Team who wants Old Firm glory the most will win, says for­mer Gers star Fer­gu­son

The Herald - Sport - - LEAGUE CUP SEMI-FINALS - LIND­SAY HER­RON

BARRY FER­GU­SON ex­pe­ri­enced the full spec­trum of emo­tions at­tached to the Old Firm fix­ture in two spells as a Rangers player – glory and joy, hu­mil­i­a­tion and shame.

It is per­haps no sur­prise that the for­mer Ibrox cap­tain played more against Celtic than any other op­po­nent and was is­sued with a yel­low card twice as many times against them than any other team with 11 cau­tions in 39 ap­pear­ances.

He scored three times – a sub­lime opener in the 5-1 vic­tory of Novem­ber, 2000, a stun­ning free kick in the epic 3-2 Scot­tish Cup Fi­nal tri­umph of 2002 and a clever shot for the sec­ond goal in a 3-0 win in Oc­to­ber 2007.

How­ever, he suf­fered the ig­nominy of be­ing sent off dur­ing a 6-2 thrash­ing at Celtic Park in Au­gust 2000 and com­pounded his petu­lance by brawl­ing with Celtic sup­port­ers later that night in the event de­scribed in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy as the Bat­tle of Both­well Bridge. In­deed his last ap­pear­ance in this fix­ture was the 2-0 League Cup Fi­nal de­feat six years ago.

How­ever, he can­not wait for the old ri­vals to lock horns once again on Sun­day and is eter­nally op­ti­mistic that his old club can defy the odds and the form guide to pull off a re­mark­ably up­set.

Logic would sug­gest that Rangers have no chance given their in­fe­rior squad and the com­pletely un­sat­is­fac­tory sit­u­a­tion whereby they will be led out at Ham­p­den by a care­taker man­ager who has re­signed. Fer­gu­son sug­gests that logic is a word not nor­mally as­so­ci­ated with the Old Firm.

“Form goes out the win­dow and it doesn’t mat­ter what league you are in. Old Firm games are about who wants it most on the day,” he said. “It doesn’t mat­ter if Celtic are top of the league and play­ing well while Rangers are go­ing through a sticky patch. There were times go­ing into Rangers-Celtic games where we were hav­ing a hellish time and we won the game. I know a lot of peo­ple say it but form and what­ever league you’re in don’t mat­ter. It’s a whole dif­fer­ent ball game.

“The at­mos­phere sur­round­ing it and the week build­ing up to the game are dif­fer­ent. A lot of peo­ple are think­ing it’s go­ing to be an easy ride for Celtic but I don’t think so.

“All that mat­ters is the re­sult. It’s about who wants it most at the end of the day and that’s what will hap­pen on Sun­day.”

Fer­gu­son in­sists there is no real prepa­ra­tion for the fix­ture for those who have never ex­pe­ri­enced it and re­calls his de­but – a goal-less draw in what was Dick Ad­vo­caat’s first match against Celtic in 1998 – as vir­tu­ally pass­ing him by.

He said: “I prob­a­bly touched the ball five or six times and I was poor. You hon­estly don’t know what to ex­pect. I played in some games where it just flew past me and then the whis­tle went.

“I was left there think­ing ‘I didn’t even turn up there’ be­cause I hadn’t been in­volved whereas in other games it was great.

“It’s a strange game. I had a mix­ture of emo­tions in the game and the emo­tion you want is a win­ning one. If you get that, the fans have the brag­ging rights and that’s what you want.

“It’s not just for you and your team­mates, it’s for how­ever many thou­sand fans are there sup­port­ing you too.

“Pun­dits have their say but I never took that into ac­count be­cause you need to ac­tu­ally be in­volved to re­alise what it’s all about.

“The good thing for Rangers is that they have a num­ber of play­ers who have done it all be­fore. I’m sure they will have a mas­sive in­flu­ence on the dress­ing room.”

Con­versely, he had been warned that the As­ton Villa-Birm­ing­ham City derby was equally ex­plo­sive but found it walk in the park in com­par­i­son to the Glas­gow game.

He said: “I got told it was go­ing to be men­tal and it was just like a nor­mal game. It’s still pas­sion­ate down there but this is a dif­fer­ent ball game.”

Like many oth­ers of a Rangers per­sua­sion, Fer­gu­son reck­ons it has been il­lad­vised of Swedish striker John Guidetti to pro­claim that he will score a hat-trick as emo­tive com­ments like that of­ten back­fire.

He said: “You do your talk­ing on the pitch, not off the pitch. That’s the way I like it done.

“Be re­spect­ful and if you’ve got things you want to do on the pitch, do them. Don’t speak out be­cause you can end up with a cus­tard pie on your face.”

Pic­ture:SNS

STUCK IN THE MID­DLE: Then-cap­tain Barry Fer­gu­son squares up to Celtic’s Ai­den McGeady in the heat of Old Firm bat­tle back in 2008.

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