Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Scenes! Scenes On A Sunday As Celtic Park Explodes With Gerrard’s Rangers Leading The Charge

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Kenny Stewart
Chief Football writer for The 4th Official. Always honest and won't shy away from the truth.

Rangers went to Falkirk on Sunday evening and went about their business in a professional manner, winning 4 nil and qualifying for the quarter-finals of The Betfred League Cup. Steven Gerrard made 7 changes to the starting line up which played against  Benfica on Thursday night. A luxury the manager hasn’t really had in his previous 2 seasons in the job.

Yet again another terrific performance in the Europa League from Gerrard’s men couldn’t see them quite shake off a quite fabulous Benfica side that for the 2nd game in a row managed to haul back a 2 goal deficit in the closing stages.

Having done so in Lisbon, they again came back to salvage a point against a Rangers side that’s becoming even more impressive with each game that passes. You’ve got to hand it to Benfica though; there’s a fighting spirit among that team that’s admirable. To come back like that twice shows there’s a lot about them this season and I think they’ll go far in this competition.

That’s 23 games unbeaten so far this season for Rangers. 19 games won, 4 draws and only 9 goals conceded. They’re great stats but even more impressive for me is that apart from those final few minutes of the game on Thursday where I began to fear the worst and that Rangers may finally lose a match this season, at no point have a felt that kind of anxiety during this campaign.

It’s been great to be in that position, it really has. To feel that Rangers aren’t in much danger during games is quite surreal if I’m honest, but those 23 games are gone, finished with. What’s gone before is now history.

What happens now is the important thing from here on. There’s no point in getting yourself into a position where you can have a successful season if you then go onto suffer a loss in form, lose matches and allow other challengers to take advantage of that.

What Gerrard’s side do from now until February very likely determines how their season will go. If they can keep this momentum and maintain their form, then the victories will come.

Relentless. That’s the word I’d use for what I’ve seen so far this season from this team. Each game has been approached with a determination and a confidence that’s proving to be very difficult to play against. Long may that continue, and I think at this juncture it’s hugely important to keep the players and fans feet on the ground.

Nothing is won, nothing is lost. Having seen Celtic go out of the Europa League with yet another heavy defeat to Sparta Prague, then proceed to get beaten by Ross County to exit the Betfred League Cup has raised optimism among the Rangers support for sure, and understandably so.

However, to see Celtic fans lose their shit so quickly and to watch the scenes outside Celtic Park on Sunday after the defeat to Ross County has been mana from heaven to the Rangers supporters.

Now I’m not here to make Celtic fans feel better about there team, but I think there’s a couple of things they really ought to take on board here.

First, they’re trailing 11 points behind in the SPFL, but they have 2 games in hand. Win those, and the gap is down to a mere 5 points with 6 months of the season left. Second, that Celtic team was only ever going to find the Europa League group they’re in tough to get out of. Third, a first defeat in a domestic cup competition in 4 and a half years really ought not to see you protesting, demanding the sacking of a manager and howling abuse at directors, manager and players alike.

It really does show how spoiled that support has become. That defeat to Ross County, although not to be treated with nonchalance should have been considered a disappointment, a frustration, not an opportunity to break lockdown rules or to come across as the most self-entitled group of supporters on the planet.

Get real here. Honestly. Celtic have lost just 1 league game so far this season, yip, 1. They’ve drawn 3 away games to Kilmarnock, Aberdeen and Hibs. That’s 3 of the 5 toughest away fixtures any team in Scotland will face. Add to that a 1st domestic cup defeat in 4 and a half years? Well, no wonder Rangers fans are revelling in the overreaction to this loss of form.

Celtic Vs Rangers Tactical Preview - Gerrard and Lennon
FILE PHOTO (EDITORS NOTE: COMPOSITE OF IMAGES – Image numbers 1142607800, 1125241854 – GRADIENT ADDED) In this composite image a comparison has been made between Neil Lennon the manager of Celtic (L) and Rangers manager Steven Gerrard. Celtic and Rangers meet in a Scottish Premiership fixture on October 17,2020 at Celtic Park in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

As far as I’m concerned the fact is Celtic fans are demanding the manager’s head and attacking their board is for no reason other than the fact Rangers are playing the way they are and winning so regularly. It’s because Rangers are looking strong and capable.

If Rangers were getting similar results to that of their rivals, then none of this would be an issue. This is being caused by fear, panic even.

“You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.”
— Eric Hoffer

Rangers have no fear of Celtic. They’ve had players over the last few years that were vastly inferior; they had managers that weren’t handed the tools to compete with them. Even then, they did not fear them. Since Gerrard came to Ibrox, the standard of players has risen emphatically. The mentality Gerrard and his squad have means they fear no opponent. They respect them, but they’re going into every game believing they can win every time they take to the field.

Look at this reaction. You can smell the fear. Celtic fans are terrified at the prospect of Rangers being better than them or of Rangers winning trophies. As I’ve said before, this is what happens when you have a compliant media and an online presence that insists on telling their audience that such a thing could never happen.

Well, of course it can happen, and it has happened. Rangers have gone about their business over the last 3 years quietly and efficiently. The progress was there for all to witness if you’d bothered to have a look. Rangers are a very, very decent team. That’s beyond any reasonable doubt now.

It appears that as Rangers have improved their squad and strived to become a better team, Celtic have regressed. As Rangers signings have strengthened them, the opposite appears to have happened across the city.

As I mentioned last week, the signing policies at both clubs appear to be the polar opposite at the moment. The players Celtic have brought to their club seem to have made them weaker than they were last season or the season before.

Rangers will be favourites to win the Betfred Cup. They are favourites to win the league. That’s it though, favourites in the bookies eyes. It doesn’t mean they’ve won them, far from it. They still have to go out on a weekly basis and win games to get to where they’d like to be.

Rangers Player Ratings Vs Kilmarnock - Gerrard reacts
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – AUGUST 22: Steven Gerrard, Manager of Rangers FC reacts during the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match between Rangers and Kilmarnock at Ibrox Stadium on August 22, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

That’s the difference between both sets of supporters. 1 group realises there’s an opportunity here. The other expects and presumes while dismissing all rivals as unimportant. That is disrespectful and naive. To presume such a thing is a serious error of judgement.

It’s taken Rangers time, patience and investment to get them to this stage. To be performing to the levels they are has proved to be a work in progress. They aren’t there as of yet, but they’re getting there.

Last season’s Zoom Call Title, handed to Celtic while there was a quarter of the season left, with 2 Old Firm games still to play and Rangers having a game in hand will have hurt and annoyed Gerrard and his players. In fact, I think it would’ve probably given then some serious motivation to make sure it couldn’t happen again.

The antics of the SPFL, Doncaster and McKenzie during March and April will have shown Gerrard what he’s actually up against here in Scotland. Celtic get to call the shots, virtually running the SPFL to suit their agenda and no one else’s. Craig Levein was on a football podcast I watched recently and he basically admitted as such.

That’s something that can focus the minds, something you can use to motivate and keep an edge. A constant reminder of what football in this country is all about.

Rangers fans knew this already, but Gerrard and his players will now know what they’re dealing with and how quickly politics take over in Scottish football.

Rangers fans journey from the 3rd Division to now proudly sitting top of the Premiership has taken more years than we’d hoped. That era has given us a sense of perspective that frankly Celtic fans simply do not have.

I’ll say it again, the self entitlement is there for all to see. Neil Lennon to be fair to him clearly doesn’t have that nor do his players but those fans that took to throwing barriers at the police and behaving like spoilt toddlers throwing their rattle out the pram? After the 1st cup defeat in over 4 years? Having lost 1 game in the league? Get over yourselves, seriously.

The scenes witnessed on Sunday at Celtic Park show that what the Rangers support has put up with over the best part of a decade would leave Celtic Park pretty much empty on matchdays. If that’s their reaction to losing a cup tie how would they feel about playing Annan Athletic or Peterhead and not getting results?

They call themselves the greatest fans in the world, not a chance. That’s impossibe when you’re not even near to being the best fans in the city you come from.

That accolade belongs to Rangers fans. What they’ve had to endure while our rivals have had the chance to lord it over them for so long is proof of their loyalty. No such evidence of that kind of support appears to be forthcoming in the east end of Glasgow.

A few weeks of poor results has seen a meltdown of epic proportions that provide evidence of the most deluded and self-entitled group of fans in world football, not loyalty.

Celtic loses to Ross County
Celtic v Ross County – Scottish Premier League – Celtic Park Ross County s Ross Stewart scores his side s first goal of the game from the penalty spot during the Scottish Premier League match at Celtic Park, Glasgow. EDITORIAL USE ONLY PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY Copyright: xJeffxHolmesx 56857664

The funniest thing about all of this as a Rangers supporter is that our rivals didn’t see this coming. They thought 10 in a row was already won. It’s what happens when you start talking about it when you’ve barely hit 3 in a row. 7 years of taking everything for granted has led to the scenes witnessed on Sunday evening.

Remember, all it took was 2 domestic defeats and a poor run in Europe. The domination is over. Nothing is won or lost as yet but the stranglehold Celtic had over the rest of Scottish football is no more, and their fanbase don’t like it 1 little bit.

Rangers now have the opportunity to go out and get a positive result at Ibrox on Thursday night against Standard Liege.  If they can do that, then they’ll reach the knock out stages of the Europa League for the 2nd successive season. If they can achieve that, then that will be regarded as a huge success by all connected to the club I’m sure.

It brings money and prestige. It hauls them up the Uefa rankings and helps to bring sponsors, partners, and when you’re attempting to bring players to the club, it shows that player they’ll be joining a big club with a good manager and players.

They have the opportunity to get to the semi finals of the Betfred Cup. An away tie at St Mirren won’t be easy but if the team turn up and do what they have been doing so far this season, then they’ll have every chance of progressing.

There are 6 games to play in the league before Celtic visit Ibrox on January 2nd. My hope and wish is that we win every game until then. That will allow this team to really stretch their lead over their rivals.

If, and it’s a big if they can achieve that, then the antics of a few hundred self-entitled idiots will be the least of Celtic’s worries.

If they think there’s pressure now, they haven’t seen anything yet.

As a Rangers fan, my feet are on the ground. I’m excited by this team and the prospect of what could be achieved but there’s 6 months of football still to be played. Fans of our rivals might do well to remember that, though I very much doubt they will to be honest. They appear to be far too far gone for that kind of adult behaviour.

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