THERE is no such thing as a meaningless Old Firm game. Some, though, are more memorable, more historic and more emotional than others.

Those with no allegiance to blue or green, no preference to Rangers or Celtic, may scoff or deride. It is a fixture, an occasion, that is unique, that is unrivalled in football.

The Old Firm isn’t about the taking part. It is all about the winning.

“It is not for the faint-hearted and it gets you, it just gets you in there,” Jeff Holmes, the author of a book chronicling Rangers’ finest Old Firm days, says with a firm beat of the chest.

“You feel different the day before the match, different the day of the game. Your heart is going when you are getting ready and at the stadium.


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“After the game, if you win you are ten times more elated than normal and if you lose you are ten times more down. I am 58 now and I thought it would get easier, but it doesn’t.”

When a rivalry has produced so many moments, from the captivating to the controversial, the task of compiling 50 games is an unenviable one. Holmes relished it, though.

Fans from every generation will have their own favourite, that one day that stands out. There is still time for a late entry before the book hits the shelves in September.

“Doing it chronologically was the only way I could do it,” Holmes said. “So I started with Rangers’ first ever victory over Celtic and will end with their latest victory this Sunday!

“I have got a place set aside for Sunday, if it happens. I have got 50 games and 1500 words each. One of them is a decent enough read, but it can come out if required and if something special happens.”

If not, the 1-0 win for Steven Gerrard’s side at Ibrox in December will be the last match included. It was one that Holmes missed, but he was still part of the celebrations.

“My son had been working down south a lot and hadn’t been well so I gave him my season ticket,” he said. “He took my grandson because he had never been to an Old Firm. So I decided to get out of the country and I went to watch Rochdale and Bradford City, because I quite like City.


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“I didn’t want to be in Glasgow, so I went to Rochdale and was in their Supporters’ Club before the game. When Rangers scored, this cheer went up, it erupted.”

There are some matches, the ones where leagues were secured or cups were won, that are obvious inclusions on any list, yet the chance to delve deeper into the history of one of the most famous head-to-heads in the game was enlightening for Holmes.

There are two games - two draws almost two decades apart - he admits could raise eyebrows. He couldn’t exclude the afternoons that summed up his Old Firm experiences.

“It is really strange, because the two that stand out for me shouldn’t be included in the book because they are both draws,” he said. “The first one was the game where we drew 2-2 after Terry Butcher and Chris Woods had been sent off and Graham Roberts went in goals.

“To me, that stands out as the most passionate I have ever felt about a match. I think I cried that day. I was right in line, in the Govan Front, when Durrant put the ball over and Gough got to it before Mick McCarthy to poke it into the net.

“The odds were against us that day and I had to include that because it was a moral victory.

“The other one, which surprised me a bit, was the 2016 semi-final at Hampden. That finished 2-2 and we won on penalties. Nobody expected that and that day I was sitting with a few mates that I hadn’t seen for years.


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“We should have won in 90 minutes. That was my favourite.”

The respective teams from those matches are revered and remembered by supporters for different reasons, but every Old Firm winner has their own place in Rangers’ long, yet recently chequered history.

From Derek Johnstone and Davie Cooper to Peter Lovenkrands and Pedro Mendes, the goals that beat Celtic are evocative. The pictures will bring a smile, the words will see famous phases replayed in the mind.

“One guy got in touch with me when he knew I was doing it and asked if I was including a particular game because it was the last match his dad took him to,” Holmes said.“He died just after it and that was a game he always remembered. I was including that one and he was delighted because it would remind him of his dad.

“People attach these emotional moments to Old Firm matches, especially if you win.

“So many of these games are special. You take Rangers against any other team and most of the games are instantly forgettable.

“The Old Firm makes heroes out of players because it is so high profile and so important. If you can change the course of a game, you can almost instantly become a cult hero.

“There are players that can go and make a name for themselves in one fixture. That is not just in this city or this country, that is across the world.”


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Some, of course, have a history on both sides of the divide.

The day when Maurice Johnston scored the winner at Ibrox is included and will bring back recollections of an extraordinary time in our game.

This is a concoction of sporting, political and religious standpoints, a frantic 90 minutes that can abhor as much as absorb.

“There is a slight social side to it as well,” Holmes said.

“There is lots of stuff in there and I don’t shy away from anything.

“The Old Firm game, you can’t just say it is a special fixture because both teams are in the same city. There’s more to it than that, clearly.

“My first Old Firm game was in 1972-73 and as long as I have been going there has been that hatred for some. Let’s not kid ourselves.

“I have heard stories about Liverpool and Everton fans sitting alongside each other at Merseyside derbies. I don’t know if that is true, but it will certainly never happen in Glasgow.”


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That animosity wasn’t always there. The game has changed, and so has society but the importance of victory hasn’t for either side.

“When Rangers won their first Scottish Cup in 25 years, they won 4-0, the Celtic directors said that if they ever wanted Rangers to break their hoodoo, they wanted it to come against them because they got on so well,” Holmes said. “You think ‘where did that go?’.

“There was definitely a lot of respect between the teams back in those earlier days and that has changed. There was always needle in those days, the fans fought tooth and nail, but there was a respect there between the players and the clubs.”

The thousands of words that Holmes has penned on the Old Firm have been preceded by several books on men who were no stranger to the fixture. He has written about everything from Davie Meiklejohn to Mark Walters, recorded the eras of Jock Wallace, Graeme Souness and Rangers’ journey back to the top flight.

Whatever the subject, Rangers is a labour of love for the journalist.

“The detail I have learned about the club has been phenomenal,” Holmes, now writing about iconic Ibrox striker Sam English, said. “I find the older that I am getting, the more I am interested in the history of Rangers. Going way back with this book, it has taught me a lot about the club. It has been great.”