Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Crazy World Of Scottish Football With Rangers In It

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

Ten years have passed since Rangers’ financial meltdown. The Journey, as it was called, has been travelled, and the football club sit as champions of the Scottish Premiership and in a title race with their city rivals this season.

The club goes into the Play-Off round against the German giants Borussia Dortmund as underdogs, of course. However, European football after Christmas for the third year running is a massive achievement in itself when you consider where the football club was only a few years ago.

I’ll be at Ibrox next Thursday, yet another huge club comes calling along with the likes of Benfica, Porto, Feyenoord, Spartak Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen, Rapid Vienna, Villareal, Legia Warsaw and Lyon, to name just a few.

To come from the bottom tier of Scottish football and to play at this level is a genuine football fairytale. It’s all the more unbelievable when you consider that the vast majority if not all the work put in has happened since 2015/16.

This football club has been through hell. The fanbase has sat there and endured the worst of times. Getting up through the leagues was an endurance test. Passed, with genuine craziness along the way.

Winning the title last season was the ultimate high to negate the lows of the previous decade, but that period will never be forgotten and never erased from our history. As a club, as a support, every single person connected to the club should be immensely proud of what’s been proven to be the most crucial time in the one hundred and fifty years of history.

Rangers have won every single trophy available in Scottish football. That is the prize for completing the test that particular journey places upon the club. They still remain as the biggest and most successful club in Scotland, despite our city rivals having free reign to win the league time and time again when Rangers were in the lower divisions.

Before Rangers ultimately won their first title in a decade, Celtic had accumulated one-third of a billion pounds more than Rangers. That equates to thirty three million pounds per season. When you consider now, at this moment, Rangers are nowhere close, and the reality is such that Rangers really shouldn’t be anywhere near winning titles.

All I can say is complacency must’ve crept in at the highest level in the east end of Glasgow. There’s no way Rangers should’ve been taking their most coveted trophy away from them. They lost their bid for ten in a row due to lack of decent scouting, a poor manager who clearly let standards slip and arrogance. An arrogance that seen their fans and players continually hark on about ten in a row, even when they hadn’t even managed six or seven.

For years they sang about their holy grail, but the sleeping giants from across the River Clyde, with the rookie manager from Liverpool, built a team over three seasons that peaked at the right time.

25 points, that’s how much Steven Gerrard’s team won that title by last season. To come from the hedges of Brechin to dismantling their oldest rivals in the season they wanted it most, well, as a fan, that for me is my greatest moment as a lifelong supporter.

This season Rangers haven’t been at the same standard as last year, but i think most kind of expected that. You don’t see invincible seasons very often in any league in the world. However, as I sit here, I’m sure Rangers’ league record is that they’ve lost two league games in sixty four matches.

That is incredible, to be honest. The fact they sit a point behind Celtic at this point is testimony to the job Ange Postercoglou has done over at Celtic Park. Their first half performance against the champions the other week was exceptional. Rangers were very poor indeed, but the intensity their opponents played with meant it was always going to be a challenging game in front of sixty thousand Celtic supporters determined to witness their first win against Rangers in two years.

They did so and with gusto. As a Rangers fan, I had no complaints whatsoever with the result. My team were caught off guard, taught a lesson, and my hope is they’ve learned from that. I think virtually all of us knew that standing off that Celtic team is a bad idea, and that’s exactly how it panned out on the night.

That leaves us football fans in Scotland with a genuine title race. I still think Rangers have the slightly stronger squad, but there’s no escaping the fact Celtic have signed very well indeed.

My guess is that Rangers will cross the line as champions, but it’ll be incredibly tight I think. It’s too close to call really, because one slip is all it might take, but Rangers’ response to losing in Parkhead has been to dismantle third placed Hearts with probably their best performance of the season before slapping Hibs aside with consummate ease also.

Rangers are in fine fettle. A defeat at the home of your rivals is exactly that. A loss in one game of football. It’s up to the manager, his staff and the players themselves to find what’s required to finish this season with the league trophy. If they manage that when riding into our one hundred and fiftieth birthday celebrations, well, that would be just glorious.

The potential for the Champions League group stages next season is a massive motivation. To have the opportunity to see the very best under the lights at Ibrox next season must be the motivation for the players and the manager. The money that comes with it will put Rangers in the strongest financial position they’ll have been in over twenty years.

However, we have two very decent sides in Scotland this season. Celtic sit one point clear now, and Rangers have to find a way to get back on top and stay there. The two Old Firm games still to come will be pivotal regarding who finishes the season as champions.

My main concern about that is that I’m concerned about refereeing decisions that end up costing teams. With all respect to them, they just aren’t very good, and this season, in particular, I think the standard has been horrific.

Week in, week out, we see baffling decisions. We all know it’s a difficult job, but in truth, the ineptitude is bordering on ridiculous. This isn’t me saying it’s happening to Rangers; it’s me saying it’s happening in every game that’s getting played at the moment.

The number of goals allowed or ruled out, the yellow and red cards, the crazy offside decisions being wrongly flagged should be a significant concern to all of us. A considerable proportion of referees aren’t fit for purpose, and the SFA need to find a way of improving the standards of officiating in our game (maybe get VAR and full time refs). Seriously, it just isn’t good enough.

Meanwhile, last week we had the crazy situation where Nicola Sturgeon chose to get involved in the game. Choosing to highlight Raith Rovers imbecilic idea to sign David Goodwillie despite protestations from board members, players, fans, shareholders and others that plough money into that club, such as Val McDermid, who just so happens to be politically active.

The fact the First Minister thinks she can get involved in this fiasco while choosing to ignore other similar incidents within Scottish football that need magnification and proper publicity only goes to show what politicians think of our intelligence. She has no place in our game; she treats it with complete disdain and has shown us how contemptuous she is of football and the people that invest their lives and money into it.

It’s heartbreaking that she’s doing nothing and ignoring the massive elephant in the room that is Scottish football. To have the influence she has and to see the way she has used that to castigate Goodwillie and Raith Rovers while having said nothing for four years or so while that man was playing for Clyde shows you what could happen if she chose to mention child abuse within our game, but she won’t.

Why not? After having shown the power she possesses to make sure Raith Rovers are grovelling and begging forgiveness on a daily basis while stating Goodwillie won’t be playing for them now only infuriates families of those that have been abused from within the game.

This episode over the last week or so has actually sickened me. The absolute refusal of Sturgeon and her party to get involved in what is an actual scandal of worldwide proportions only shows that this entire charade (both Goodwillie and the big elephant in the room) are being used as political weapons.

While broaching that subject, I’d like to ask where the usual political suspects are regarding an incident last Wednesday night at Ibrox. The incident involving a Hibs fan racially abusing a black Rangers fan was repulsive. In this day and age, there’s no place for this kind of language, but no, there hasn’t been a peep from the usual incompetents who like to squeal on our tv’s, on the radio and demand police investigations when anyone connected with Rangers is being accused of something like this.

These people are hypocritical b*stards, and I am utterly sick of them. They disgust me actually. The two politicians I’m hinting at (I’m sure you can figure it out) are bigots. There is no other logical conclusion to reach here with this.

Anything Rangers is bigoted, anti Catholic or anti Irish according to this shower, but incredibly any time something like this happens to anyone connected to Rangers, these clownshoes are conspicuous by their absence and silence.

Call it all out, or we will call you out on it; you are disingenuous, and you’re being openly bigoted when you choose to point score on incidents of racism or bigotry, and I, for one, am honestly sick and tired of these reprobates.

Anyway, onto Thursday, where Rangers are playing Borussia Dortmund while Celtic play Bodo Glimt of Norway. The fact both clubs are still in Europe in February is something to be proud of if you have Scottish football’s best interests at heart. Rangers will find it very tough to get through the tie, while I must admit i do fancy Celtic to get past the Norwegians due to them having sold half their team while their season hasn’t quite started yet.

Then it’s onto the weekend’s fixtures within all to play for. There’s a pot of Champions League gold at the end of the season for whoever finishes as winners so let the craziness begin, and let’s see how it all pans out.

My money is on Rangers, but it’ll go right to the wire, I reckon. Let the battles begin….

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