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Atmosphere: Going for a Song.
Published : 14 Feb 2011 13:38:32
Lack of atmosphere is not a new problem and it's not something easily fixed. The first Rangers games I attended had crowds far greater than the current Ibrox capacity, and I made two observations about these early experiences; there was a lack of singing and a fairly large number of supporters who left before the final whistle. This was in the sixties. Having already learned Follow Follow, I was expecting to join a throng of lusty singers inside Ibrox, but I soon noted that the singing came from one area of the ground only; where the Govan Stand is now, to the Rangers side of the halfway line. The rest of the ground was song-free although it could be provoked into voice immediately after a goal, but this was only fleeting and soon died away. The Broomloan only made noise to cheer a goal. Singing here was as rare as the joy that greets a Monday morning. My preferred area of the ground was the Main Stand but I often ended up in the enclosure which was like an unofficial family section. More people sang on the no.15 bus home than sang in here. Eventually I made my way to the terracing and for several years I occupied a place where the action was, but even here there were times when the party never really got going. When it was good, it was very good, but the rest of the ground rarely joined in with our festive and localised atmosphere. There was one exception to the rule of course: games against Celtic. The singing in these contests tended to originate behind the goal, and people who didn't normally sing would eagerly belt out The Sash. With the ground split roughly fifty/fifty in terms of support, the singing back and forth was exceptional and it started well before the game got under way. Although we didn't know it at the time, this was as good as it would get and no-one could have predicted how football would change in coming years. When nostalgia grips people, exaggeration tends to make an entrance, but the days of seriously big crowds and head to head OF singing contests really were exceptional - but these were not the Ibrox norm. If we leave OF games to one side, games at Ibrox were not the atmosphere-packed occasions that some imagine. The advantage fans of this era enjoyed was to be able to mix freely in the areas where the singing existed. Some days people would head for this more boisterous part of the ground and on other days they might go to the enclosure or Main Stand - or another part of the terracing where the view was better. Much is made of standing being a vital component for a good atmosphere, but it's not quite as straightforward as that. A genuine competitive game with each side having a healthy support makes for a good atmosphere. Then, as now, away games were far more atmospheric because there were two supports present unlike at Ibrox where there was only really the one in evidence. In the sixties you'd be lucky to spot an opposition fan at Ibrox most weeks, in or out of the ground. Most fans, whether they sing or not, enjoy a cup-tie atmosphere, but as people get frustrated with the lack of atmosphere at Ibrox these days, some perspective needs to be introduced. The good old days were good, but maybe not quite as good as younger fans believe. We had dull, dreary days at Ibrox back in days of yore too, and we even had warming fires on the terracing on cold winter evenings. There may be a limit as to how good an atmosphere can be when one team is widely-expected to put another to the sword, and with one support massively outnumbering the other. That doesn't mean that we should stop trying to make the Ibrox experience better, but if terracing was re-introduced at Ibrox tomorrow, before very long, people would be complaining about the lack of atmosphere. In the context of the Scottish game, it almost goes with the territory.