Search icon


31st Jan 2015

Gazza, a riot and three of the other maddest moments in Old Firm history

A full-scale riot is never far off when these two play each other

Robert Redmond

This weekend sees the first Old Firm derby in almost three years.

Celtic and Rangers will meet at Hampden Park, in the Scottish League Cup semi-final in the 400th staging of the fixture.

The game between the Glasgow clubs is infamous for it’s ferocious, hostile atmosphere between two bitterly opposed set of supporters, and is still regarded as one of the game’s biggest derbies.

Despite the liquidation and decline of Rangers, and the general malaise around Scottish football, when these two meet, you can be sure it’ll be memorable.

The Old Firm game, first played in 1888, was a fixture that was played at least four times a year, until Rangers were demoted down the divisions, and was the deciding factor in the destination of countless trophies.

Some Celtic fans claim that tomorrow’s fixture is, in fact, not an Old Firm game at all and that the previous incarnation ceased to exist when Rangers were liquidated.

However, we’ve gone ahead and compiled a list of the most shocking moments in one football’s most eventful fixtures.

1980 – Scottish Cup Final riot

Celtic beat Rangers 1-0 in theScottish Cup Final at Hampden Park, but the occasion is remembered more for the riot that followed full-time, which led to the banning of alcohol sales at Scottish football games.

Some Celtic fans scaled the fences to join their team in celebration, however, the Rangers fans, upon seeing the opposing supporters celebrating, rushed onto the pitch and confronted them. Amazingly, there were only 12 police officers in the stadium at the time.

The pitch descended into a battle field as beer cans and missiles were thrown as the over-worked police on horseback tried to quell the riot. Over 200 people were arrested.

Scottish football fans have the Old Firm faithful from that day to thank for now having to sit through Dundee against Hamilton Academical sober.

1987 – Celtic 2 Rangers 2

This Old Firm game had three red cards, 62 supporters arrested and four players charged with breaching the peace. Even by Celtic against Rangers standards, that’s a pretty eventful game.

Tempers flared early in the game when Celtic’s Frank McAvennie collided with Rangers goalkeeper Chris Woods, who was about to collect a passback. Woods grabbed McAvennie by the throat before the pair began exchanged punches. Terry Butcher then pushed McAvennie and fellow Rangers player Graham Roberts got involved by also holding the Celtic player by the throat. McAvennie was struck and fell to the ground.

Frank McAvennieWhen order was regained McAvennie and Woods were sent off, while Butcher was dismissed for a foul on Celtic’s goalkeeper in the second half. Somehow nine-man Rangers held on for a draw and the four players involved in the dispute would later appear in court. Roberts and McAvennie were found not guilty,but Woods was fined £500 and Butcher £250.

1998 – Gazza’s gesture

It’s January 1998 and Celtic are fighting to stop their rivals winning their tenth league title in a row. In the Old Firm game at Parkhead, the England midfielder performed a gesture that was deeply offensive to Celtic’s catholic roots and supporters.


Gascoigne mocked playing the flute, doing an impression of someone playing ‘The Sash’, a popular song among Ulster unionists and one played by the Orange Order during their marches. The song commemorates the victory of William of Orange in the 17th century Williamite War and is not any Celtic fan will have on a Spotify playlist.

A sensitive subject at the best of times, but, at a time of extremely fragile relations in Northern Ireland, and at the spirtual home of Irish Catholics in Scotland, Gazza’s gesture could’ve started a riot.

Paul GascoigneGazza, who had previously performed the gesture in a pre-season friendly, apologised for the incident but was fined £40,000 pounds and received death threats from the IRA. ‘They [his Rangers teammates] told me to do the Sash, but I didn’t know what it meant,’ Gazza told Four Four Two in 2005.

‘Their fans were giving me so much abuse for 80 minutes that I decided to do it again, and I got a death threat afterwards! It’s unbelievable that one guy can upset 60,000 fans’.

‘I have nothing against Celtic and I regret doing it because of what the Sash means’. Gazza would leave Rangers two months later but is still a cult hero for the club’s fans.

1999 – Hugh Dallas is struck by a coin

Rangers went to Celtic Park in May 1999 knowing that, if they won, they’d clinch the league title on their bitter rivals’ home turf. The already boisterous atmosphere was teetering on a knife-edge and Hugh Dallas was the man tasked to keep a lid on proceedings.

However, the referee ignited the powder keg with a series of controversial decisions, starting with the red card for Stephane Mahe. Dallas sent off the Celtic player after he had pleading with him to book an opponent who had fouled him.

With the atmosphere becoming extremely heated, bordering on poisonous, a coin thrown from the crowd struck Dallas in the head, wounding the referee, who sat dazed on the turf with blood streaming down his face.

Hugh Dallas 2/5/1999The game was stopped as Dallas received treatment for the cut and the crowd gave the biggest cheer of the day. Just after restarting the match, Dallas awarded Rangers a controversial penalty as Rangers went on to win 3-0 and clinch the league title.

The referee received death threats following the game and his home was attacked.

2011 – Ally McCoist and Neil Lennon almost come to blows

Celtic and Rangers met in a Scottish Cup replay in March 2011 and the game was more bitter than usual. Celtic won a scrappy, aggressive game 1-0 as Steven Whittaker and Madjid Bougherra were sent off for Rangers, and El-Hadji Diouf was dismissed after full time. However, that was nothing compared to the feud festering between the opposing dugouts.

capture-20150131-161840At the end of he game, Neil Lennon and Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist had to be dragged apart. The Celtic boss and McCoist shook hands and began talking, but the conversation got heated as Lennon reacted angrily to something McCoist had seemingly said. Staff, stewards and players separated them, as the crowd erupted.