FM Experiment | Old Firm In England | Celtic & Rangers In Non-League

Our previous Old Firm Football Manager Experiment saw us switch Celtic and Rangers to the Premier League in FM22. Both sides got relegated but Celtic recovered the best to qualify for Europe after 10 years. But what if the two Scottish sides entered the English football pyramid in non-league?

We moved the two Glasgow sides into the Vanarama North, replacing the two most northern clubs in the current English pyramid Blyth Spartans and Spennymoor – who get to enjoy life in the Scottish Premiership. We fired the game up and simmed ahead to the end of the first season.

Season 1: Celtic and Rangers in Vanarama North

In perhaps the least surprising news of all time, both Old Firm sides were promoted in season one. Rangers ran away with the Vanarama North, winning 39 out of 42 and beating Celtic home and away. Their only two defeats came as Darlington and Gloucester City claimed massive scalps and their only draw was at York City. Celtic lost five games but claimed promotion via the playoffs, beating Kidderminster then Alfreton Town. Rangers won the least illustrious double in their history, also winning the FA Trophy.

Both sides have kept hold of their best players and none of them seem to be unhappy despite playing at such a low standard of football. In fact, Rangers even managed to loan Daniel Podence into non-league!

In equally unsurprising news, Spennymoor and Blyth were comfortably relegated from the Scottish Premiership with 10 and 15 points respectively. But it’ll be interesting to see whether they can eventually bounce back. In the Old Firm’s absence, Aberdeen won their first title since 1985.

Season 2: Celtic and Rangers in Vanarama National

Rangers managed to sign Bertrand Traoré from Aston Villa for £6m and loaned Dan James from Leeds! They also signed Emil Krafth, Baba Rahman, Javi Manquillo and Filip Benkovic as they spent £13m in non-league. However, they did sell Alfredo Morelos, Nathan Patterson, James Tavernier and Connor Goldson.

Celtic sold Alban Ajeti and David Turnbull, but spent £7m more than Rangers on Patrick Cutrone, Ben Pearson, Paddy McNair, Tyler Roberts, Josh Onomah, Tom Lawrence and Cameron Carter-Vickers,

So could the Old Firm achieve back-to-back promotions into the English Football League? Yes. Rangers again dominated, winning 43 out of 36 to rack up 131 points, with their only defeat coming at Celtic. Celtic lost 2 (at Rangers and the mighty Dagenham & Redbridge) and drew 7, but again secured promotion via the playoffs. Despite this domination, the top scorer in the Vanarama National was Eastleigh’s Ben House! Away from the league, Celtic won the FA Trophy.

Up in Scotland, champions Aberdeen dropped to 5th, with Hibernian winning their first title since 1952! Spennymoor managed to stay up in the Championship, 12 points clear of relegated Blyth who got just 13 from 36 games.

Seasons 3 & 4: Celtic and Rangers in the Football League

I expected the Old Firm to fly straight through to the Championship, so simmed the game ahead two more years. And my suspicions were correct with Rangers continuing to lead the way ahead of Celtic. They won League 2 with 112 points, just 2 ahead of Celtic and despite losing 4 to Celtic’s 2, then won League 1 with 103 points, a hefty 13 clear of Celtic.

Rangers have spent £28m in the last 2 years, including signing Ryan Sessegnon for just £1m in League 2, then Angel Gomes, Callum Styles, Nohan Kenneh and Gavin Bazunu on loan in League 1. However, they also brought in £65m in sales for the likes of Ianis Hagi, Ryan Kent, Glen Kamara, Cedric Itten and Filip Benkovic. Celtic have been much quieter, bringing in £18m and spending £10m, mostly of which was on Joe Bursik for £5.75m and Neco Williams for £2m.

Away from the league, Celtic won the Papa John’s Trophy in 2024 and Rangers won it in 2025. Whether either side is good enough for the Championship remains to be seen, but they should both have plenty of money available to them when they make the step up.

Aberdeen have won the last two titles in Scotland, by 3 points from Hearts in 2024 then by 2 points from Hibs in 2025. Spennymoor have kind of established themselves as a Championship side, improving to 6th in 2024 then dropping to 8th in 2025. However, Blyth suffered a third successive relegation from League 1 then won League 2 in 2025.

Season 5: Celtic and Rangers in the Championship

I was intrigued whether the step up in quality would see the Old Firm spend money. And they certainly did! Celtic blew £36.5m, including smashing their transfer record on Neal Maupay for £17.5m, plus Sean Longstaff, Ben Johnson, Jamal Lewis (who’d gone back to Norwich) and Facundo Pellistri. But they also sold Roberts to West Brom for another club record £27m. Rangers spent slightly less, bringing in Daniel Ballard, Keane Lewis-Potter, James McAtee and George Bello for a combined £17.5m, but made no sales.

Those signings yet again worked nicely for Rangers, who won a 4th successive title by winning the Championship with 94 points. But did Celtic follow them in 2nd? Nope! Celtic only finished in 8th, with Brighton finishing 2nd, just 2 points behind Rangers, and Norwich beating Brentford in the playoff final. Yet again, neither side had the top scorer in the league, which was Brighton’s Luis Suárez, but Maupay was 2nd with 21. And, as a result of their failure to get promoted, Celtic sacked Ange Postocoglou.

Hibs bagged themselves a second title of the save, defeating Aberdeen by two points. Spennymoor stayed in the Championship by finishing 8th again and Blyth solidified in 4th place in League 1.

Season 6: Rangers in the Premier League

Rangers smashed their transfer record upon their promotion to the big time. But, for some reason, they spent £41.5m on Southampton’s 30-year-old midfielder Abdou Diallo. They also signed Rob Holding from Porto (random), Alassane Ndao, some random Peruvian striker and a newgen defender from Blackburn, spending £65m in total. Down a league, Celtic hired Brondby boss Niels Frederiksen, who spent £18m on Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Marco Grull and Willy Kwambala, and loaned Boubacar Kamara from Spurs.

Rangers fought bravely to stay in the Premier League and had a chance to do so at home to Aston Villa on the final day. But they lost 2-1 and were relegated on goal difference after finishing level on 37 points with Sheffield United and Bournemouth and just 2 points behind Burnley and Brighton. They will join Celtic in the Championship as their rivals again missed out on promotion, improving to 4th then losing to Crystal Palace in the playoff semis.

North of the border, Hibs retained their title, finishing 4 points clear of Aberdeen. Spennymoor again retained their place in the Championship by finishing 8th and will be joined by Blyth, who gained promotion by finishing 2nd in League 1!

Season 7: Celtic and Rangers Reunited in the Championship

New boys Rangers dropped into the Championship and made their money count, spending £48m on the likes of Bryan Flabema, Borja Mayoral, Ricardo Pepi, Mika Mármol and promising newgen Ryan Knight from Millwall. But they also sold a load of players for £52m. But Celtic went even bigger, spending £95m and breaking their transfer record three times on Ismael Casas, Jordan Teze and the most expensive Konrad de la Fuente (£25m).

Hibs retained the Scottish title, beating Aberdeen by 11 points. But Blyth survived in the Championship, finishing 1 point clear of Spennymoor to send them down to League 1 for the first time!

Season 8: Celtic and Rangers in the Premier League

Rangers spent £62m to try and survive in the top-tier, bringing in a couple of exciting newgens plus Salvatore Esposito, Michal Karbownik and Michel Ange Balikishwa. But Celtic outdid them in their first Premier League pre-season, spending £79m on three newgens and some players I’ve never heard of.

However, that wasn’t enough to keep either side in the Premier League. Celtic did finish above Rangers for the first first time in this experiment, finishing on 30 points and 1 clear of their Glasgow rivals. But they were 5 off Brighton in 17th. And you’d expect both to be able to bounce back next season.

Up in Scotland, Aberdeen claimed the title back from Hibs. But Blyth slipped to relegation from the Championship, a huge 14 points behind Falkirk, and will be reunited with Spennymoor in League 1.

Season 9+: Celtic and Rangers 20 Years in the Future

With both Old Firm clubs dropping out of the top-tier, I decided to push the experiment along a little by holidaying 20 years into the future.

Celtic gained promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt in 2029/30, finishing 2nd just 1 point behind champions Burnley. Rangers finished 6th but missed out in the playoffs to Brentford. And that began a familiar story for Rangers, who went to finish 3rd in the Championship 4 years in a row, but missed out in the playoffs in every single season! They then finished 6th in 2034/35 but, predictably, missed out to 3rd-place Burnley in the playoffs. But they finally broke their duck in 2035/36, when they finished 4th and finally managed to win the playoffs to reclaim their place in the Premier League.

But what had Celtic been up to during that time? Well, they finished 15th in their first season back in the top-tier, serving 4 points clear of relegation. They improved to 14th on 43 points and 12 clear of relegation, but then got relegated with just 16 points in 2032/33. But they bounced back as champions in 2033/34, only winning the league by 2 points from Fulham and Rangers. Celtic survived with their best points total yet, as 45 points saw them finish 15 clear of relegation in 2034/35, before improving again up to 11th on 51 points in 2035/36.

The two Old Firm sides were reunited in the Premier League for the first time in seven seasons in 2036/37. And this time the tables turned, as Rangers survived comfortably in 15th on 41 points while Celtic were relegated in 18th on 34 points. But Rangers were immediately relegated in 20th place on 26 points, while Celtic were promoted in 2nd place in the Championship.

Rangers bounced straight back, finishing 4th and winning the playoffs, as Celtic survived fairly easily with 38 points in 16th place, 7 points clear of relegation. However, Celtic were relegated yet again with just 28 points in 2039/40! But Rangers did survive with just 32 points. Rangers repeated the feat in 2040/41 by surviving on 42 points in 15th place. While Celtic finished 4th in the Championship but missed out to Southampton in the playoffs.

So after 20 years, Rangers were a low-level Premier League side and Celtic were at the top of the Championship. But, in truth, neither side had really been able to establish themselves as a top-tier side and remained constantly at risk of bouncing between the top two tiers.

Up in Scotland, neither of the non-league teams had been able to clamber back up to the Scottish Premiership. Sp[ennymoor had yo-yod between League 1 and the Championship while Blyth were relegated from League 1 in 2038/39 and remained in League 2.

Season 21+: Celtic and Rangers in the 2050s

I was intrigued whether the Old Firm could become more than yo-yo clubs so popped it on simulation overnight, and woke up to the world in the summer of 2054.

Rangers were immediately relegated in 20th place in 2042, then both sides got promoted the following season. Celtic improved dramatically to 12th place and 48 points in the Premier League (finishing above 14th-place Liverpool) while Rangers got relegated yet again in 2044.

Celtic looked to have established themselves in mid-table by 2050, surviving in 17th then comfortable 13th, 13th, 11th, 14th and 15th finishes. But Rangers spent several years lingering in the Championship before finally getting promoted in 2050,

Both the Old Firm sides survived in 2050/51 with Celtic in 13th (again above Liverpool) and Rangers in 16th, 5 points clear of the drop. Both reached the magical 40 points mark the next season, before Rangers narrowly survived by 1 point in 2052/53.

And Celtic and Rangers finished the 2053/43 season in 13th and 16th respectively. Celtic seem to have settled into mid-table mediocrity while Rangers have just about steadied the ship and become a comfortable Premier League team.

Interestingly, Celtic’s record signings were both in 2036, when they signed someone for £56m and sold a player to Barcelona for £92m. Rangers’ record signing was a Russian from Brighton for £42m in 2039 and their record sale was £59.8m to Villa in 2041. But Jimmy McGrory and Ally McCoist are still the clubs’ record goalscorers.

In terms of the Premier League itself, Chelsea and Man City dominated with occasional Man UFC wins. However, Newcastle got their first-ever Premier League win in 2049/50 then a second in 2053/54 and have some ludicrously good newgen Brazilians and Colombians in their team.

Elsewhere, Wrexham, Carlisle and Forest Green are now Championship sides, as are Wolves and West Ham, but Crystal Palace are the lowest real-life Premier League team down in League 1 with Maidstone United, Southend and Telford United.

Intriguingly, Aston Villa won 3 consecutive Champions Leagues between 2047 and 2049, despite never winning the league, and Newcastle were runners-up to Chelsea in 2051. Newcastle did win the Europa League in 2032, 2033 and 2049 though, and Sheffield United won it in 2043. Sheff U also won the Europa Conference League in 2033, 2045 and 2053, Villa won it in 2036 and 2041, and Leeds just won the most recent one.

In Scotland, Blyth dropped out of League 2 in 2045/46 then took 5 years to return from non-league, before finishing 2nd and 3rd in 2052/53 and 2053/54. Spennymoor did much better, spending several years in Championship mid-table then winning the league to return to the Premiership in 2047/48! They were immediately relegated with 18 points but won the league again in 2049/50. They survived in the Premiership for 2 years, finishing 11th then an impressive 6th in 2051/52. But they fell apart to be relegated with just 23 points (33 less than the previous season) and just finished 3rd in the Championship in 2053/54.

By the way, Dundee have now become the dominant side in Scotland, winning 19 of the last 22 titles!

So there you have it. If Celtic and Rangers moved to English football and started in non-league, it would take them around 30 years to establish themselves as comfortable Premier League sides. In truth, they don’t look close towards pushing towards the top half of the top-tier. In fact, neither side has yet to achieve a finish above the bottom half of the Premier League or reach European football, with the best being Celtic’s two 11th-place finishes.

Could that change in the future? I’m kind of intrigued to find out if they can improve beyond 2054, so we might run another experiment simming the game even further ahead.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this Old Firm in the Premier League experiment!

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