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THE ALLY SHUFFLE; Goram reckons Coisty v Lenny will be like great ring bust-ups.

Byline: HUGH KEEVINS

SEVEN Old Firm games weren't enough for Andy Goram last season. The Goalie would have invented another competition for Celtic and Rangers to play in if it had been left up to him.

Four tempestuous league games, one fiery League Cup Final and a Scottish Cup tie that went to a replay which ended in mayhem only whetted his appetite for more of the same.

And that's why Goram doesn't hold his hands up in horror when he recalls the touchline bust-ups, the welter of red cards and the other forms of controversy that followed Glasgow's finest all the way to a political summit in Edinburgh. He takes the opposite view and challenges the politicians over getting involved in something that Andy alleges was none of their business.

First Minister Alex Salmond can legislate to his heart's content but Goram reckons he's guilty of victimising two football clubs while ignoring other examples of misbehaviour elsewhere.

Goram said: "There was more trouble than the Old Firm ever caused when the mounted police ended up on the pitch at a junior game between Auchinleck and Cumnock last season.

"And what about the beer and coins that were thrown at the world champion Adrian Lewis when he came up to Glasgow to play Premier League darts at the SECC? "I didn't see the Scottish government rushing to get involved in either of those things.

"Scottish football would be boring without the Old Firm. They put bums on seats and then get the people out of them when the action starts.

"I can't wait for the weekend so the whole thing can begin again. It's a waste of time if the Old Firm aren't involved in something eventful."

The collision between Neil Lennon and Ally McCoist at the end of the Scottish Cup replay in March was the final straw for Salmond and the police, who immediately put their anti-sectarian initiatives into place and began preparing to fine, or even jail, fans who step out of line.

But Goram has no fears for the two managers when they renew their rivalry in direct opposition to each other for the first time.

In fact he sees their fascinating clash of temperaments as box office entertainment, more Ali-Frazier than Ally-Lenny.

The former Ibrox keeper said: "It's like the great boxing rematches of the past. They're going head to head and the public can't wait to see it. What's wrong with that? "But I think Ally will do a Walter Smith and watch the derbies from the stand, unless he feels he has to come down trackside to wind up Neil."

BUzzing The last remark was meant to be a joke and a way of underlining the fact that if you take the Old Firm out of the equation there's not really a lot to talk about where the SPL's concerned.

Rangers kick off the new season with a home match against Hearts, who like to think of themselves as Scotland's third force. But Andy doesn't share their high opinion of themselves.

He said: "The rest of the clubs, like Hearts, can talk as much as they like about what they're going to do but they won't touch the Old Firm.

"Hearts were 30 points behind Rangers last season and Ally will put down a marker about himself, and his team, when the sides face each other at Ibrox on Saturday.

"When that league flag is unfurled the Rangers lads will be buzzing. There's no feeling quite like it."

Precisely which players will be there by the side of the pitch when the flag ceremony takes place is still a matter for conjecture, but Goram wouldn't mind seeing a triple reunion with the club for Carlos Cuellar, Kenny Miller and Kyle Bartley.

He said: "If Ally could get the three of them he'd be in with a fantastic chance of taking the title.

"It's not a bad thing to re-trace your steps and go back to a club where you were before. It's a good thing for Rangers to have players who know what the club's all about.

"I remember Brian Laudrup and Jorg Albertz being unaware of what Rangers meant when they arrived, but they soon understood after John Brown and Ian Durrant had been in about them.

"I was diabolical for weeks after I joined Rangers from Hibs. I put us out of Europe against Sparta Prague. I put us out of the League Cup against Hibs and then I dropped another clanger to lose us a match with Hearts.

"The irony was the turning point came for me when Celtic's keeper, Pat Bonner, sat me down in the Players' Lounge at Ibrox after an Old Firm game and gave me words of advice that meant I never really looked back after that.

"He's probably sorry he ever opened his mouth now!" Even the worst case scenario in the transfer market wouldn't weaken Goram's belief in Rangers.

He said: "Defence is all important. The side that concedes fewest goals normally wins the title.

"Davie Weir's hardly missed a game for three years at Ibrox and Rangers have dominated in that time."

CAPTION(S):

FACE OFFJ Ally and Lenny's spat FOR KEEPSJ Pat Bonner and Andy Goram promote ESPN coverage
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 19, 2011
Words:877
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