Football Expert & Columnist
Celtic vs Rangers should be first Scottish Premiership 2020/21 season game, says Andy Walker
In his latest column, Andy Walker argues that scheduling the first Old Firm game in August would produce a "thunderous start" for the next Scottish top-flight campaign
Last Updated: 16/06/20 8:58pm
Next season's first Old Firm fixture should not be postponed until fans can return to Scottish Premiership matches, and Celtic vs Rangers should kick-off the 2020/21 campaign, says Sky Sports' Andy Walker...
It is a fixture that gave me some of the most memorable moments in my career, as well as some of my lowest points. But to have played in so many Old Firm games was a tremendous thrill for me, and anyone who has been lucky enough to take part in one will tell you the same story.
It is a game that stands alone in Scotland for passion, intensity and emotion.
A few days ago, Neil Lennon, recently awarded the Football Writers' Manager of the Year for leading Celtic to a ninth title in succession, was urging the SPFL to delay the first Old Firm game of the 2020/21 Scottish Premiership season to ensure it's not played behind closed doors.
The Hoops' boss was quickly backed up by one of his key players, Callum McGregor, who also thinks delaying the fixture would be worth waiting for.
- Scottish Premiership set for Aug return with new Sky deal
- Partick Thistle join Hearts' legal action against SPFL
- Brown: Celtic start key to 10-in-a-row
With the potential for Celtic to achieve a 10th league title in a row, both believe it's essential for fans to be present at every game.
And of course, they're right. Fans are the lifeblood of the game and should always have the opportunity to support their team.
But there's a part of me that would love an Old Firm game to be scheduled in the first few weeks of the season.
In fact, if the SPFL are open to requests such as Lennon's or McGregor's, then mine would be to start the campaign with one - let's get the Scottish top-flight season off to a thunderous start with Celtic vs Rangers on the opening day of the season!
I'm all for Scottish football and the quality, drama, intrigue and stories that it constantly throws up.
There's something very captivating and gripping about our game and the month of August gives the Scottish Premiership a platform to stand alone in the fixture schedules.
The only certainty we can rely upon is that the season will be full of drama.
As much as Neil Lennon craves the idea of leading his team to a record 10th title in a row, Rangers manager Steven Gerrard will forever be synonymous with the Rangers support for stopping the 10th, if he can turn it around and take the title to Ibrox.
Either way, a remarkable story will be told in May 2021.
Covid-19 has impacted on all of our lives and every supporter has now come to accept that for some months at the very least, a large number of games will undoubtedly be played behind closed doors.
Like most people, I've watched the Bundesliga as German clubs returned to action, and while it will always remain surreal to see games of the magnitude of Borussia Dortmund vs Bayern Munich with no crowds present, the quality has still been impressive.
The English Premier League returns to Sky Sports' screens on June 17 with a double-header of Aston Villa vs Sheffield United, and then Manchester City taking on Arsenal.
Given that the Premier League season will be completed in the last weekend of July, it looks like the whole of August could offer Scottish football fans and the wider footballing community a unique opportunity to see all of our best teams and players in action.
Let's take advantage of that window. Celtic vs Rangers would be a mouth-watering opening fixture, even allowing for the fact that no supporters will be there.
Motherwell vs Aberdeen and promoted Dundee United vs Hibernian would also attract tremendous interest.
If you could manufacture a fixture list, I'd have all the top teams playing against each other in the first few weeks of the season to hopefully showcase the Premiership in its best light.
Granted, as much as Celtic vs Rangers is the showpiece fixture in the Scottish calendar, I would imagine the rest of the Scottish Premiership would question, quite rightly in my view, the fairness of one or two clubs being given the advantage of choosing when to play a certain fixture.
Mind you, given the events of this week with the final ruling from the SPFL that relegated Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer with a quarter of the season still to go, Scottish football doesn't seem to do fairness.
As a live game on Sky Sports, Celtic vs Rangers always attracts a massive audience and it's definitely a fixture that people who don't normally tune in to Scottish football would watch.
I don't know if all players felt like I did, but the intense rivalry and sheer bedlam of the 90 minutes helps to focus your mind and raise your awareness.
Your level of concentration in this fixture has to be spot on.
My experience of listening to the madness of the crowd in this unique atmosphere is that it can quite literally put a yard on your stride. I'll be fascinated to see how the players will perform without the chaos of noise they take for granted in this cauldron.
When the fixtures are announced, let's make this happen on the first weekend of August!
The 2020/21 Scottish Premiership season is set to start in August as part of a new deal with Sky Sports that will include 'virtual season tickets' for top-flight clubs.
Domestic Super 6 IS BACK!
Do not miss your chance to land the £250,000 jackpot on Saturday. Play for free, entries by 12:30pm.