Celtic’s inaugural match as a club, when they faced Rangers in a friendly in 1888, is said to have been followed by a dinner in which the squads toasted good health to their counterparts.
The players and officials taking part in that day’s festivities might not have anticipated the intense rivalry that would develop during the years to come, with the Hoops’ 5-2 win also representing a far more conclusive gap than there has often been between the Glasgow giants.
Before the 2023/24 season, Celtic and Rangers were almost even in terms of trophies and their overall record in the game known as the Old Firm derby. Their next meeting, on Saturday, December 30, could have huge implications not just for their personal battle but also for this season’s Scottish Premiership title race.
The Sporting News examines the numbers and trophy cabinets between the dominant forces in Scottish football.
Celtic vs Rangers head to head, all-time results
Rangers had won three more competitive matches than Celtic in the fixture following their arch-rivals’ 1-0 victory at Ibrox in the Scottish Premiership on September 3, 2023.
The derby was one of then-Gers manager Michael Beale’s final matches in charge of his 10-month reign. Although Beale had overseen victory against Celtic on his fifth attempt the previous season, the 3-0 win against opponents who had already won the 2022/23 title was far less consequential to his brief tenure than the subsequent early-season defeat.
That was the 332nd league match between the teams since 1891, and it would have been scant consolation for Rangers fans that their club retained a superior record in those games, having prevailed 12 more times than Celtic.
Overall, these two teams are understood to have met 437 times in major competitions. Their head-to-head record is pretty close.
Do Celtic or Rangers have more trophies?
The Glasgow rivalry is about as close as you’ll come within elite football: Rangers have 118 major honours to Celtic’s 116 trophies.
Arguments are inevitably made by fans of both clubs about the prestige and timing of trophies won. The clubs have also tended to take it in turns to dominate for several years at a time, making it worthy of celebration for their nemesis when such victorious runs come to an end.
Rangers, for example, won four successive titles between 1899 and 1902. Celtic were champions between 1905 and 1910, Rangers between 1911 and 1913, Celtic from 1914 to 1917 and Rangers for all but three seasons between 1927 and 1947, when Celtic interrupted in 1936 and 1938.
Celtic won the league every year between 1966 and 1974 as part of a glorious era during which they also won the 1967 European Cup under legendary manager Jock Stein, but Rangers would have won 10 in a row had Celtic not beaten them to the title in a thrilling 1997/98 run-in.
Helped by Rangers’ financial turmoil, transfer of assets to a new company and four seasons outside the top flight after the resurrected club restarted in the lowest division in 2012, Celtic won nine titles between 2012 and 2020.
Rangers were champions again the following season, only to finish second in the two campaigns that followed.
Celtic have won the Scottish Cup seven more times than Rangers, while the opposite is true when it comes to the Scottish League Cup. In the latter competition, though, Celtic can claim the largest ever win in a domestic cup final in the UK, beating Rangers 7-1 in 1957.
Celtic’s official site calls that game an “astonishing roasting”, acknowledging: “At the time, Rangers were the dominant force in Scottish football while Celtic enjoyed occasional successes amid regular disappointment.”
Trophies won by Celtic and Rangers
|Scottish top-tier league titles
|Scottish League Cup
|European Cup/Champions League
|European Cup Winners’ Cup
Why is Celtic vs Rangers called the Old Firm derby?
It is understood that the Celtic-Rangers rivalry has been dubbed the “Old Firm” since the early 20th century, when the two faced each other in the 1904 Scottish Cup Final.
The magazine The Scottish Referee had drawn up a satirical cartoon of the two rivals in the lead-up to the game, acknowledging the commercialisation of their high-profile meetings that attracted large crowds and fervent support. A panel in the comic showed a man with a sandwich board that read: “Patronise The Old Firm: Rangers, Celtic Ltd”.
Another theory is that the term originated from match commentators describing an early meeting between the two teams meeting as “like two old, firm friends”.
Why do Celtic fans say there is no Old Firm derby?
Many Celtic fans take the antagonistic view that the Old Firm derby is no more following the financial collapse of Rangers in 2012, which led to the club being run by a new company.
Instead, some Celtic supporters and, indeed, the club itself, prefer to use the term ‘Glasgow derby’. Rangers, notably, continue to officially use ‘Old Firm’.
Relatedly, due to their ‘death’ and ‘rebirth’, Rangers and their fans are commonly referred to by Celtic’s support as ‘zombies’.
Why do Celtic and Rangers have such a deep rivalry?
Celtic and Rangers are the most successful clubs in Scottish football, but that’s only one facet of their heated, deep-seated and complicated history with one another.
Their rivalry is rooted in a divide of views regarding religion, identity and politics, as well their relationship with Ireland, particularly Northern Ireland.
Traditionally, Rangers supporters align themselves as native Scots or Ulster Scots as well as Protestant and Loyalist, while Celtic fans tend to be Irish-Scots and Catholic and Republican.
Rangers fans also tend to identify more as pro-British, waving Union Jack flags at matches while Celtic supporters are more commonly seen displaying the Irish tricolour.
Rangers’ history is deeply rooted in the Protestant community, and until Graeme Souness became manager in 1986, they went decades without signing a Catholic player. Souness signing ex-Celtic forward Mo Johnston in 1989 brought an end to the practise, which is no longer continued.
Old Firm derbies are typically intense affairs, rivalling such high-profile clashes as De Klassieker (Ajax vs. Feyenoord), El Clasico (Barcelona vs. Real Madrid), and the Superclasico of Argentina (Boca Juniors vs. River Plate).
Henrik Larsson, who has played in both El Clasico and Old Firm matches, conceded the fiercest Barca-Madrid battles did not live up to Celtic vs. Rangers. “I never experienced anything, either before or after, that compared to my Old Firm games in Scotland. That was the best atmosphere and those were the most fierce encounters I ever played in,” he said.
It’s also a brutal environment for players to find themselves in the midst of, with Rangers legend Brian Laudrup calling the clash “terrifying”.
“As soon as you join one of these clubs, from the very first minutes you are told about this game,” Laudrup told the Daily Record.
“To play in one was terrifying. It was a bit scary but on the other hand it’s tremendous to be involved in one of the world’s biggest derbies.
“For these players it’s tremendous. They have read about the derby and heard about it from those who have played in the game but to actually be part of it is completely different. It’d something they will never forget.”
Several incidents in the late 90s during the derby have involved infamous pitch invasions, instances of vandalism and general hooliganism caused by the heightened tension of the clash, prompting the Scottish FA to hold the derby in early afternoon.
When Rangers had the opportunity to win the league against Celtic on the last day of the season in May 1999, several Celtic fans in the stadium took to throwing objects at the opposition players. One such object hit referee Hugh Dallas, who was forced to stop play and receive medical treatment.
Since then, measures have been taken to avoid the possibility of the Premiership being decided on the last day between Celtic and Rangers.
There have also been crowd measures put into place. For example, when the two teams meet at Parkhead on December 30, no Rangers fans will be permitted entry to Celtic’s stadium.