So that’s it then. 55 is finally here. We’ve seen Gerrard win the league and watched as thousands of fans descended on Ibrox and George Square to celebrate Rangers’ first major honour in a decade – and Celtic’s Twitter meltdown last night capped off an incredible, yet surreal, few days as a Bluenose.
Even before a ball was kicked against St. Mirren at Ibrox, the scenes that greeted the players as they turned onto Edmiston Drive were unlike anything that’s been seen at Ibrox in years – Covid or no Covid.
Hordes of fans welcomed the Rangers players and staff to Ibrox before the game, and their Paisley opponents, and there was a real feeling that the Gers were about to make history; yet the 90 minutes and celebrations that followed from the players were, almost unbelievably, the most mundane part of the weekend.
The 3-0 win over the Buddies left the league table such that the best Celtic could hope for was to win the title on goal difference but that hope lasted less than 24 hours when they bottled in on Tayside, drawing 0-0 with Dundee United to confirm Rangers as champions of Scotland for a 55th time.
And then s*** got weird.
For older fans, there was an emotional response as the club finally returned to its rightful place at the top of Scottish football, and for some (like yours truly) there were also some tears shed after embarking on the last few steps in what was once affectionately known as ‘The Journey.’
As fans took everything in, the congratulations started arriving from every corner of the globe and, while some will have been expected, some of the messages pouring in gave a surreal twist to 55.
When WWE Superstar, and lifelong fan, Drew McIntyre tweeted the Gers would be getting a customised WWE Championship title (something WWE usually sends to successful teams in American sports) it took a slightly weird twist but when his congratulations were echoed by wrestling icon and 14-time world champion Triple H, things were going down an unexpected – and soon to be even more bizarre – path.
There was a message from CSKA Sofia, Liverpool’s Brazilian Twitter account, famous Rangers fans around the world and news outlets around the world reported on the Gers’ success – oh aye, and it looks like Tinie Tempah is working on a song for 55 at Leon Balogun’s request.
Despite the positive messages heading Rangers’ way from afar, closer to home things were taking a more sinister, if no less ridiculous, direction as politicians, police officers, pundits and paid shills lined up to put the boot into the Gers.
When Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf and National Clinical Director Jason Leitch both insisted that UEFA were watching the celebrations and could use them as a reason to remove Glasgow as a Euro 2020 host city, the fix was in as Rangers fans were being used as a convenient scapegoat – before UEFA rubbished it all by distancing themselves from the bungling duo’s hysterical claims.
As fans were partying, the First Minister was taking to Twitter demanding Rangers stopped doing nothing and told fans to go home – despite the club having done something and told the fans to go home – before her sidekick John Swinney continued to take shots at the club, claiming the “silence was deafening.”
If there’s one thing Rangers can’t be accused of, however, it is being shy of a statement or two and the club duly obliged, blasting the claims from Holyrood and reminding those who had spent the previous 48 hours doing their best Helen Lovejoy impression that the club had actively tried to engage and find a solution weeks ago.
By this point, Rangers fans weren’t sure if we’d stumbled into some dream where all of the madness and sadness of the last decade had evaporated like it had never even happened.
Having been referenced by Rangers chairman Douglas Park in a letter to Nicola Sturgeon about the comments from the Scottish Government and its hangers-on, Celtic published one of the worst (therefore best) statement released
by a football club anywhere.
In a desperate bid to appeal to the same section of the Celtic fanbase who believe in Resolution 12, Terry Munro and ‘please donate dear reader’ blogs, Celtic’s PR guy was one step away from spraypainting a bedsheet when he bashed out the brief statement.
When it first flashed up on Twitter, most reasonable people will have had to double-check it wasn’t a parody account but even the best satirists couldn’t have delivered the gold Celtic’s Twitter did.
Anyone who can remember life before Rangers’ financial meltdown, will remember the days of candlelit vigils in car parks, private detectives following referees and Celtic players making up ridiculous stories about needing actual armoured cars to get to training.
Despite their insistence that they aren’t half of anything (namely the Old Firm), Celtic’s loquacious statement writer appears not to have been aware that they are exactly half of the ownership of the ‘Old Firm’ trademark.
So when Rangers were nearing 55 it wouldn’t have taken much to figure out what could come next but the last few days have been as incredible as they have surreal.
With no sign of it ending any time soon either, it’s probably best to borrow the words of a certain recently unemployed Northern Irishman: “This isn’t the end, this is the beginning.”
Rangers have written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to raise worries about how the government has responded to the incident at George Square, challenging much of what deputy first minister John Swinney claimed in an address to the public yesterday.