Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Stephen Craigan: New Year hasn’t been the same without Celtic v Rangers

Can you imagine Christmas Day without the turkey or presents?



Well, that’s what this New Year is like in Glasgow without the Old Firm derby.

The two teams have met an incredible 399 times and with fans already anticipating their next meeting, the traditional fixture at this time of year was undoubtedly missed.

It’s just another stark reminder regarding the reality of The Rangers situation and how much they mean to Scottish football and in particular Celtic.

The rivalry is missing, the intense build-up is missing but, most importantly, the game itself is a big miss for football reasons and also financially for the Scottish economy.

It might not always be the most attractive spectacle, and at times it’s not a game for the purists, but it is compulsive viewing for many around the world, including myself.

As Rangers headed to Annan Athletic yesterday and Celtic hosted Motherwell, one of the world’s most passionate derbies left a void in the calendar of football fans.

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Christmas Day in particular was a strange experience for me this year as it was the first festive period since 1993 that I wasn’t playing football or preparing to play.

I’ll be honest and say for one of the first times since I retired in May last year I missed the games and the excitement surrounding this time of year.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t miss going training on Christmas morning or eating pasta with my Turkey dinner, but the atmosphere on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day in particular was always electric and supporters were in good spirits.

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