ANDREI Kanchelskis first fell in love with the Old Firm fixture when legendary Soviet coach Valeriy Lobanovskiy showed him videos of it after training one day. 

But it wasn’t until he ended up with a broken arm after his first meeting with Celtic that he really understood what it was all about. 

The former Dynamo Kyiv, Manchester United, Everton and Rangers winger returned to Ibrox Stadium for the first time in decades last Saturday as part of a promotional tour for his new autobiography, 
Russian Winters. 

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While a tame 2-0 defeat against Hamilton Academical wasn’t exactly how he would have remembered it from his time winning Trebles and titles at the height of the Dick Advocaat and David Murray era, he was received warmly by fans at half-time and there was the added poignancy of witnessing his stricken occasional first-team rival Fernando Ricksen being wheeled out pre-match. 

“I remember when I started to play for the USSR under Lobanovskiy,” said Kanchelskis. 

"He was a great coach and he brought some video tapes to a meeting with the players. He told us to watch this game as it was the best football. And you know what game it was? Celtic v Rangers. He was telling us to look, this was ‘real football’.

“He said this was about fighting, there were a lot of tackles and no space to play,” the former Soviet Union and Russian international added. 

“The fans were always happy and no players were jumping out of the way – in the middle it was ‘boom’ when players were going for the ball.

“The whole team were watching this game – sitting there thinking it is not possible to play this kind of football. 

“Then I come here and the welcome I get in my first game against Celtic is a broken arm! Welcome to Scotland!”

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It is understandable if Kanchelskis struggled to recognise what he saw on Saturday – while this is an era where Celtic are dominating and inexorably moving towards 10 in a row, his first season at the club following a £5m move from Fiorentina, 1998-99, saw him rack up 
a Treble.

The next few years were spent battling it out with Martin O’Neill’s emerging Celtic team, before he eventually became a victim of the over-spending in the latter part of the Dick Advocaat era as Rangers moved players on the balance the books. 

Reared on the in-your-face confrontational style of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, he didn’t take too kindly to the manner he was shown the back door by Alex McLeish when he would happily have prolonged his stay for a few years further. 

“It has been a long time,” said Kanchelskis. “But I had a great four years here and I just hope Rangers get back to the same level as before. 
“It would be better for both teams [Rangers and Celtic] if they were fighting it out at the same level. 

“I know they have had financial problems but they have good fans and I remember my great time here. 

“I’m very sad for Rangers when they went down to the fourth division. 

“I don’t understand how it happened so quickly. 

Read more: Derek McInnes the right man for Rangers – Andrei Kanchelskis​

“When I arrived, the club was at the top level and there was big money.

“But when Dick Advocaat is working at the club, always after that there are problems! Every club goes down! They spent a lot money and I thought there were too many Dutch players in the squad and 
playing in the team. 

“The atmosphere in my first two seasons was great but in the third season there were problems as there were more Dutch players. 

“They spoke always in their language, not English. There were three groups – the Dutch players, the other foreign players and the Scottish boys. It wasn’t good.

“Advocaat left and [Alex] McLeish came in and in my opinion, he was a coach with a double face – one day he would speak with you okay and after an hour he was double-faced and tell you a lot of rubbish,” he added. 

“Some players from Scotland will know what I’m saying. One minute he will say everything is okay and the next it is: ‘you f**k off’. He is not a great man, although Andy Watson was always positive and hard-working.”

“It wasn’t like when it was at Manchester United. Fergie would be very angry if we lost a game. He would be shouting. 

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“But Advocaat was quiet in the dressing room and never say anything after the game. Next game, you would just be dropped from the team. 

“Fergie would be in your face – he would say you were terrible, blah, blah, blah. I preferred Fergie’s style because it was face to face.”

While Murray these days is persona non grata at the club, Kanchelskis hopes one day he too will be able to return. 

“David Murray was a great man,” said Kanchelskis. “He was always speaking to the players after training sessions. 

“When I signed my contract with Rangers, there were stupid stories about me and the Russian mafia. 

“David came out and said I was here to play football and said ‘no more questions about this’ which was good. Because sometimes people speak a lot of rubbish.”