As 2012 draws to a close, it is fair to say that Scottish football has witnessed an absolutely crazy year. From Rangers going into administration and then starting life in Division Three after the SPL blocked their entry, to Celtic’s Champions League last 16 qualification via Scotland’s continuous slide down the world rankings, it has been a remarkable year for the small country.
Here I will select my top ten memorable moments from the year gone by and with the Rangers crisis dominating the front and back pages throughout the last twelve months, this list will revolve heavily around them.
1. Rangers celebrate 140 Years of history
After the turmoil that has surrounded the Ibrox club in 2012, 8th December was a truly special day for 49,000 fans inside the stadium that day. Despite all the haters and doubters, Rangers football club is here to stay and the 2-0 victory over Stirling Albion that day was really a sideshow.
A whole host of legends including John Greig, Richard Gough and Lorenzo Amoruso turned out on the pitch at half-time and were roared on as close to 50,000 fans celebrated how truly special Rangers Football Club established 1872 is.
2. Charles Green buys Rangers
Very few people had heard of the man from Yorkshire who had just decided to form a consortium to buy Rangers back in May. Since entering administration in February, the Rangers fans had been put through the ringer as potential bidders seemed to be in and then immediately were out again.
All of a sudden, Green took over one Sunday morning as Rangers were preparing to play St Johnstone. The next couple of months saw Green face an uphill battle to win over the supporters, but it is fair to say he has run a brilliant PR campaign and with the success of the IPO share, Rangers are in a healthy position going into 2013.
3. Craig Levein is sacked as Scotland manager
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In November, a nation finally breathed a sigh of relief as Craig Levein was shown the door as Scotland manager.
Levein had presided over a dismal reign in charge, despite his constant claims of progress. He had failed to take Scotland to the Euro 2012 play-offs, with the stand-out moment from the campaign being his now infamous 4-6-0 formation away to the Czech Republic.
The World Cup 2014 campaign saw a truly shocking start with only two points collected from the opening four games and in all honesty, Scotland were lucky to get two.
Sacked after just under three years in charge, Levein presided over a spell which saw him fall out with his best players, fail to inspire a team even with the Hampden roar and continue to baffle with his negativity. It remains to be seen who will take over, but I say good riddance to Levein.
4. Rangers play East Stirling in their first home Division Three Match
Another historic occasion for the Ibrox club, which at this time last year you’d have been taken away by the men in the white coats for suggesting Rangers first home league fixture would have been against East Stirling.
Much like the aforementioned Stirling Albion game, the 5-1 win back in August was routine, but on the whole was a secondary matter. As a huge crowd packed Ibrox to the rafters, every Rangers fan inside the ground that day was just happy to see their team playing league football again after the turmoil since Valentine’s Day.
5. Celtic beat Barcelona in the Champions League
Celtic’s win back in November at Parkhead pretty much summed 2012 in Scottish football for me. Despite running Barcelona close at the Nou Camp two weeks previously, few people gave Neil Lennon’s men a chance of beating them at home, but that is exactly what they did.
A superb defensive performance aided by goals from Victor Wanyama and teenage striker Tony Watt meant Lionel Messi’s injury time goal was nothing more than a consolation, incredibly.
The result went a long way to securing Celtic’s place in the last 16 of the Champions League where they will face Juventus.
6. Rangers stop Celtic winning the SPL at Ibrox
On a roasting hot day in March, Rangers fans arrived for the third Old Firm game of 2011-12 in a state of even more nervousness than usual. Celtic fans arrived with great expectation of winning the league title. Since entering administration six weeks earlier, Rangers results had unsurprisingly been poor with Ally McCoist’s side losing to Kilmarnock, Hearts and Dundee United in that time.
Heading to the game myself, I really did fear the worst and it would have been another killer blow after administration and the chance of winning a fourth SPL title in a row had gone.
What followed was an incredible performance from Rangers with Sone Aluko and Lee McCulloch terrorising the Celtic defence for the whole match as Celtic saw two men sent off as well as their manager.
The two late goals from Celtic did take some shine off the day but it was still absolutely fantastic that Celtic didn’t win the title at Ibrox- something which Rangers achieved of course in 1999 at Parkhead.
7. Kilmarnock’s rise under Kenny Shiels
Kenny Shiels has been rubbing people up the wrong way, but I am a fan of the Kilmarnock boss. He just calls as it is and he will always defend his club to the ends of the earth which I really admire.
He enjoyed his best moment in March when his side secured their first trophy in 15 years with a 1-0 win over Celtic in the League Cup final. Since then they have continued on an upward scale with Shiels leading the Ayrshire side to another historic win over Celtic as they won for the first time in 57 years at Parkhead in October.
They have also impressively won at Ibrox, Tynecastle, Pittodrie and Easter Road during this year and whilst Shiels’ comments that his side have been the best in Scotland this year were a tad over the score, but there is much to be admired about the way he is transforming Kilmarnock.
8. Hearts destroy Hibs 5-1 to win the Scottish Cup final
This was the first Scottish Cup final between the two Edinburgh clubs since 1896 and it provided another opportunity for Hibs to finally get the Scottish Cup monkey off their back having not won the trophy since 1902.
However, they failed to turn up and it was the maroon side of the capital that took the spoils as they thumped their bitter rivals 5-1 in May. To Hibs, it may have been a massive anti-climax, but for Hearts it was a day of celebration.
9. Rangers enter administration on Valentine’s Day
The last one to feature Rangers on the list but arguably the most important. As people were celebrating Valentines Day with their partners, for thousands of Rangers fans it felt as though their true love had been taken away from them as Craig Whyte plunged the club into administration.
This was something no one in Scottish football could have seen coming and it really shook football in the country to the core and Scotland is arguably still suffering the consequences of Whyte’s disastrous reign at Ibrox.
Thankfully Rangers are now starting to recover and get on the right road again but that day will never be forgotten by anyone who loves the club.
10. The emergence of young managers
One of the most pleasing events in Scottish football of 2012 has been the emergence of young Scottish managers who want to play attacking and attractive football.
Jackie McNamara has taken Partick to the top of the First Division, playing some wonderful attacking football based around a young team that knows where the goal is, thanks to players like Steven Lawless, Chris Erskine and Kris Doolan.
Allan Johnston has also taken to management like a duck to water and has gained a remarkable 41 points from 16 games with Queen of the South in Division 2, which is the best record across the whole of the SFL.
I also still have high hopes for Mark Roberts at Ayr United as he wishes to build his team around youthful attacking football, but he is struggling at the moment.
2012. The year Scottish football will never forget. In all honesty there could have been a top 100 moments.