CELTIC fan Jamie Longworth says it’s a dream come true to be facing Rangers in the Third Division this coming season.
The Queen’s Park striker bagged 20 goals for the Spiders last season as they missed out on promotion via the playoffs, but he could never have imagined that playing in division three again this season would have thrown up such a tough proposition.
With old-co Rangers destined for liquidation, the newly-formed company were refused entry to the SPL and now find themselves in Scotland’s bottom tier.
Although this has only piled on the misery for Rangers fans, Longworth says players in the league are more excited than ever about the new season, which kicks-off on August 11.
He told the News: “Being a Celtic fan, it is a dream come true because, when you are growing up watching Old Firm games, playing against Rangers is something you want to do – I just never thought it would be in a division three match. Hopefully we can give them some good games this season and give a good account of ourselves.
“It’s surreal to think we will be playing them at Hampden and then going to Ibrox as well. Rangers take huge numbers of fans everywhere they go so those games will be the biggest I’ll ever be involved in.
“If you told me a few years ago we would be competing in the same league as Rangers I would have thought you were crazy, but what has happened adds something extra to our division this season and everyone is really looking forward to it.
“All the guys are searching the fixture list to see when they would be due to play them, so we can’t wait for the season to start.
“For us it means we have two derbies this season with Clyde in our division as well.”
However, the initial excitement of facing up to Rangers will be quickly tempered by the fact the chances of anyone but the Ibrox side winning the league are slim to none.
“Looking at the league before Rangers were demoted, it was going to be very open this season,” said Longworth, “but it’s now 10 times harder and, realistically, no-one has much of a chance with the quality of players Rangers still have in their squad.
“We still go into the season with aspirations to push Rangers all the way, but the playoffs are likely to be our best hope.”
Stranraer – who beat Queen’s Park in the semi-finals of the playoffs last season – are the third division beneficiaries of Rangers’ demise as they have been promoted to division two as they were runners-up to Albion Rovers in the playoff final.
And Longworth, whose side open their league campaign away to East Stirling, admits it makes last season’s disappointment harder to swallow.
He added: “Although it’s exciting to be playing Rangers, I’d rather we were in division two.
“So seeing Stranraer go up makes our playoff defeat even more disappointing. It could have been us in division two, but we didn’t perform against Stranraer. They deserved to beat us and we can have no complaints that they made the final and we didn’t. But it still hurts.”