James Lawton: It is especially sad that Lennon and McCoist could behave like that

The biggest casualty was the idea that a new generation of football men would do better

It's true enough that if the Celtic-Rangers match was permanently banned as unfit for decent human consumption it would scarcely skim the surface of so much of the hate that so regularly masquerades as football passion. But then it would be a hell of a start.

What is particularly shocking after this week's eruption of the most scabrous tribal enmity – which led to 34 arrests and the claim by Scottish police that, at a time when they can scarcely afford to peek out into the street, the fixture has become a worthless, tawdry drain on the public purse – is that professionals like Ally McCoist and Neil Lennon were at the heart of the latest fomentation.

There is a particular sadness here in the case of McCoist because if he has never presented himself as an angel his natural conviviality has lit up many football travels.

When he was announced recently as the successor to Walter Smith as Rangers manager, there seemed to be some reason to believe that his humour might help to dissipate some of the worst of the institutionalised aggro.

He tells, for example, the story – which he insists is not apocryphal – of the time when a Catholic priest attended a fund-raising event at Rangers. The good Father won the lottery and went up to receive his prize. At the moment of presentation a portrait of a deceased Ibrox elder clattered to the floor.

The biggest casualty on Wednesday night when three Rangers players received red cards – the last of them, El Hadji Diouf, getting his at the end of game, presumably as he was in some panic at not previously having a significant impact on such a malignant evening – was the idea that a new generation of football men were capable of doing much better than previous ones in lifting the action out of the gutter.

Of course, down the years there has been some noble defiance to the most rancid of the prejudice. The great Jock Stein was never slow to express his contempt for the judging of a man on any other basis than who he was, and what he did, and at Rangers Graeme Souness made a two-handed attack on bigotry, not only in 1989 signing the club's first Catholic, Mo Johnston, but also sending out Rangers' first black player, Mark Walters,

Johnston, a former Celtic player, scored 46 goals in 100 appearances by way of supporting Souness's judgement and Walters also showed his ability – after surviving on his debut at Celtic Park some treatment that might have brought a pause in the Dark Ages.

Bananas were thrown on the field, there were jungle noises and some intellectual giants squeezed into monkey outfits. A number of Rangers supporters responded in a way they probably deemed gallant when they cried that they would rather be "a darkie than a Tim" – a Scottish Irish Catholic.

However, it should go without saying that anyone who regularly attends English football, several decades on from such horrors, has no reason to be sanguine about the level of obscene venom that can build so quickly south of the border.

A small relic of Scottish football history, though, did intrude into this week's frenzy. Reflecting on his time in Scotland, Walters said that his worst experience was probably at Tynecastle, the home of Hearts, whose current manager Jim Jefferies had an interesting reaction to events in Glasgow: "It was tasty, wasn't it? That's what they are saying TV wants. How is it a disaster?"

Could it really be that the old, shattered picture is back on the wall?

Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own