Fights, football, tragedy: Celtic vs Rangers – 10 defining moments in Old Firm derby history


This Sunday (February 1) sees Scottish Premier League side Celtic face Scottish Championship side Rangers in the first Old Firm derby clash for almost three years. To mark the occasion on Just Football we look at 10 moments that have defined the classic fixture since the first time it was played back in 1888…

Anticipation for Sunday’s League Cup clash between Celtic and Rangers at Hampden has been building for months. And after more than two seasons without an encounter, a period apart that saw tensions come to a head at an Under-17s game in 2013, both sets of fans are more than ready to meet again.

But there is no denying it’s a very different Rangers from the side that last lined up against Celtic in a SPL game in 2012. Having risen through the Scottish lower leagues after being hurtled down to the (then) Third Division in 2012/13, Rangers are still in the Scottish Championship, a tier below Celtic, and struggling.

Most have been tipping Celtic to coast the game, but with the pressure off Rangers as underdogs, anything could happen. Here Just Football takes a look at 10 moments in Old Firm derby history that have defined one of the world’s most notorious rivalries, for better or worse…

Rangers vs Celtic: 10 Old Firm derby defining moments

1888 – Result: Celtic 5-2 Rangers

The first-ever Old Firm derby, described at the time as a “friendly match”, resulted in the newly formed Celtic Football Club taking a 5-2 win over Rangers on May 28, 1888. The Celtic side was composed mainly of players borrowed from Edinburgh side Hibs, and the Old Firm has never been referred to as a “friendly” since…

1909 – Result: Rangers 2-2 Celtic (Re-play – Rangers 1-1 Celtic)

Also known as “The League Cup no-one won” as following the Hampden Riot the Scottish Football Association (SFA) held back the trophy. In the first game Rangers and Celtic drew 2-2, but with rumours and allegations the SFA had been fixing cup ties to ensure income from replays, there were huge amounts of tension and suspicion going into the rematch.

When that game ended 1-1, with no extra time to be played, the 60,000-strong crowd had enough and Hampden was trashed in the fall-out.

The Guardian’s Douglas Rawlins, wrote:

“Fans from both sides united to invade the pitch for more than 2½ hours, tearing up the goalposts and setting fire to the wooden barricades. Mounted police were fended off with stones and even the goalposts, while the fire brigade was also repelled by missiles and had its hoses cut. Around 50 policemen were injured as the riot eventually left the stadium and moved towards the city centre.”

1931 – Result: Rangers 0-0 Celtic

A September 1931 league match ended in tragedy when legendary Celtic goalkeeper John Thomson died following a goalmouth collision with Rangers’ Sam English. After going for the ball at the same time, Thomson’s head collided with English’s knee maintaining a fractured skull and ruptured artery.

Despite the best efforts of staff at Glasgow Victoria Infirmary, Thomson was pronounced dead at 9.25pm that night. The traumatised English was cleared of any blame and over 30,000 attended Thomson’s Cardenden funeral.

1957 – Result: Celtic 7-1 Rangers

The biggest ever Old Firm victory came in 1957 with a 7-1 Celtic win over Rangers. It had been just 2-0 going into the break but a prolific second half for the Hoops saw them run rampant over Rangers in the League Cup Final.

1980 – Result: Celtic 1-0 Rangers

The shameful scenes at the 1980 ‘Hampden Riot’ saw a pitch invasion, fighting, mounted police charges…and culminated in £20k fines for both clubs and an alcohol ban put in place across Scottish grounds. Thirty-five years later moves are being made to lift the ban, to mixed opinions.

1987 – Result: Rangers 2-2 Celtic

A nine-man Rangers side took a last minute equaliser against Celtic after coming back from being 2-0 down. Chris Woods and Terry Butcher were sent off for the Gers with Frank McAvennie shown red for Celtic.

The three of them landed in court under breach of the peace charges, alongside Graham Roberts who’d also involved himself. All four denied the charges with the cases against Roberts and McAvennie  not proven. Woods was fined £500 while Butcher received a £250 fine.

1997 – Result: Celtic 0-1 Rangers

In the 1996/97 season Rangers defeated Celtic four times out of four – in the fourth Walter Smith’s side took a one goal win, courtesy of Brian Laudrup, at Parkhead. The talismanic 9-in-a-row Rangers side went into the game knowing defeat would have closed the gap between them and Celtic at the top of the table, but the three points achieved in a typically scrappy encounter effectively sealed that ninth title in a row.

1999 – Result: Celtic 0-3 Rangers

Rangers took the title at the end of the 1998/99 season among complete chaos, with fan invasions on the pitch, the usual amount of sendings off and antagonism, and referee Hugh Dallas being hit with (what was probably) a coin from the Celtic end.

2011 – Result: Celtic 1-0 Rangers

“Once again there was a sideshow” during the Scottish Cup replay in March 2011. There were 10 yellows and three reds (El Hadji Diouf, Madjid Bougherra, and Steven Whittaker were all sent off for Rangers), with a scrap on the sidelines between Ally McCoist and Neil Lennon.

2012 – Result: Celtic 3-0 Rangers

The last Old Firm game to be played in almost three years was typically hostile, with the home crowd making the most of administration-hit Rangers’ off-field problems.

Despite Rangers starting well enough, they were deflated as soon as Charlie Mulgrew hit the net 17 minutes in. Two further goals before the hour mark secured three points for the Hoops. And that was that, for almost three seasons…

SEE ALSO: The Interview: Young, Scottish and managing – Barry Ferguson and Gary Naysmith get stuck into football management

Have you missed the Old Firm? Happy to see it back? Share your predictions in the comments below or on Twitter @JustFootball

Main pic via Wikipedia Commons user PaulVIF

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8 Responses to “Fights, football, tragedy: Celtic vs Rangers – 10 defining moments in Old Firm derby history”

  1. Doc
    January 31, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

    What a complete pile of drivel !
    The “old firm” died in 2012 – along with the hopes, dreams & savings of over 200 Creditors, when the fans of RFC stood idly by and watched their club get Liquidated.
    This Sunday will see the first Ever match between Celtic and Scotlands newest Club.
    I wish there were still an old firm match to look forward to, in the same way that I wish I could pop into Woolworths for a pick`n`mix. Alas, neither of them exist any longer, except perhaps in the fevered minds of 2-bit Media Hacks & delusional ex-rangers fans.

  2. Tony McLaughlin
    January 31, 2015 at 5:25 pm #

    Celtic v secco

    • Boydie
      January 31, 2015 at 7:00 pm #

      Canny spell ! Wonder what school you went too!

  3. Tony McLaughlin
    January 31, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

    Meant sevco

  4. Boydie
    January 31, 2015 at 7:01 pm #

    Cannot spell ! Self evident what school you went too!

    • Doc
      January 31, 2015 at 7:14 pm #

      HAHA What a complete turnip you are Boydie! At least Tony had the intelligence to correct his typo.
      Only a halfwit would berate someone for their spelling, whilst mis-spelling “To”
      You Zombie Plank !!!

  5. Wilkins' screamer
    January 31, 2015 at 8:40 pm #

    as Mr Jock Stein said,football is all about the fans,not football companies,businesses,debts etc.

    Its great to see celtic fans are so keen to watch a brand new team not.

  6. Doug
    April 14, 2015 at 8:45 pm #

    And not even a mention of the 66 dead and over 200 injured on 02/01/1971 Ibrox Disaster. When supporters of both sides were united in grief at what happened that fateful day….

    Was this not a defining moment? No supporter of any team should die while out to watch their team. Lessons were learnt that day that shaped the stadiums that we now take for granted..