'I felt same pressure in Old Firm as Champions League final – it's the mother of all games'

Borussia Dortmund's Paul Lambert holds the Champions League trophy aloft as he celebrates with his team-mates
-Credit: (Image: Popperfoto/Getty Images)


Scottish football icon Paul Lambert has put the Old Firm derby on par with the Champions League final.

Premiership champions Celtic are favourites to beat Rangers and claim another piece of silverware when they meet at Hampden Park in Saturday's Scottish Cup decider. Lambert, 54, lifted the cup three times during his playing career - twice with Celtic and once at St. Mirren - though neither of his triumphs in green and white ended in an Old Firm fanfare.

Glasgow's top pair will meet in a Scottish Cup final for the first time since 2002, when Lambert came out on the losing side of the clash. Having won the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund in 1997, Lambert joined Celtic and helped turn the tide in Scotland's most famous fixture, not that there's much to divide the two major occasions.

"The Old Firm is unique," explained Lambert during an appearance on Undr the Cosh. "I heard [former Celtic manager] Ange Postecoglou say this in an interview the other day - it's probably one of the derbies of all derbies, because of what it is and what it stands for.

"You have to be so tough in it, with your brain. You have to be prepared to take the criticism that comes your way [and] take the praise when it comes. It's the mother of all derbies, just because of what it stands for. Going back a few years, I would see tackles going in at full height and it be legal. That's the Old Firm for you. This is what it is."

Paul Lambert on Undr the Cosh
Paul Lambert was speaking on the podcast Undr the Cosh -Credit:Undr the Cosh

Lambert went on to describe the fixture as a "brilliant game" but noted it's not so brilliant when you lose. And the praise for the occasion continued when he was asked how the pressure of his first Old Firm fixture compared with a Champions League final.

"[It's the] same," he responded. "Because of what the history of the club was for Celtic. You're talking protecting the legacy of the Lisbon Lions. Number one, the [legacy of] the Lisbon Lions will never be beaten, unless Celtic go and win the European Cup again. It will never be beaten.

"Jimmy Johnstone, Stevie Chalmers, all them guys. Jim Craig, brilliant footballers. It will never be done in the radius of 30-odd miles, and everybody being Scottish. . .so you're protecting that legacy of the great Jock Stein, nine [Scottish league titles] in a row. And jeez, if you'd lost that, that's your history away. So that's why I say the pressure of that is monumental."

With any luck, Lambert will be pulling for Brendan Rodgers & Co as they look to seal a third straight season with at least two titles in tow. But their oldest enemy stands astride them on Saturday desperate to put a dampener on proceedings.