O N March 21, 1891, Celtic and Rangers met in a competitive league fixture for the first time.

The record books appear fairly unanimous about it ending with a share of the points, although accounts offer different versions of what actually happened. Some books say it was a 2-2 draw; the Herald chronicles a 1-1 draw prompting immediate reflections of whether there was a local watering hole where scribes may have frequented.

A trawl through the books finds no immediate record of the five things we learned from that meeting.

Spare a thought, then, for those trying to muster a comprehensive analysis of various footballers and their skills with a loo roll at their feet this week. So far we have learned that Billy Gilmour is indeed a kid of many talents.

But ultimately, watching players do tricks with excess toilet roll brings home the reality of the sheer tedium of doing nothing in a situation that is entirely unprecedented.

Even during World War II, the last time football was suspended, the government decreed that an unofficial league should take place because it would be too damaging for morale not to have it. The numbers in attendance at games confirm the need for escapism and a clinging to normality when all else seems surreal and out of kilter.

Images and news stories emerging from the front line in Italy this week look more like something from a war zone than a global health crisis that few of us saw coming and should be shocking enough to make us all take stock.

As a freelance football writer whose livelihood is firmly entwined with the decisions that are made about how best to see out the reminder of the season, if at all, it is fair to say there is a vested interest about what comes next and when.

But to hazard a guess at what is around the corner based on the context of this week’s news, there will be no return to the frivolity of football any time soon.

And while the loo roll challenge seemed to bring home the idea that everyone is in the same boat, some of the vessels are sinking faster than others.

No sooner had Ross County chairman Roy MacGregor announced that the Highland club would honour all contracts during this period of uncertainty – which will most certainly be followed by a period of severe economic hardship – than Hearts were announcing they were requesting all staff take a 50-per-cent pay cut. Those who were disinclined to do so were offered the alternative of a contract termination.

The stench of opportunism is nauseous.

It does not offer any confidence in the underlying financials at the club. Given the anger that has been building around Tynecastle for much of this season and anger that has come on the back of some questionable decision-making, there might be some relief in the silent terraces these coming weekends for Ann Budge.

Budge on Monday – just five days after football had made the call to shut down – suggested the loss of the cash from the Scottish Cup semi-final would be wounding for Hearts. With figures of around £500,000 quoted, it is easy to see why.

More puzzling, though, is the fact that on the evidence offered throughout this season, few would have envisaged Hearts beating Rangers and getting to where they are in the domestic Cup tournament.

No-one with a financial background would have budgeted for Hearts going as deep into the tournament as they have done. The suggestion would seem to be that the Tynecastle side have been struggling to stay afloat even without the pandemic that has brought the world to a standstill.

That there will be ramifications for clubs during this period seems certain but there also needs to be fairness and transparency.

It will be tempting for clubs to give over to self-interest as they put their own needs before all others but outside the top percentage of Scottish football players, there are vast numbers who earn a normal working wage that is needed to pay mortgages and feed kids, the same as the rest of us.

In the meantime, stay home. Don’t mingle. Don’t mix. The longer we keep our heads buried in the sand about government advice the longer this surreality will continue.

And another thing

Given that clubs routinely do their due diligence on many employees, the impending arrival of new PR chief David Graham at Rangers will have raised a few eyebrows.

The latest embarrassing incident in which a social media post from Graham makes reference to Celtic Park as the “piggery” is toe-curling.

One can be certain that there will any number of people trawling through various platforms to raise similar tales to ensure that he is on the back foot before he has properly sat at his desk.

Having already been filmed urging Ibrox fans to maintain their Loyalist “no surrender” stance, his appointment at the club already seems like an ill-fated step backwards as the club try to distance themselves from previous baggage.