It may be in­de­fen­si­ble but Old Firm fi­nal is un­ri­valled

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Evening Times - - THE LAST WORD -

HOW does one be­come “woke”? For those not in the know, the word is a new way of de­scrib­ing peo­ple who don’t like racism and in­jus­tice. The type who want the world to be a bet­ter place. Bloody snowflakes . . .

Adolf Hitler was pretty woke, and he was a Nazi. Sure, he was the most evil per­son to have ever lived but, credit where it’s due, he loved an­i­mals and never ate meat.

Ah, but I ought not to laugh. I’m pretty woke but just like many a woke fa­natic, this foot­ball fan is a hyp­ocrite.

I hate big­otry; re­li­gion is not for me; the way work­ing-class peo­ple turn against one an­other for rea­sons they couldn’t with all hon­esty ex­plain is de­press­ing. That they do so at a foot­ball game, in­deed they use the game to ex­press ap­palling, blink­ered views of the world, is a na­tional scan­dal that no­body knows how to solve.

Yet I can’t wait for Sun­day’s cup fi­nal.

Yes, I’m a woke fan of the Old Firm. It’s been eight-anda-half years since the two ugly sis­ters met in a fi­nal. It’s been way too long. I have been count­ing the days since the two won their semi-fi­nals.

The at­mo­sphere is go­ing to be poi­sonous. Ban­ners will be held aloft that would shame those re­spon­si­ble if they had any shame. Songs about pae­dophilia – as if it was some­thing to cel­e­brate – will be chanted, the Trou­bles will get a few men­tioned (lads, it’s been 22 years), Steven Ger­rard’s fam­ily are to be fair game, as will Scott Brown’s.

It’s as if Os­car Wilde was still with us and to­day fed pat­ter to the sup­port­ers of Celtic and Rangers.

For those of us who are woke – is the plu­ral wook­ies? – this is the sort of sor­did event we should avoid, and those for­tu­nate enough to have a plat­form get the chance to be all high and mighty about the Old Firm.

Me? The hours are now be­ing chalked off be­fore Sun­day. I have the day off. There was no way I would miss it. Don’t judge. There is some­thing about Glas­gow’s two gi­ant in­sti­tu­tions go­ing head to head that sends shiv­ers down the spine like no other game in foot­ball.

Folks, this is the best and with­out ques­tion the worst match in world foot­ball. It can be im­pos­si­ble to de­fend. It is im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore. It means so much. It means too much. It is too much. And yet there are so many of us who can’t get enough.

Those hacks who bang on about how the world would be a bet­ter place with­out this fix­ture are al­ways at the games. Strange, that.

The Celtic fans who claim the Old Firm “died along with Rangers” don’t bother with these matches – so they say. I don’t be­lieve them. My guess is come Sun­day there won’t be a sin­gle empty seat in the Celtic end at Ham­p­den.

My jour­nal­is­tic ca­reer has taken me all over the world. The ques­tion asked more than any other has al­ways

Villa, Liverpool v Ever­ton

– – Ama­zon Prime Video 1830; Ligue 1, Toulouse v Monaco – BT Sport 1 1800, Paris St Ger­main v Nantes – BT Sport 1 2000; Coppa Italia, Udi­nese v Bologna – BT Sport 2 2000 Golf PGA Tour, The Hero World Chal­lenge – Sky Sports

Main Event, Sky Sports Golf 1800

Snooker UK Cham­pi­onship – BBC Two 1300, Eurosport 1 1300, 1845

TO­MOR­ROW Foot­ball Premier League, Arse­nal v Brighton, Sh­effield United v New­cas­tle – Ama­zon been: “What is the Old Firm game re­ally like?” No­body ever asks about the der­bies on Mersey­side, Manch­ester and London. Or about El Clas­sico. That’s the God’s hon­est truth. It’s on the bucket list of ev­ery foot­ball trainspot­ter. No­body in­volved has ever talked down the hype. Noth­ing com­pares. The games them­selves can be ter­ri­ble. Even the good ones, in terms of ex­cite­ment, of­ten lack qual­ity. But in Amer­ica or Africa, they don’t ask about Davie Cooper’s goal in the Dry­burgh Cup Fi­nal. Hen­rik Lars­son doesn’t get a men­tion, even in Europe. It’s about the ha­tred, the songs, what is Glas­gow like on the day? And I would duly re­count tales of var­i­ous crazy days, al­most boast­ing about the time Rangers won the league at Park­head in 1999 and a Celtic fan fell from the top to bot­tom tier who was then car­ried away by the med­i­cal peo­ple while clap­ping his hands. As the great Tom Shields

Prime Video 1900; Coppa Italia, Cagliari v Sam­p­do­ria – BT Sport 1 2000

Golf Emi­rates Aus­tralian Open – Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Golf 0630; Euro­pean Tour, AfrAsia Bank Mau­ri­tius Open – Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Golf 0830; mused at the time: Did he fall or was he pished?

Politi­cians oc­ca­sion­ally lift their noses from the trough to stick it in the na­tional game when­ever lines are crossed – con­tribut­ing noth­ing apart from vacu­ous com­ments writ­ten by PR peo­ple who take their lead from Twit­ter. They know noth­ing. Look, this is not me giv­ing a pass to much of what goes on. A lot of the be­hav­iour is in­ex­cus­able. The way cer­tain sup­port­ers groups on both sides pompously de­fend what they get up to demon­strates an in­abil­ity to see be­yond their own at­ti­tudes and prej­u­dices.

How­ever, what can­not and will never be taken away from any Old Firm match, but es­pe­cially a cup fi­nal, is that it mat­ters. It re­ally mat­ters. Rightly or (mostly) wrongly.

And that is why Sun­day is go­ing to be bril­liant.

I’m a Celtic sup­porter so, sod it, I want my team to win. It feels good to say it. And to do it at Ham­p­den al­ways makes it that bit more spe­cial. Hell, I’d rather win than be woke.

For all its ug­li­ness, the Glas­gow derby is a won­der­ful thing. Bring on the mad­ness.

PAUL Gas­coigne was back in Glas­gow re­cently. By all ac­counts, that’s ev­ery sin­gle one, he was drunk and of­fer­ing self­ies in re­turn for more drink.

No­body likes any­one feel­ing sorry for us. How­ever, it’s next to im­pos­si­ble not to have any­thing but sym­pa­thy for how his life has turned out.

I got a lot of flak last year for sug­gest­ing the last thing Paul Gas­coigne needed was to be at the Scot­tish foot­ball Hall of Fame. Not that he didn’t de­serve the ac­co­lade, but putting him in a drink­ing and fawn­ing en­vi­ron­ment would be a bad move. Trag­i­cally, noth­ing has changed.

Ladies Euro­pean Tour, Kenya Open – Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Golf 1330; PGA Tour, Hero World Chal­lenge – Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Golf 1800 Snooker UK Cham­pi­onship – BBC Two 1300, 1900, Eurosport 1 1300, 1845.

Scott Brown and Wal­ter Smith lead sides out in 2011 cup fi­nal

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