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Editor's Viewpoint: Just as hopes of the Ibrox faithful rest on a new manager, today's Irish Cup Final has fans of the beautiful game in its grip


Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard

Getty Images

Steven Gerrard

No other sport has the worldwide appeal of football. Whether it be a hometown club playing in a league few have heard of or a Premier League side, there will be fans whose weekends are defined by how their heroes perform on the pitch.

Today, thousands of Coleraine and Cliftonville supporters will pack into Windsor Park to see the sides play for the Irish Cup. It has been 39 years since Cliftonville lifted the trophy and 15 since it was won by Coleraine.

That is why the build-up to the match has created so much attention in north Belfast and in the North West. The Irish Cup is one of the two big competitions here - the other is the league - and victory will send one set of fans into raptures of joy and the other into despair.

Another set of fans who know all about despair in recent years are those who support Glasgow Rangers, especially as their greatest rivals, Celtic, have won seven league titles and a number of other trophies while the Ibrox side has fought its way back through the leagues to the top tier of Scottish football.

Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, who has signed a four-year deal to manage Rangers, says he wants to bring joy back to the fans.

The appointment is a big gamble by both the club - Gerrard has little managerial experience - and the players - the club desperately needs money to rebuild the side.

But both can point to the appointment of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal 22 years ago. That was a gamble but he revolutionised English football by introducing new scientifically devised diets for players and new coaching methods which resulted in a golden era that saw the team unbeaten through an entire league programme.

Yet even he has experienced disappointment and the wrath of fans. Ex-Liverpool manager, the late Bill Shankly, once said that some people think football is a matter of life and death, but it is really more serious than that. Hyperbole maybe, but not to dyed-in-the-wool fans for whom winning is everything.

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