Monday, January 30, 2023

It’s The Final Countdown

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The Highland Bear
Unashamedly watching the world through Blue tinted specs. Contributor to The 4th Official.

Europe famously sang those immortal lyrics “It’s the Final Countdown” that couldn’t be more apt right now in the world of Glasgow Rangers.  As we enter the period of the traditional Christmas market season, Steven Gerrard has certainly been delivering gifts early on as we enter the festive season. His record over the past 3 campaigns have been a miracle that even 34th street would struggle to conjure up. 5 defeats in 40 matches in Europe is nothing short of spectacular. 1 match left, and qualification secured (and also on top of the group) is the stocking filler we would have all craved at the start of a crucial season.

And why the final countdown? Maybe it’s appropriate as we glance across the city as they appear to be entering a wormhole back to the 90s. If you were an outsider looking in, you might be forgiven for mistaking what team has won 11 trophies in a row and on course for a 12th.  Fans revolting (take that whatever way you wish) and unruly behaviour. A European campaign that has been as much a frozen disaster as the Eastern front of 1944. 1 point from 15 and a defensive line that would be more at home in a Benny Hill sketch.  It’s delicious viewing after a decade of watching them gloat.

Back to Ibrox and more boxes being ticked off. A Rubix cube in the shape of a very slick Standard Liege team solved with a magnificent 3-2 victory.  Resolve, hunger and desire as much a part in winning this as the skill and talent. We are going head to head with some elite European teams and holding our own.

6 matches in 15 months against top Portuguese opposition for example. The nation that is the European champion. Undefeated. 3 wins. 3 draws. All aggregate wins.  That’s just one example of the Progres that Gerrard has made with this team. We can now call it a team as the togetherness is there for all to see. Every player fighting for each other and the Jersey. For those who say its just Europa, I point to Porto holding their own and securing last 16 Champions League qualification.

As with every winter, discontent could easily creep up. For the 1st time in a decade, the pressure has been firmly ramped up across the city. No amount of sevco moon howling can deflect from the blizzard that has engulfed their season. 11 points ahead is huge even with 2 games in hand; the psychological pressure has turned every game into a cup final for Celtic. Whilst the coming weeks could see such a lead become colossal, a couple of injuries and bad results could easily see the pendulum swing in a direction unthinkable at present.

Rangers are gaining strength at Hurricane levels as the huff and puff of our rivals fail to get going.  The management team have instilled a belief and humility into a team that had lost the title these past 2 Decembers. A mistake I hope is finally learned from.

For me, the biggest issue has been that they fell asleep at the wheel. Too many tax experts or financial advisors forensically combing every detail of Rangers from afar whilst screaming of Admin 2.  Whilst our house slowly came into order via Ross Wilson and improved recruitment, theirs has been papering over the cracks.

What was once a fortress is now fading back to the exterior walls of hearts and spades that Dave King predicted. Expensive mistakes in the transfer market compounding an already inflated wage bill.

Pedro Caixinha, former Rangers manager
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – JUNE 29: Rangers Manager Pedro Caixinha during the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round match between Rangers and Progres Niederkorn at the Ibrox Stadium on June 29, 2017 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images)

“The Dogs barkas as the caravan moves on” the irony of a modified Caixinha quip coming back to bite is simply delicious and comical. The loss of Forster & Gordon a Christmas gift of epic proportions. To be blunt, if you can’t see the Rangers coming now, it’s likely because we have overtaken you in every department.

Europe may have released The Final Countdown in 1986. A vintage year indeed when another Liverpool legend walked through the doors of Ibrox Stadium. And we know how that story ended.

My final thoughts. The league is far from over. However, for the first time in a decade, it’s in our hands.  We have set the benchmark. We have set the standard. The only team capable of stopping us is ourselves.

Stay humble, stay grounded and most importantly stay safe.

Our day is coming.

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