And so to this lot. As a Celtic supporter the thought of going to the home of your most bitter rivals for some 120 years is hardly the most enticing. Despite being born just a few hundred yards away from Ibrox (albeit in a catholic hospital) there was never any chance of me swaying to the other side - from the moment I arrived home swaddled in green my father would regale me with tales of his adventures when following his beloved hoops. But tonight, for 90 minutes only, I am not a Celtic fan. And no, I’m not one of them either.
Instead I joined Kieran, Jamie and a hardy band of fellow St Mirren fans for their Scottish Cup replay tie against Rangers. We took our seats in the North-West corner of a stadium which, as impressive as it was some 20 years ago, now looks rather worn and shabby. The seat numbers for example didn’t run consecutively – ours were 67-69 and before that it stopped at 58 and after it began again at 73. The three tiered main stand still looms impressively large over the arena but the rest doesn’t quite match it and to be honest (and I am trying to be) our view was rubbish. However I have to admit on my three previous visits here, when full, the atmosphere is spine tingling.
Tonight however only 30,000 punters braved the cold and it was at times eerily quiet with even the resident Rangers drummer failing to rouse his loyal brethren. Indeed it was the Saints fans providing the noise, suitably spurred on by the group of 20 or so Rangers neds to our left who were doing everything in their power to live up to their fellow fans' questionable reputation. The teams emerged to a bizarre medley of ‘Rangers til I Die’ (repeated ad nauseam), The Great Escape and The Dambusters. The game began in a cagey manner with St Mirren happy to knock the ball about at the back before launching soaring passes towards the ever impressive Billy Mehmet. Rangers were restricted to some long range efforts which never really threatened; Naismith was closest with a left foot drive which went wide. The chance of the half fell to Michael Higdon but his free header from a corner flashed wide of the post.
The second half saw little change. Boyd had an effort ruled out for offside and he then stung the palms of Gallagher with a fierce shot. At the other end Higdon came close again with a header and just moments later was inches away from a great Dorman cross. Rangers tried to change the pace of the game with Kenny Miller coming on for the ineffectual Novo (I have to admit ‘ineffectual’ may not have been the adjective I actually used when describing him at the game) whilst Saints lost their influential right back Jack Ross to injury. Just as we appeared to be heading to extra time Kris Boyd held off John Potter and rifled home. There was no way back for St Mirren and Rangers nearly doubled their advantage at the death when Miller fired wide.
These two sides will do battle again in the League Cup final in March and on this evidence there is little to suggest against the Saints causing an upset. Despite their creaking stadium, haemorrhaging losses and obvious lack of talent on the park Rangers continue to dominate the Scottish season with a 10 point lead at the top and a chance of the treble. One wonders how this is possible for a team with Kyle Lafferty in their side. For St Mirren they have a cup final to look forward to but more importantly survival in the league to achieve. We had survived our visit to the netherworld and unanimously agreed that we shall never return. That might not be a problem if Lloyds decide they want their money back.
Journey - 5
Pie - 4
Bovril - 2
Ground - 4
Game – 5