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"Every (Old Firm) derby is very important," said Glasgow Rangers and Trinidad and Tobago defender Marvin Andrews. "It does not matter what happened in the past weeks or months or about sending a message to the other team or anything like that.


"The derby is something all by itself."

There is nothing more pulsating and frenzied in football than a derby match.

And they do not come any more intense than a meeting between Glasgow's Old Firm of Rangers and Celtic-widely accepted as the oldest derby in the world.

Andrews has cemented his place in the Rangers central defence alongside Frenchman Jean-Alain Boumsong over the past six weeks and, should he retain his spot today, will become the second Trinidad and Tobago player to take part in the derby and the first to feature in the famous clash at Rangers' Ibrox Stadium. Although Rangers and Celtic meet as often as five times per season, former Trinidad and Tobago star Russell Latapy appeared in just one derby during his year and a half stint with Rangers.

Latapy started at Celtic Park on April 21, 2002, when they held their hosts to a 1-1 draw.

Andrews cannot wait for his chance after missing out on their first derby of the season, which ended in a 1-0 defeat.

 "I am excited about it," he said. "I don't know if I am playing yet but I am just hoping that I get the chance to play. It is the closest rivalry in the Scottish league. This thing has been going on for centuries.

"It even drags religion into it, which makes it so passionate." There is nothing like it in Britain and even England's famous derbies such as Arsenal/Tottenham, Manchester United/City and Liverpool/Everton fail to come close to electrifying a nation like the "Old Firm".

Even historians and intellectuals, who often snub such pastimes, observe the relevance of the two clubs in the country's history.

As such, the same annals which record Roman general Julius Agricola's conquest of Scotland in 80 AD, the coronation of Lord Macbeth in 1040 and the births of famous Scotsmen like Alexander Graham Bell, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sean Connery also refer to the formation of Rangers and Celtic in 1872 and 1888, respectively. No other Scottish club is afforded that honour.

Like the politically-charged Spanish derbies of Barcelona against Espanyol and Real Madrid, the Old Firm battle-supposedly named because of the club's long histories and profitable meetings-also owes much of its aura to issues unrelated to sport. Rangers' supporters are traditionally Protestant, while the Catholic minority formed the Celtic club. Andrews, a born-again Christian, has little time for the religious feud.

"Religion has nothing to do with God," he said, "it is a man-made thing. It is man-made laws...it has nothing to do with the bible. "The laws of man and God are two different things."

There is enough to concern Andrews on the field. Rangers have lost their last seven Old Firm games and eight of the last nine, which gives his boss, Alex McLeish, the worst record as manager of either club in the past 50 years.

Andrews should be giving a testing time as well by burly Welsh and Celtic forward John Hartson, who tied a record by scoring in four successive Old Firm derbies before this season. The T&T defender was very respectful of the challenge posed by Hartson, although he prefers to face strong, direct target men rather than speedy, more subtle attackers.

Another key match-up, if he plays, could be at set pieces where he is likely to be paired against giant Guinean defender Bobo Balde.

Typically, Andrews explained he had no special tricks for dealing with either threat.

"There is no special way to win battles for me," said Andrews.

"I just have to be aggressive and win the ball from them.

John (Hartson) is a very good player and is very strong, physical and aggressive, although you won't expect him to beat you for pace...

"We are two big guys and that will be a good tussle."

The blue-shirted half of Glasgow will hope Andrews comes out on top.