Thursday, September 29, 2022

The Greatest Sight That I Have Ever Seen As A Rangers Fan

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

What a week or so it’s been in Scottish football. Celtic lost their manager; St Johnstone beat Livingston to win the League Cup, and Rangers qualified for the Europa League’s last sixteen.

Add to that the inability of Hibs or Aberdeen to put any pressure on second placed Celtic for the remaining Champions League spot over the last few weeks, and there’s never a dull moment in the frenzied environment that is the game in Scotland.

Massive congratulations to St Johnstone. A well deserved victory saw them lift the Cup aloft. My commiserations go to David Martindale and his team; he’s doing a magnificent job at Livingston and deserves all the plaudits he’s been receiving of late.

Callum Davidson has won a trophy in his first season as a manager, and his team have been steadily improving throughout the season after a sticky start to their campaign. I must say I particularly enjoyed the video footage of them rolling by Celtic Park with the trophy on the bus as they headed home to Perth; that gave me a right good laugh.

Neil Lennon resigned last week after another horrific result away to Ross County. Pedestrian and effectively neutered by the Dingwall outfit, they lost yet another goal from a set-piece, losing the game one-nil as a result.

Adding to that, the sight of John Hughes, the Ross County manager, telling all and sundry how his team would set up live on TV before the game and what they would and wouldn’t attempt to do during the ninety minutes made the performance all the more remarkable.

Celtic looked lost, devoid of ideas or imagination. A sorry state to be in for a team that’s swept all before them for a decade. It’s amazing that almost half the goals they’ve lost this season have come from set-pieces, yet at no point this term have they been able to rectify that. Simply incredible.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. They look like an unhappy bunch of players, and it’s patently obvious that all is not well behind the scenes at that football club. All in all, it’s been a disastrous season for Celtic, and from the outside looking in, just changing the manager won’t help them too much. Stories of infighting, players at each other’s throats and as Lennon himself put it “mitigating circumstances” are more the reason for their season imploding in October.

What were those mitigating circumstances then? Could it be that issues at training, for example, players openly arguing and fighting with each other at Lennoxtown all got a bit too much for everybody? I know of one example that hints at this for sure.

If you recall, Rangers travelled to Celtic Park at the end of October and beat them so convincingly it surprised everybody. Well, if I suggested Scott Brown and another prominent first-team player were fighting at training in the build-up to the first Old Firm game of the season, I doubt that would be overly unexpected, would it?

What would be astonishing though is if the manager dealt with the fracas only to be undermined by his own assistant. A source told me that Peter Lawwell found out what had happened, summoned the Celtic captain and subsequently fined him for his role in the training ground spat.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – NOVEMBER 29: Scott Brown and Christopher Jullien of Celtic look dejected after conceding their sides second goal during the Betfred Cup match between Celtic and Ross County at Celtic Park on November 29, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

I’m led to believe it was much to the chagrin of the entire first-team squad. An already unhappy group of players with cliques among it then got angry about the entire situation surrounding the club.

Deferred wages, reduced salaries, staff furloughed, players who were told they could leave then that being reneged upon makes for an unhappy camp.

There’s no togetherness, no team unity, and to be frank, their inability to defend set-pieces all season alludes to a squad of players where no-one appears to be prepared to accept responsibility.

That’s what happens when dreams die. When your star players expect to be allowed to leave for pastures new, when your captain and senior players have set themselves up for what they themselves hyped up as the biggest season in the football clubs history, unity is key.

There’s none over in the east end of Glasgow. Every single player is an individual. A person with his own thoughts and expectations. Ajer expected to be at another club last summer, as did Edouard. There were others too.

It’s been crystal clear over the season that players aren’t fit, not giving total commitment to the cause and/or doing just enough to get through games. Add that to an incapacity to defend, new signings being below the standard required, lack of managerial capabilities regarding tactics, changing formations and personally from game to game; there’s your recipe for a meltdown.

The CEO is leaving, a new man coming in. His remit will be to downsize and not much else over the next two or three years. Losses will be catastrophic; a football wage bill that is guaranteed to be more than turnover will see us witness some seriously drastic action from the incoming CEO.

A new manager, a new man running the PLC, and I would suggest a brand new squad of players will see a new era begin. I very much doubt Celtic fans are going to like what they see.

This is what you get when you tell the world you’re cash rich and winning ten titles in a row is a mere formality for so long. The tide has turned, and no matter what spin is put on the scenario unfolding at that football club, they are in for one enormous shock.

Compare that omnishambles to the professionalism across the city at Ibrox, and it becomes easy to see why Rangers have been such a success this season.

Eight points dropped in thirty one games with a home match versus St Mirren on Saturday next. Winning that this week will effectively end the title race. In the first week of March.

I called Rangers relentless on The 4th Official earlier in the season, and if anything, they’ve become even more so than they were when I suggested it. This team is now so close to achieving monumental success, and March is going to be the defining month.

In Steven Gerrard, they have a mastermind. Whatever it was he, Gary McAllister, Michael Beale and Tom Culshaw saw during the initial lockdown last year must’ve pointed them to what they felt was needed to get the consistency Rangers have shown this season.

I watched Rangers play a very decent Royal Antwerp side (who sit second in the Belgian League table) over two games of football, and they have utterly blown them away. Destroyed them. So much so that they averaged a goal every twenty minutes during the tie.

This is in the last thirty two of a major European competition, I might add. I don’t recall any Scottish team ever doing that you know. How conspicuous was any praise from the Scottish sports media? All I read was how many goals Rangers lost over the course of the matches. I actually found that very funny; I have to say.

If Rangers lost five goals to Royal Antwerp, could you imagine how many Celtic, Hibs or Aberdeen would have leaked to the Belgian side? You can double that, and you might get an idea when you consider Rangers has the best defence in the country by the length of Paisley Road West.

This magnificent Rangers team now have a very tricky last sixteen tie against Slavia Prague in the Europa League. I watched them knock Brendan Rodgers Leicester City out of the competition last Thursday, and they’re a very good side indeed.

Big, strong, technical and very well organised over their two games against the English side suggests Rangers will have to be at the very top of their game to get through this tie. I believe they are more than capable, but they will have to be at their best for the full three hours, both away from home then back at Ibrox for the return leg.

Three points this weekend, and they are home and hosed in the SPFL. Yes, technically, they might still need a point, but that will be it, effectively done.

Alfredo Morelos
LIVINGSTON, SCOTLAND – MARCH 03: Alfredo Morelos of Rangers celebrates with team mates after scoring their side’s first goal during the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match between Livingston and Rangers at Tony Macaroni Arena on March 03, 2021 in Livingston, Scotland. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

They have been a juggernaut this season and pretty much destroyed any competition that’s been in their path to success.

That doesn’t appear to be sitting too well with the Scottish media. Some journalists have even tried to suggest it’s been a dull season or a grind. Eh, not from where I’m standing it wasn’t. Some of the football Rangers have played this season has been as good as I’ve ever seen from a Scottish side. No ifs, no buts and no maybes about it. They have been sensational at times.

Well. I have news for any journalists, any fans of other clubs or anyone that tries to debase this outstanding season Rangers have had. Rangers fans are laughing at you. They’re laughing at fans of other teams who’ve tried to demean the achievements so far by this quite brilliant Rangers team.

Rangers have the best management team in Scotland, they have the best squad of players, they have the best fans, and that deserves to be acknowledged by the rest of Scottish football.

They won’t be though, and everyone connected to Rangers knows it. That really does just make it all the sweeter. No one associated with Rangers cares, you see. As a club they’ve come from such a distance, it makes NASA’s Perseverance journey to Mars look like a quick sprint to the Co-Op at the end of the road.

The journey Rangers football club has had to travel has been long, and it’s been arduous. However, Rangers supporters have backed their team and their club in the most remarkable fashion.

That is why they aren’t interested in what the sports media in this country has to say anymore. The narrative isn’t for them to write anymore. It isn’t for fans of other clubs to distort the truth to undermine the Rangers brand. They can’t do it; they will try, but they will fail, and the reason for that is simple.

You can’t deflect from what’s staring you in the face, you see. What the footballing public in this country has seen this season is a cohesive, structured football team with extravagant flair, tremendous team unity, a rock for a defence and a will to win unmatched anywhere on the continent.

The fact the media in Scotland chooses to ignore that or belittle the achievements of this wonderful, exciting football team only puts a smile on Rangers fans’ faces.

The acknowledgements from all over Europe more than makes up for it in the eyes and minds of people connected to Rangers. The plaudits received by the English media alone make you raise your eyebrow and think why don’t they get that level of acknowledgement in their own country.

Then you realise that everyone connected to Scottish football, or most anyway, wanted this Celtic team to win the league this season.

Another opportunity to give Rangers a boot in the balls. That was what BBC Scotland wanted, Clyde FM wanted, The Daily Record and The Sun too. That’s all they want to do, put the boot in. So much so they still try it even though there’s no logic to it.

That’s why reaching the last sixteen of a major tournament, something only Rangers have done for many, many years I might add, is being overshadowed by the hilarious notion that losing five goals over two games to a team better than any other Rangers face in this country should be of concern. It really isn’t.

This Rangers team has lost once all season. Just once. It’s March, you know. The accolades should be getting showered down on this team from our media and opponents.

This side are single handedly raising the profile of the game in Scotland. From a world superstar manager, a squad of players that are still unbeaten in European competition in March to the fact they’ve come from the semi-professional leagues of Scotland to be sitting on the verge of being crowns champions of Scotland and could find themselves in the quarter-finals of The Europa League if they can get past the Czechs. I wouldn’t put it past this team; they are more than capable of scoring plenty of goals against any opposition, and although Slavia are good, so are Rangers.

I don’t and haven’t seen any other club from this nation get anywhere near close to this. Not even close, not for many, many years. Year in, year out, Scottish clubs get perennially spanked in European competition. All you need do is look at how many goals this illustrious Celtic side lost in their Europa League Group. That’ll be nineteen goals in six games. Nineteen…

That is only making the success all the sweeter, no-one should be in any doubt of that. This team is on the edge of legendary status whether Scotland wants to admit that or not. Also, mark my words, Rangers will never let any of them forget it. From July 2012 to March 2021, nine years is all it’s taken to go from the very bottom of Scottish football to the very top of it.

Rangers are a well run, ambitious football club. The plans for the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary celebrations are so exciting too. The club has so much planned, so much set up to go, and this is something that’s gone utterly unnoticed by the media and fans of other clubs. No one at Rangers is resting on their laurels, ambition is rampant, and the quest for excellence has only just begun.

As a Rangers supporter of over forty years, I have never been prouder, never been more excited, and never been so humbled by the club I love. It matters not a jot to me or anyone else what others think, does, says or write.

These twisted journalists are irrelevant. Guys like Spiers, Spence and the tinfoil hat brigade of the fifth column are a source of ridicule and hilarity for us and among us. Do yourselves a favour, rein it in, for your own good because this is only the start of a period of unbridled success for the most successful football team the world has ever seen.

Fifty-five is here, and it’ll be celebrated the world over. Apart from in Scotland it seems. But be assured, the rest of the world knows that what’s unfolding in Scotland is one of the greatest stories the sporting world has ever seen, and it will be celebrated all across the globe.

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