There was once a time when playing in an Old Firm derby at Ibrox whilst wearing the green and white hoops of Celtic was a daunting prospect.
However, after Saturday’s contest we can safely assume that this is no longer the case.
The first Old Firm derby of the new campaign confirmed two things; first, that Rangers have failed to make up any ground over their neighbours despite an active summer in the transfer market and, second, that Celtic’s dominance over Scottish football shows absolutely no signs of being halted any time soon. It also demonstrated that Brandan Rodgers’ side no longer have any real reason to fear or be concerned with the prospect of a short trip across Glasgow to Ibrox.
In reality Celtic brushed aside Rangers with relative ease on Saturday, much in the same way that they have despatched each and every team that they have met in domestic competitions over the previous fourteen months. The Hoops are now unbeaten in 57 domestic games and the green and white juggernaut will take some stopping – if it can be stopped at all.
The atmosphere at Ibrox was hostile, as it will always be when the neighbours come to town, but there was an obvious gulf in quality and class between the two teams on display. Celtic applied themselves with a confidence and assertiveness that their unbeaten record deserves and they played as if it was a home match. The Hoops rarely looked stressed or stretched and Rangers’ impotence is demonstrated by the statistics – they managed just one shot on target and one corner throughout the ninety minutes.
Pedro Caixinha’s side were resilient and worked tirelessly but simply lacked the quality to truly trouble the visitors. Rangers actually spent more money than their rivals during the summer but there is nothing to suggest that this has facilitated any substantial improvement or progress when compared to the previous season. They are some way from closing the gulf in class.
This fact was definitively highlighted by the standard of player that Brendan Rodgers named among the substitutes for Saturday. Callum McGregor, James Forrest, Moussa Dembele and Jonny Hayes all occupied the Celtic bench at Ibrox and an argument could be made that all four are superior to any player in the current Rangers squad. In contrast, injuries had exposed the hosts lack of strength in depth and 19-year-old central defender Ross McCrorie was thrown in very much at the deep end for his first competitive start.
Celtic have already opened up a clear five point lead at the top of the Scottish Premier League and their dominance is decisive. Meanwhile Rangers already trail their neighbours by eight points and you sense that the pressure is already starting to build around Caixinha.
There was once a time when Ibrox was a place to fear for Celtic, yet those days appear to be long gone and, armed with the annual financial windfall that participation in the Champions League brings, you sense that The Hoops will hold power and sway over Rangers and Scottish football for a long time to come.