King Kenny wary of Celtic’s favourites tag

Kenny Dalglish believes Sunday’s Old Firm derby will be close no matter how strongly-fancied Celtic are.

Celtic are 1/8 with some bookmakers to reach the Scottish League Cup final at the expense of Rangers. Rangers are in turmoil on and off the pitch with a major cash shortfall being accompanied by uncertainty over the manager’s situation after Ally McCoist and then caretaker boss Kenny McDowall handed in their notices.

Rangers trail Scottish Championship leaders Hearts by 13 points while Celtic have scored eight goals without reply in three games in 2015, but Dalglish does not think form will have too much of an impact at Hampden on Sunday.

“It’s always been relatively close,” the former Celtic player and manager said. “But irrespective of your position in the league, or how you’ve been playing, or off the pitch, it won’t make any difference. It’s just what happens on the day that’s going to decide who’s going to win. “I think it will be close, it will be really competitive. If it’s Celtic, people will be saying they don’t want to go in there complacent. If it’s Rangers, they will be trying to say they’ve nothing to lose.

“How can you ever go into an Old Firm game saying you’ve nothing to lose? Everybody has got something to lose. It won’t be a foregone conclusion. It can’t be taken as given that anybody is going to win. “And if they need any example of that then they just need to look at the cup ties that were played over the weekend in England. There were a few shocks there and there’s no way you would have tipped Chelsea to lose four goals.”

The last Old Firm fixture was in April 2012 with the Ibrox club’s liquidation soon preventing the blue and green sides of the city meeting again until this weekend. And Dalglish feels their reunion is long overdue.

“It’s something both Celtic and Rangers fans have missed out on in the last three years, an Old Firm derby,” said Dalglish, who was promoting the fixture for “It’s great to have it back in the calendar and it will be a huge occasion. “It takes away a lot from the conversations about what’s been going on at Ibrox and Celtic will be up for it as well so I think it’s something that everybody will be looking forward to.

“Everybody misses the Old Firm games. Maybe the only clubs that haven’t suffered are Dundee and Dundee United – when they get their derbies they get full houses. They are maybe not missing Rangers being in the Premiership but I think everyone else is.”

Dalglish knew all about the rivalry having been brought up in the shadow of Ibrox as a Rangers fan before turning out in the green and white. And he has warned the many players making their derby debuts on Sunday that little can prepare them for what is in store.

A 20-year-old Dalglish overcame his nerves to score from the spot on his Old Firm debut – a 2-0 League Cup win at Parkhead in August 1971. “The most memorable one for me was the first one. We got a penalty kick and Billy McNeill told me to take it ... it was a bad idea,” he said. “I remember winning 2-0 but I don’t remember much else.

“You know what it’s about – you are born and brought up in the city. You know what the game is all about, you know what it means to everybody. “And, by the way, if it doesn’t mean as much to the people on the pitch as it does to the ones off it – then the ones on the pitch are going to have a hard time.

“People can stand and talk to you for 20 minutes and explain something to you, but until you actually experience it yourself it’s hard to put it into perspective.”


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