The Word: Arteta’s 2004 message takes on even more poignance for Rangers

This weekend pits Rangers and Celtic together once more, with the former at a crossroads right now as they hunt for a new manager to help steer their rebuild back onto the right tracks.

Obviously, the gap between the two in the Scottish Premiership is there for all to see, though when the two Glasgow clubs took to the field at Scotland’s national stadium on the 17th April 2016, Rangers were in an entirely different division to that of their city rivals. Still, while Brendan Rodgers may have turned his side into lean, green, winning machine since, those at Ibrox can take heart from their win on that day.

Having already lost to Celtic three times this season, Sunday’s league fixture between the two offers Rangers the first of two chances to gain redemption over the coming weeks. Firstly, they travel to Parkhead this weekend, before contesting another Scottish Cup semi-final at the end of April.

Clearly, the form book would suggest Celtic are strong favourites for both, though Mikel Arteta’s 2004 quotes about this, most famous of games, ring as true now as they did 13 years ago.

Almost a year ago, Rangers recorded their most famous win in years at Hampden Park when Mark Warburton’s side managed to beat bitter rivals Celtic on their way to the final. Perhaps that game, more than any since 2012, sums up the nature of the Old Firm and lends itself exactly to what the Spaniard so poignantly said.

For this is no normal game. Should Rangers manage to either prevent Rodgers’ side from going the season unbeaten or winning the first treble since Alex McLeish delivered one to Ibrox, they will always have that over their rivals.

Arteta knows what the game means to people. Though he spent just two years with the Gers, he was part of the side that won the club’s record 50th league title during the 2002-03 campaign, one of the most exciting in SPFL history.

That race for the title came down to goal difference, with the Spaniard scoring in his side’s 6-1 demolition of Dunfermline on the last day.Now, more than ever, Rangers should summon exactly that type of spirit if they are going to fight the might of the Hoops.

Such a message should give them hope in what has otherwise been a difficult campaign and a win would invariably plant the seeds of hope of at least competing at the summit of the league next time around.

 


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