was the case, well played young man.
Jota had a shot from the edge of the area pushed wide by McGregor moments later as Celtic looked to reassert themselves.
Rangers themselves had a decent chance in the 24th minute. Alfredo Morelos had the ball on the left and passed inside to Ryan Kent. Kent found James Tavernier inside the right of the penalty area and he squared it across to the centre of the six-yard box.
Morelos and Cameron Carter-Vickers both lunged for the ball and the former Stoke City loanee, got there first to divert it wide for a corner. After his poor spell on loan at Stoke, I have to say I’m surprised at how well Carter-Vickers has done in Glasgow.
He is a massive part of that Celtic defence.
Big chance missed and it did nothing to dispel my concerns over Morelos’ lack of mobility up front. The Rangers fans around us seemed to share some of that concern as the game went on.
As the half-time whistle approached, the game became the Kyogo show.
In the 38th minute he put a shot inches wide of the outside angle of post and crossbar after being set up by Jota at the edge of the box. Four minutes later a cross from the right wing found Kyogo unmarked ten-yards out. His header flashed just over the bar and it felt like a goal may be coming.
Reo Hatate and Mooy combined with some neat passing on the left of midfield before Mooy found Greg Taylor. The left-back took the ball to the byline before playing a low ball across the area.
It evaded Tavernier, Daizen Maeda and Ben Davies, leaving Kyogo with a simple tap-in from three-yards out.
There was little time for anything other than an eruption of noise from the Celtic fans before referee Nick Walsh blew for half-time.
Half-time – Celtic 1 v Rangers 0
The Celtic fans were still celebrating as the players trooped off the pitch. Somehow, Celtic fans had managed to smuggle fireworks into the stadium and they were launching them into the sky above Hampden Park. Green smoke was rising from the bouncing mass at the east end of the ground.
As I was filming this, one of the two guys stood behind us asked me if I was filming ‘them’. I’m not sure if he was going to get aggressive over it or not but as a stranger in a strange land, I stopped filming and left my phone in my pocket for the rest of the game.
So, apologies for the lack of any photos or videos after this point.
The Second Half
You would like to think that the Rangers manager, Michael Beale let off a few rockets of his own in the dressing room at half time. His team had been mostly outplayed by a Celtic team that weren’t firing on all cylinders themselves.
If he did, it seemed to have worked. Within the first couple of minutes of second half action, Rangers came as close as they had all through the first half.
Tillman ran with the ball from the centre of the pitch before laying it off to Kent on the left. Kent let the ball run across his body before hitting it first time across the goal. It hit the bottom of the right post before bouncing into the path of the onrushing Fashion Sakala.
With the net gaping, Sakala looked certain to score. He also had Morelos standing waiting in the centre of the goal for a tap-in. Amazingly, the chance went begging as Sakala hit his shot into the side-netting.
What a let off for Celtic!
This all happened to the accompaniment of fireworks, that were still cracking in the sky at the other end of the ground.
Kyogo at the Double
Eleven minutes into the half and with the fireworks finally subsided, the game seemed to be put beyond Rangers’ reach.
Mooy was heavily involved in the build-up to the second goal. His pass was the one that set Hatate up on the left side of the penalty area before he played the ball across goal.
Not quite a carbon copy of the first but it was Kyogo again applying the finish in the six-yard area as he beat Borna Barišić to the ball.
With the way the game had gone so far, it seemed like that would be the end for Rangers. However, with three substitutes primed to come on, they got themselves back into the contest.
Rangers won a free kick near the byline on the left side of the penalty area. James Tavernier is Rangers set-piece specialist and it was his cross that did the damage. The ball was swung over to the back post, where Morelos won the scramble for the ball and stuck out a foot.
The ball seemed to hit the side netting from where we were standing (nobody used their seats throughout the game). When we saw the players run off celebrating, we knew Rangers had got a goal back.
Cue the celebrations all around us as people hugged each other jumping around to the sounds of One Step Beyond by Madness.
2-1 Goal for Rangers!
After the celebrations, came the substitutions. Three for Rangers and two for Celtic and I think the goal may have given Morelos a little more time than he would have otherwise had.
Liel Abada and Matt O’Riley replaced Jota and Mooy for Celtic. For Rangers Todd Cantwell, Nikolas Raskin and Ryan Jack came on to replace Lundstram, Kamara and Tillman.
It was a different looking ‘Gers now and they started to apply pressure to a reeling Bhoys backline. The referee did well to book Abada for blatant simulation at the other end.
The game was becoming what I had expected from the start now, blood and thunder football at each end.
Morelos’ extra minutes came to an end in the 76th minute when he was replaced by Antonio Čolak. Morelos didn’t seem to enjoy being subbed and showed his frustration by kicking the scenery by the bench.
Tavernier fired a free kick into the wall before Joe Hart punched clear. At the other end Sead Hakšabanović (on for Maeda in the 84th minute) brought a fine save out of McGregor.
Time was running out for Rangers though and you could sense the belief leaving the fans around us. Some of them even started leaving.
I did that once at a Stoke game.
We were losing 1-0 against Leyton Orient with a couple of minutes to go and as I left the Boothen End, I heard a roar go up. 1-1, not so bad after all. As I walked along the car park, a second roar went up. I had missed the late Mark Stein show, as he scored two goals to win the game.
I have never willingly left a game early since that day.
By now, we had entered the four minutes of injury time.
It was Celtic who almost got a third in that time. Cantwell got booked after the passage of play for bringing down a Celtic player before the ball fell to O’Riley. He really should have scored but McGregor did well to get down and make the save.
Hakšabanović managed to break away with the ball in the dying seconds and race past the last Rangers defender. One on one with McGregor, the striker dragged his shot just wide of the left post when he really should have scored.
It made little difference now though and the whistle went to bring a pulsating game to a close.
Celtic Win the Cup!
You can read a full Match Report here. The link is from the BBC website.
Full-time – Celtic 2 v Rangers 1
Attendance – 49,529
Entrance Fee – £44.00 (North Stand)
Programme – £6.00
Celtic v Rangers – Match Highlights
Both teams focus now returns to the league. Next up for Celtic is a trip to the west of Glasgow, where an away game in Paisley pits them against St. Mirren on Sunday 5th March.
For Rangers, they will look to bounce back from this defeat in a home game against Kilmarnock on March 4th.
Celtic have now won the trophy seven times in the last nine seasons and twenty-two trophies in eleven years. Incredible dominance, although I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good thing for any league.
Without genuine competition, it becomes hard to attract the higher calibre of player that is needed for the big European fixtures.
For Michael Beale, he suffered his first defeat since taking charge at Ibrox and I’m sure it will fire him up to bridge the gap between the clubs this summer.
For myself, I was privileged to be there and witness this passionate occasion. Many, many thanks to Ally for inviting us up and giving us the tickets.
You are a star, pal!
I hope to reacquaint with him again sometime in the not-too-distant future, with a visit to Ibrox Stadium. Hopefully, the result will be a little different on that occasion, for his sake.
The sectarian songs aside, this was a great occasion for Mrs Hopper and I and maybe we can come and do this again one day.
To make up for not seeing any of the celebrations and presentation of the trophy, I will include this little video taken from Celtic TV’s YouTube channel.
Hampden Park – After the Game
With the final whistle still ringing, we joined the dejected Rangers fans in making for the exits. We didn’t hang around to video the Celtic celebrations because the police try to get all the losing teams supporters out of the vicinity as quickly as possible and we didn’t want the bus leaving us behind.
We found our coach and climbed aboard. Sure enough, there were still empty seats that had been filled on the journey in, when we left the car park.
It was a much quieter journey back to The Louden Tavern than when we had left earlier in the afternoon.
We got back with the decision made to go straight back on the subway to St. Enoch station. When we arrived at Ibrox station though, it was closed! We made our way to a bus stop about five minutes walk away and caught a number 26 bus to Central Station instead.
Here, we said our farewells to Ally as he made his way home to the Cumbernauld area just outside Glasgow.
For dinner, we made our way to Pizza Hut but once we saw the prices, we left again. Once bitten, twice shy and all that.
Instead, we went into the Blue Lagoon chip shop near Central Station and ordered ourselves some dinner to take back to the hotel. We had no intention of being out in Glasgow’s pubs this particular night. A drunk-looking woman in a Celtic scarf and shirt came in and was incredibly rude to the staff in the chippy and it confirmed our choice to stay indoors.
Just over £12.00 bought us chips and a steak pie, chips and two large sausages and a couple of bottles of sparkling water.
Much better value!
Monday – Homeward Bound
The journey home began again with breakfast at Wetherspoons. After enjoying our meal and a coffee, we made our way back along Argyle Street, up Queen Street, through St. George’s Square and into Glasgow Queen Street station.
Our 12:15 train was on time and we started the long journey home.
By 13:00 we were at Edinburgh Waverley and the 13:30 train to Newcastle was already on the platform. We boarded and made ourselves comfortable while we waited. The train departed on schedule and by 15:00 we were back in the Toon.
As were the Newcastle fans making their way back from London. They had been defeated in their own League Cup Final 2-0 by Man United and they looked as quiet and dejected as the Rangers fans the day before.
We walked quickly to our bus stop and were rewarded with a bus showing up moments later.
We arrived at our bus station just after 16:00, did a little shopping and through our front door four hours after leaving Glasgow.
Next Up for Hoppers Guide
It won’t be long before we see Queen Street again, as we will be back in Glasgow next weekend.
We have twice before tried to visit Partick Thistle’s Firhill but have been thwarted on both occasions. We first tried way back in July, when Thistle were due to host Montrose – ironically, in the Scottish League Cup. Mrs Hopper was very ill that weekend, so we couldn’t go.
The second arranged visit coincided with a train strike and our plans were thrown out of the window again. This time we are hoping to make it third time lucky with the Partick Thistle v Raith Rovers Championship game on Saturday. Fingers crossed!
Onto the next!