It may be one of the most anticipated and renowned rivalries in football, but Paul Lambert is adamant that few understand the depths and potential despair that a Celtic versus Rangers derby holds.

The former Celtic midfielder, who spent eight years with the club and won all three major domestic honours in Scotland, believes no English Premier League derby, or indeed any other footballing rivalry, compares with the epic battle of the Old Firm.

YouTube video

Speaking exclusively to UCFB as part of the LMA Insight Series, Lambert said: “I don’t think many people in England understand it. Unless you’ve played it, unless you know what it means to people in Scotland and around the world, I don’t think people understand it. It’s a ferocious game, the intensity of the game is incredible, the atmosphere is a little different from what it is down here [in England].”

With the two clubs dominating Scottish football for decades, separated by only four miles of Glaswegian soil, the face-off could be brushed aside as yet another intense, but predictable, local derby. But in the Old Firm far more is at stake than just three points.

Lambert continued: “The Rangers and Celtic match, there’s more to it than just a game of football. I think to anybody who says ‘no, it’s just a game of football’, well it isn’t that; there’s more riding on it than that. The two teams have got a lot of respect for each other because of what they’ve done. But the rivalry, and the religion aspect of it, is different from what you have down here.”

Celtic supporters were traditionally Catholic, and Rangers fans followers of Protestantism, and so the deep-rooted rivalry, and at times hatred, between the teams transcends football. The Old Firm tie might mean more to those invested in its social and political undertones, but it’s a spine-tingling football match for anyone who’s brave enough to witness it.

Lambert finished: “Everybody would love to see it, everybody. I always say, Rangers and Celtic could play football on the moon and people would try to go and watch it because it’s that big a game!”