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  1. Another fine article by @Rick Roberts:
  2. Aribo strike secures three points for far from invincible Rangers A first-half strike from Joe Aribo secured three points for Rangers and a first win at Dens Park for Steven Gerrard on Saturday, but it was yet another performance which provided strong evidence that Rangers are some way off their invincible form of last season. Rangers arrived on Tayside on the back of a disappointing home draw in the league against Motherwell last Sunday, and looking to secure three points to maintain their place at the top of the pile. Gerrard reintroduced Ianis Hagi and James Tavernier to his starting eleven. He also opted with Jon McLaughlin in goal again, and the former Sunderland man having to be lively to deal with a close-range header from Jordan McGhee in the early stages. The match saw Leigh Griffiths play against Rangers for the first time since his loan move from Celtic to Dundee. Griffiths has been targeted by away supporters since he was investigated by Police Scotland for allegedly messaging an underage girl on social media. Police found no evidence of criminality, but Griffiths has faced a stream of abuse from opposing supporters since, culminating in him reacting mid-week to barracking from St Johnstone supporters by kicking a flare into the away support. He has since been charged by Police Scotland for culpable and reckless behaviour, and his fortunes didn’t improve any here. Firstly he missed a great chance he should have scored, hitting the ball weakly at the Rangers goal, then he was substituted on the 39th minute – much to the joy of the travelling support. The goal was a one a few bright moments from Rangers. James Tavernier played a nice ball into Alfredo Morelos, who dinked a lovely reverse pass into the path of Joe Aribo who took a touch to set himself before placing it past Adam Legzdins in the Dundee goal. Kemar Roofe then came close with a shot at goal after some nice work had taken him past Liam Fontaine, but overall Rangers lacked any real attacking threat despite enjoying the majority of possession. John Lundstram has enjoyed an indifferent start to his career at Rangers, but this was yet another improved performance by the former Sheffield United man. He came close to doubling Rangers lead early in the second-half, with a curling effort from the corner of the box forcing Legzdins into a fine save, but more importantly the under-fire midfielder drew much praise from his manager. “He was the best player on the pitch by a mile,” said Gerrard After the game. “I’ve been almost smiling in disbelief, really, at some of the reaction on the outside.” ‘John’s a fantastic player. He’s showed his quality in the last three games. Ok, he’s been finding his feet and it does take time to get up to speed and work out how people play, but he was an absolute powerhouse today. “He was Man of the Match and the best player on the pitch by a mile.” Dundee were handed a lifeline back into the game when they were awarded a penalty on the 59th minute. The foul came from a long ball played by Max Anderson which Connor Goldson misjudged, allowing Paul McMullan to run in on goal to be fouled by Jon McLaughlin. Bobby Madden was left with no option but to award the spot kick, McMullan and the home support also appealed loudly for McLaughlin to see red - the double-jeopardy rule, however, meant only a yellow was forthcoming. The defending from Goldson was yet another example of some within the Rangers squad struggling to reach the heights of last season, with him and James Tavernier in particularly having an uncomfortable afternoon defensively. Former Rangers striker Jason Cummings, who had replaced Griffiths in the first-half, stepped up to take the spot kick, but hit his shot at the legs of McLaughlin – allowing the the Rangers keeper to gather the ball safely after an initial failed attempted to punch the ball clear. The incident enraged Dundee manager James McPake, who was red carded at full time for protesting over-zealously. When asked if he felt McLaughlin should have been on the pitch to face the penalty, he was blunt in his response. "In my opinion, no. I know the rule is if you make a genuine attempt, and people will disagree and say it's a genuine attempt. "But Paul McMullan is clearly by him and the leg comes out. If it's Adam Legzdins would my answer be different? Probably not.” For Rangers and Steven Gerrard focus now switches to the trip to Prague on Thursday night in Europa League. "We came here for three points. No-one will remember how we got them, and I've also managed to keep people fresh for Thursday, so a lot of positives to take away." Three points was indeed the objective for Rangers here, but improved performances are required if they want to secure a second successive title. DUNDEE: Legzdins; Ashcroft, Fontaine, Sweeney; Kerr, Anderson, Byrne, McGhee, Marshall; McMullan, Griffiths. SUBS: Jakubiak, McGowan, McCowan, Panter, Lawlor, Sheridan, Cummings. RANGERS: McLaughlin; Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Bassey; Lundstram, Kamara, Aribo; Roofe, Hagi, Morelos. SUBS: McGregor, Davis, Patterson, Wright, Bacuna, Fashion Jr, Barisic. REF: Bobby Madden
  3. Lyon hand out a French lesson to slack Rangers The last time Olympique Lyonnais made their way to Govan in 2007 they ended the hopes of Walter Smith’s side of progressing to the knock-out stages of the Champions League with a 3-0 drubbing. Smith and his players consolidated themselves by making the final of the UEFA Cup. Whether Steven Gerrard and his side can recover in a similar fashion after this 2-0 defeat is up for debate, but one thing which is not up for debate is that this was another difficult night at the hands of the French side. This would be Steven Gerrard’s and his coaching staff’s 50th European match at the helm at Ibrox, and they went into it defending a nine game unbeaten run at Ibrox in the group stages. But Gerrard had warned prior to the game that this was the hardest opponents his side had faced in European competition – add to that the fact that Rangers have yet to hit top gear this season and this always looked like it could be an uphill task. Rangers have looked disjointed in both performance and personnel so far this season, thanks to a combination of Covid and injuries. Saturday’s win against St Johnstone came at the cost of losing defender Filip Helander until December with a knee injury. The Swedish defender is a crucial part of Gerrard's team and his absence is a huge blow. If such a blow wasn't bad enough, Ryan Kent has become the latest player to succumb to injury, limping off in the 70th minute with a hamstring injury, adding to already significant headaches Gerrard has suffered this season. The injury to Kent was the final act in what was a miserable night for the winger. The Englishman has struggled to find anything remotely resembling his top form this season and tonight offered no redemption as he was caught in possession twice in moments of slackness which led to both Lyon goals. The first error saw Kent lose possession cheaply on the half-way line. This allowed Lyon to counter and Karl Toko Ekambi to score with a superb curling shot in the bottom corner on the 23rd minute. The second error saw Kent caught in possession again just outside the Rangers penalty box early in the second half. This led to Allan McGregor denying Lucas Paqueta, but the resultant goalmouth stramash ended with the ball ricocheting off James Tavernier and into the net to all but end the game as contest. Despite not being at their fluent best, Rangers did create moments. Joe Aribo, John Lundstram and Ryan Kent all had efforts at Lopes’s goal in the first-half when it was 1-0. If one of these efforts had went in Rangers may have been able to rally and recover, but it was not to be. Tavernier came close with free-kick in the second-half, and Balogun also came close with a header in the closing stages. But by that point it felt like this Lyon side were to savvy to let any lead slip and that Rangers' race was run. One potential positive from the game was the performance of John Lundstram. He has struggled to convince since his arrival in the summer, but his performance tonight gave hints at the player we thought we were getting when he signed – although he did allow Toko Ekambi to cut inside to his favoured foot too easily for the first goal. For Gerrard it was a night to forget, for Lyon coach Peter Bosz it was a case of déjà vu – the Dutchman was in charge of Bayer Leverkusen when they secured a 3-1 victory in March 2020 in the last sixteen of the same competition. The defeat is the first group stage European loss on home soil since the 2010-11 Champions League defeat against Manchester Utd, and it puts a huge dent in Rangers chances of topping the group – which is now the only way of confimring a place in the knock-out stages. But despite the defeat, Steven Gerrard was still relatively upbeat in his post-match comments. "We played some good stuff and created some half-decent openings. Their keeper has made a top save from Ryan Kent which would have got us back into the game at 1-1”, he said. "We created some decent moments without being clear cut. I think the scoreline is slightly harsh on us. We have made two mistakes in the game, clear mistakes if you like. We've had the ball turned over in the first half and we have been punished for it because good players do that to you. "I'm a bit disappointed with our defending on the second goal. The players know at this level you will be punished. With all due respect, domestically if you give the ball away in those areas, maybe you will get away with it. But not at Europa League level against high-calibre players. If you turn the ball over while the team is open, you leave yourself vulnerable.” Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Barisic, Lundstram, Davis, Kamara, Aribo, Kent, Morelos Subs: McLaughlin, McCrorie, Bassey, Patterson, Bacuna, Wright, Roofe, Kelly, Fashion Jr, Arfield, McClelland. Lyon: Lopes, Emerson, Denayer, Ekambi Aouar, Paqueta, Gusto, Slimani, Caqueret, Boateng (Diomande, 65), Guimaraes. Subs: Diomande, Shaqiri, Pollersbeck, Bonnevie, Lukeba, Milagres, Cherki, Kelta, Da Silva, Barcola. Referee: Andreas Ekberg (SWE)
  4. Four goals provide Highland spring for Rangers Nobody could have foresaw a few weeks ago that Rangers would be arriving for this fixture with it being suggested that the pressure was already mounting on Steven Gerrard and his players. But after Celtic’s thrashing of St Mirren on Saturday, and on the back a period of indifferent form, there was an air of nervousness as Rangers headed up the A9 to Dingwall to take on Ross County. The next seven days are huge for Rangers. Firstly they head to Armenia to play the second-leg of the Europa League group stage qualification tie against Alashkert. Gerrard has made meat and drink of these ties in his previous three attempts, however the inexplicable loss to Malmö has created doubt where there was once belief. Failure to qualify will put further pressure on the manager and his players going into next week’s Old Firm fixture – the first of this season. Rangers go into Thursday night’s game with a one goal advantage, however the game did not come without a price with Michael Beale revealing prior to Sunday’s game that Ianis Hagi and Scott Wright had picked up knocks and could be out for a couple of weeks. Hagi recovered to take his place in the starting eleven – Wright, however, missed out and as things stand is unlikely to feature on Thursday night. This announcement by Beale added further weight to feeling that Rangers preparations and start to the season have not been ideal, with players returning at different times due to international duty, with injuries and suspensions adding further headaches for manager Steven Gerrard. “Some people have had a disrupted pre-season after coming off the Euros & Copa America”, said Beale. “There is a lot going on with the squad that is background noise really. We’re managing one or two things but that’s fine, that happens at all times of the season.” One extra thing to manage has been added to that list after it was revealed that Nathan Paterson had been the subject to a £5m bid from Everton, with The Athletic reporting that the offer was submitted on Friday. Such a paltry amount is unlikely to force Rangers’ hand, but it highlights that potential suitors of Rangers’ top assets are aware that the loss to Malmö was an expensive one, and that they are prepared to use that as a bargaining tool. Steven Gerrard reintroduced Leon Balogun to the starting eleven and he found himself subject to a penalty claim in the opening minutes when he handled in the box, but referee David Munro awarded free-kick to Rangers for an earlier foul. The scare was an early reminder that Rangers needed to be at their best and they set about taking control of the match, culminating in Joe Aribo providing the opening goal after 15 minutes with a superb strike, curling the ball into the top corner from the corner of the 18 yard box. Goldson doubled that lead four minutes later, getting on the end of a James Tavernier corner to head home. It seemed that a routine win and potential thrashing were on the cards as Rangers clocked up further chances through Hagi, Aribo and Goldson, but, as has so often been the case so far this season, just when Rangers looked to be on safe ground they contrived to find a way to make hard work of things. Harry Clarke’s goal with five minute left of the first-half was Ross County's first of this season and it reopened a contest which had appeared to be over. Clarke reacted quickest in the box after Allan McGregor made a fine initial save from Jordan White’s effort to hit the rebound home. Nine minutes into the second-half Alfredo Morelos put further distance between the sides again with a left foot finish. But yet again Rangers could not finish the job, dragging themselves back into a fight with thirteen minutes to go when Jordan White scored from the spot after Calvin Bassey had handled in the box. The prospect for a potentially uncomfortable last few minutes didn’t last long, and was put to rest when Scott Arfield slotted home in the closing stages after coming on for Hagi on the 78 minute. With such a big week looming there were many positive signs hinting that Rangers are returning to something resembling the standards they know they can hit, but the slack moments in defence continue to be a cause for concern. "That's the way I want my teams to play, organised and hard to play against” said manager Steven Gerrard after the game. "We want to be as relentless and ruthless in the box as we can be. That is the way Rangers teams should look. It was much more like us, both in and out of possession. "I'm a lot happier today. As you can see quite clearly what we are trying to do. We are trying to be more organised at times and we are still trying to fine-tune that. "We are still waiting to have a full squad and be fully settled so we will get better.” RANGERS: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Balogun, Bassey, Aribo, Davis, Kamara, Hagi, Kent, Morelos. SUBS: Lundstram, Arfield, Roofe, McCrorie, Helander, Itten, Patterson. ROSS COUNTY: Laidlaw, Randall, Cancola, Spittal, Callachan, Iacovitti, Cook (Samuel, 90), Clarke, Tillson, Paton, White. SUBS: Hungbo, Maynard-Brewer, Samuel, Shaw, Robertson, Watson, Donaldson. REFEREE: David Munro
  5. Morelos secures win for ten man Rangers If Rangers get the result they require next week in Yerevan to secure passage to the Europa League group stages for the fourth consecutive season under Steven Gerrard, then John Lundstram will owe his teammates a huge debt of gratitude. It was the Englishman’s sending off late in the first-half which put a huge question mark over a tie which was deemed as a fairly routine affair for Rangers, although they had huffed and puffed for large parts of the first-half. But Lundstram’s dismissal, after a second booking, put Rangers in a speculative position, and one which will not have pleased manager Steven Gerrard. All the chat prior to the game surrounded the capture of Juninho Bacuna from Huddersfield Town. The 24 year Dutch midfielder provides further options for Gerrard in an area where he has not been short of problems so far this season. Speaking to Rangers TV Bacuna seemed delighted at his move. “There was interest last season, unfortunately it didn’t go through”, said the Dutchman. "I am ready to prove myself and learn from the boys, learn from the manager. I am ready to get started and I can’t wait. "I had experience in the Premier League and unfortunately it didn’t go like I wanted but I will take the experience from that and bring it here and show what I can do here. "I think the style the team is going to play will suit me and I think I can be at my best here." This was a tie that Rangers had hoped to avoid, but the capitulation against Malmö last week ended the prospect of reaching the Champions’ League group stages and the riches that come with it. The two defeats to Malmo are the first that Steven Gerrard has experienced as Rangers manager in Europe in qualifying stages. He is well versed in these Europa qualification ties, which added to the sense of inevitability to tonight’s game. However Rangers looked slow and ponderous in a poor first-half where the only real chance fell to Ryan Kent when he somehow managed to strike the bar when scoring seemed easier. The Englishman has struggled so far this season to find the form which has him highly tipped for a big money move at some point in the future. This was the latest in a line of performances littered with loose distribution, wild attempts at goal and attempted runs which resulted in possession being lost. Gerrard has been remarkably loyal to Kent during other periods of poor form. The fact that Kent did not reappear for the second-half suggested the manager’s patience with one of his mainstays had worn too thin on an important evening for the club. Kent’s replacement was Scott Wright, a player who must be wondering what he has to do to earn a start. The former Aberdeen man’s running and urgency gave life to a support that had started to doubt. All of a sudden there was an improved vigour about Rangers’ play. At the heart of that was Alfredo Morelos. He had a hooked shot cleared off the line, then headed wide when he should have scored after a great cross in from Ianis Hagi. But the Columbian got the goal he deserved on 68 minutes when he latched on to a long ball from James Tavernier and drove his shot low and hard through the legs of Cancarevic to give Rangers a deserved lead. Rangers should have made it 2-0 when Connor Goldson headed wide from close range, meaning Rangers would have to settle for the one goal lead going into the second-leg. The result is a positive one given the circumstances, but there is yet again feeling that Rangers had somehow managed to take less from a game they were in a position to take a lot more from. Much of the talk will centre on Lundstram and his reckless sending off. His first booking, for a trip on David Khurtsidze, could be deemed as taking one for the team. But his second booking, for a pull on Jose Embalo after he had needlessly conceded possession, was an incredulous act of naivety for a player who came to Scotland boasting English Premier League experience. The Liverpudlian has had a poor start to his Rangers career, he needs to realise the required levels soon if he doesn’t want to join a long list of players who found the Rangers jersey too heavy for them. For Steven Gerrard the result leaves him with problems he would have rather avoided. A more convincing scoreline would have allowed him to avoid taking some key players on a ten hour all-round flight to Armenia three days before the first Old Firm game of the season, and that frustration showed in his post-match comments. “In terms of our performance collectively it was so far away from how I wanted it to look in the first-half. It is difficult for me to comment on that”, said the Rangers manager. “At half-time the players listened to the information we gave them and we went out and carried it out. I am sure the fans appreciated their efforts in the second-half. “But in the first-half? Honestly, it was so far away from how I want it to look and how far away I need it to look.” Rangers now head to Dingwall on Sunday for the league game against Ross County, before travelling to Armenia for the second-leg on Thursday and “welcoming” Celtic for the first Old Firm game of the season next Sunday. It’s a busy schedule, and one which will require more than Rangers offered in the first-half tonight. RANGERS: McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Bassey, Lundstram, Davis, Aribo, Hagi, Kent, Morelos. SUBS: McLaughlin, McCrorie, Itten, Simpson, Patterson, Wright, Balogun, Kelly, Arfield, Barisic ALASHKERT: Cancarevic, Voskanyan, Kadio, Tiago Cameta, Boljevic, Grigoryan, Hovsepyan, Papikyan, Khurtsidze, James, Jose Embalo. SUBS Yedigaryan, Gome, Aghekyan, Bezecourt, Glisic, Tankov REFEREE: Anastasios Sidriopoulos
  6. Defeat at Tannadice ends Rangers’ unbeaten run. If the old adage that seven days is a long time in football needed further evidence of its validity, then Rangers’ defeat at Tannadice provided a timely reminder that just when you think you’re on solid ground is usually the moment the floor disappears from underneath your feet. It was only last weekend after Rangers had secured a routine victory over Livingstone, whist Celtic dropped points in dramatic fashion at Tynecastle against Hearts, that the talk was that Celtic were a club in crisis and that Rangers’ road to two successive titles was going to be fairly routine affair. Now Gerrard and Rangers are facing questions about their title credentials after a European defeat to Malmo and defeat here to an average Dundee Utd side. Make no mistake, this was a bad and potentially costly defeat for Rangers. Gerrard arrived in the City of Discovery with added numbers in the squad from the one which was at his disposal in Sweden on Tuesday night. Back came Glen Kamara and Kemar Roofe – who were both suspended against Malmo – and striker Alfredo Morelos, who re-joined the squad after a period of isolation on returning from his summer break. However Gerrard was dealt a major blow when Kemar Roofe had to leave the squad at short notice after one of his children was admitted to hospital. With Zambian striker Fashion Sakala omitted from the squad entirely, it forced a far earlier introduction to the starting eleven for Alfredo Morelos than was initially intended. With the return to the team of such players as Glen Kamara, Joe Aribo and Morelos, you would have been forgiven for expecting a higher standard of performance to that which Rangers produced on Tuesday night, but in truth this was a continuation of Tuesday's below par performance. Dundee Utd were without Lawrence Shankland, whom it would appear is the subject of a potential move to Belgium, although the official reason given for his absence was a hip injury picked up in training on Friday. United would not miss the striker. This was a bad day for the new players at the club. Sakala, as mentioned earlier, was omitted from the squad completely and John Lundstram had another poor day at the office. The former Sheffield Utd man has looked slow and off the pace for large chunks of his game time so far, and he was culpable for United’s winner, not following the run of Jamie Robson as he ran onto a deflected pass which put him through to shoot low and hard past Jon McLaughlin in the 64th minute. Lundstram was replaced by Scott Wright five minutes later. With the omission of Sakala, who has struggled to get into the games has featured in, the poor performances Lundstram and the unavailability of Nnamdi Ofoborh through a heart issue, Gerrard is still waiting on a meaningful contribution from any of his summer signings. Good recruitment has been the cornerstone of Gerrard’s success at Rangers, he will be hoping the early struggles of his newest recruits will soon pass. Gerrard also remains without Ryan Jack whom has suffered a setback in his rehabilitation. “He'll probably be another couple of weeks, all being well”, said Gerrard at his press conference on Friday morning. Reassurance that Jack is close to returning a reoccurring narrative in recent months, the player and his manager must be praying that the surgery in the summer will finally put an end to such updates. As was the case against Malmo, there was a disjointed and off the pace look to Rangers performance at Tannadice and given the importance of the return leg against the Swede’s at Ibrox on Tuesday night, Gerrard will need to find a way to put the intensity back into Rangers’ game. Even after going a goal down Rangers struggled to find the desired reaction to get themselves back into the game, although Tavernier did pull a good save from Siegrist in the Utd goal with a shot from distance, and Connor Goldson came tantalisingly close to an equaliser when he headed a corner just past the post. But with almost 70% possession and 14 shots on goal (only two of which were on target), it is obvious that Rangers are lacking a cutting edge at the moment. Morelos looked off the pace, although perhaps understandably so, Ryan Kent had one of those days that make you question the hype around him and both Barisic and Tavernier failed to put decent enough deliveries from the flanks to trouble the likes of Charlie Mulgrew and Ryan Edwards. Outside of Joe Aribo and the evergreen Steven Davis, it is hard to think of anyone who reached the required performance level for Rangers. Jermain Defoe was introduced with eight minutes to go in a last ditch attempt to get the equaliser, but it was to no avail and Rangers had to accept their first defeat on league business since 4 March 2020 when Hamilton took all three points at Ibrox. "From our point of view, it was not good enough”, said the Rangers manager after the game. “I think over the course of the 90 minutes we didn't deserve to lose the game but you always put yourself in that position if you don't score goals. "We didn't create enough today and whilst the game is at 0-0 there's always a risk if you get one or two things wrong. The result and the performance is on me and my team. We'll have to accept that and move on pretty quickly.” DUNDEE UTD: Siegrist, Edwards, Mulgrew, Fuchs, Smith, Harkes, Butcher, Clark, Robson, Pawlett, Chalmers. SUBS: Sporle, Carson, Reynolds, Neilson, Freeman, Mochrie, Watson RANGERS: McLaughlin, Tavernier, Goldson, Helander, Barisic, Kamara, Davis, Lundstram, Aribo, Morelos, Kent. SUBS: Wright, Itten, McGregor, Patterson, Simpson, Arfield. REFEREE: Don Robertson
  7. It’s Not What You Say, But What They Hear I made a mistake last Sunday. In a pique of frustration over the inevitability of much of Saturday night’s events and annoyance over some of the coverage it garnered, I sent a Tweet. As Tweets go it was quite long, and was an attempt to remind people that Rangers supporter’s who fight police officers, or themselves, on a Saturday night in town are no more representative of me, or the vast majority of our support, than the Rangers supporter’s who went bird watching, long distancing running or line dancing are. I wish I hadn’t. I’m not a prolific Tweeter and I rarely Tweet about football. If you want occasional photos of my local park, perhaps some obscure research on birds or the occasional insight into international events, maybe I’m your guy, otherwise best ignore me, I’m there to learn, not teach. Prior to Sunday I doubt I’ve ever sent a Tweet that was ‘liked’ more the a dozen times; I’m not interesting or high profile, and I’m okay with that. An hour or so after pressing ‘Tweet’ I was very surprised to learn over 100 people had liked, retweeted or positively commented on it. Almost all seemed to be fellow Rangers fans who had clearly been feeling something similar. This continued for a few hours, numbers increased and my phone battery complained. A couple of friends texted me to say they’d read it and enjoyed it, even my sister, who I didn’t know even had Twitter, called to mock me. All good so far. Then, sometime around mid-afternoon on Sunday, supporter's of the second best side in Glasgow came across my Tweet. The comments changed. I’ve not read them all, there are simply too many and life is too short, but I got the general gist and some clear themes emerged. My claim that it was a “minority” of Rangers supporters who were involved in any disorder on Saturday was widely ridiculed. Also, I’d failed to mention sectarianism, or “anti-Irish racism” as many seemed to call it. Lastly, that drunken, loutish behaviour is recurring and unique to Rangers supporters. The ‘minority’ issue is easily dealt with. I think it’s fair to say Rangers have somewhere around 500,000 supporters. It might be more than that, it might be less, but I think it’s a conservative estimate to suggest that 10% of the population of Scotland would describe themselves as supporter’s of Rangers. Some of them might be nominal, a club they followed as a child but take less interest now, others will attend every match, home and away. The only definition of a Rangers supporter I accept is that they want Rangers to win. Estimates of the total crowd numbers at Ibrox and later in the city centre vary, somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000. 20,000 people is barely 4% of our support, and it’s worth remembering that Chief Supt Mark Sutherland of Police Scotland described that crowd as “largely peaceful in nature”. Even if someone wants to complain that everyone present was breaking Covid guidelines and so at least technically in breach of restrictions, it doesn’t change the fact that the other 96% of the Rangers support weren’t. As for those who actually engaged in vandalism and violence that was a very small percentage of those present and a tiny fraction of the Rangers support. For me those are simply irrefutable facts. I don’t know what ‘anti-Irish racism’ is. As far as I know the Irish and the Scots are the same race. Having lived in both I can also say that in my experience we’re largely identical in almost every measurable way. I’m unaware of any systemic discrimination towards Irish people in Scotland, certainly not in this century at least. I didn’t mention sectarianism as I was unaware of any taking place. I wasn’t there, and I’ve not watched many of the videos that have been circulating. If there was sectarian singing or chanting then I condemn it. The anti-Catholic chants and songs still exist among a section of our support, and, away from the stadium and often after a few drinks they sometimes make an appearance. I wish they didn’t. I expect our board wish they didn’t and I can only imagine what some of our players must think. It’s embarrassing. It would be disingenuous to say nothing has changed in this regard over the years, but it would be equally wrong to say this has disappeared, it hasn’t. I can understand why someone who feels these chants are directed at them reacts with fury when they hear them. That said it surprises me to see how many people liberally sprinkle the word ‘hun’ around their timelines when questioning my views. The refrain, when challenged, seems to be that the word isn’t sectarian and isn’t an idiom for ‘Protestant’. A ‘hun’ apparently is a Rangers supporter. Unless it’s a Hearts supporter. Or maybe an Airdrie supporter, and sometimes even a Morton or Kilmarnock supporter. This is the thing about the English language, the meaning of words changes over time and between people. My children regularly describe something positive as ‘sick’, this puzzles me and makes me feel old at the same time. The meaning of the word ‘sick’ has changed. I took a trip to Belfast before Covid hit. It’s a city I know quite well having lived there for a while a few decades ago, but it’s also a city that’s going through such huge change that parts of it were unrecognisable to me. I decided to do the first time visitor thing and take a bus tour to reacquaint myself. The Belfast bus tour takes you to places that are famous and infamous. It doesn’t hide its past, you see the city warts and all. We visited various ‘interfaces’. An interface is a euphemism for a border, in Belfast that’s where a republican area meets a loyalist area. These are bleak, people-less areas, dominated by high fences and walls, where territory is clearly marked by graffiti. Much of this graffiti is sadly familiar to a Glaswegian and I’d little trouble understanding just whose territory we were leaving or entering. Something unfamiliar did catch my eye though, 3 letters that made a regular appearance as you entered loyalist areas; KAT, and 3 similar ones when you entered republican areas; KAH. The tour guide explained that KAT stands for ‘Kill All Taigs’ and KAH stands for ‘Kill All Huns’. On the streets of working class Belfast it seems that Taigs are Catholics and Huns are Protestants. Not unsurprisingly I’ve recently started to notice these initials in Glasgow too. Now I’m willing to accept that not everyone who uses the word ‘hun’ does mean all Protestants, but that doesn’t mean it’s not what I hear when it’s said. And while some might not use it that way, others clearly do. Meanings change, it’s all of our jobs to keep up with that change, not just Rangers supporters. Lastly, why is it always Rangers? This takes us directly into ‘whataboutery’ country again and I’ve little desire to spend more time there. Suffice to say that over the years I’ve seen violence, first hand, sometimes at very close quarters, perpetrated by supporters of Aberdeen, Dundee, Motherwell, Airdrie, Kilmarnock, Morton, Clydebank, Partick Thistle, Hibs, Hearts, Falkirk, Clyde, St Mirren, Sunderland, Glentoran, Linfield, Cliftonville and, believe it or not, Celtic. Rangers don’t have a monopoly on bams, but I’m not going to pretend we don’t have any either. That there was disorder on Saturday night didn’t come as a surprise to me. I’ve lived in Glasgow long enough to know that there are people in our society for who a Saturday spent drinking will greatly increase the likelihood of them being involved in violence. That hard drinking ‘get mad wae it’ culture is alive and flourishing among a section of our society. I don’t think the blame for that can be laid at the door of Rangers directors, players or indeed me. The Scottish Crime Survey of 2018 recorded that 46% of all violent crime in Scotland is alcohol related. 41% of all prisoners in Scotland report being drunk at the time of their offence, that figure rises to 60% for young offenders. The STAG Trauma Report in 2015 records that alcohol was associated with 33% of all major trauma patients, that number doubles when just recording male patients. Alcohol related death is 7 times higher in Scotland’s most deprived areas and alcohol related hospital stays are 8 times higher in Scotland’s poorest communities. Again, the figures are higher for men than woman. Despite this I’ve yet to read anyone ask what Smirnoff, Buckfast or the makers of MD 20-20 had to say about last Saturday night, far less suggest that everyone who drinks alcohol should be ashamed of themselves and demand action be taken. Rangers draw their support from across Scotland and beyond, but the post industrial heartlands of the central belt are where we draw the bulk of our support. These areas have more than their fare share of economic black spots and deprived communities. None of that is an excuse for violence or religious intolerance. Indeed the majority of people brought up in these areas aren’t violent or bigoted. But the power to change the people who are, to improve their schools, to broaden their horizons, to perhaps give them ambitions beyond the weekend, to deal with whatever demons they currently try and drown and to instil a pride or self worth clearly lacking in some of them doesn’t lie with Steven Gerrard or the Rangers board. It lies, quite squarely, at the feet of those elected to represent these communities; politicians. That’s ironic, because some of them have been very quick to point fingers of responsibility elsewhere this week. It does feel that some people see Rangers as responsible for the actions of everyone who supports them at all times. There were 54 arrests and 429 crimes at T In The Park a few years ago yet no one suggests The Stone Roses are held responsible for that. There is a limit on what the club can do and should be held responsible for. I’m surprised that even needs stated. But then maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, it’s strange that now we have so many ways of communicating with each other more than ever people still only hear what they want to hear.
  8. A fair amount of formatting in this, so best viewed online via the link above. Many thanks to @Rick Robertsfor another quality piece of analysis.
  9. Didn't get a chance to post this superb article from @Rick Robertson the forum yesterday. Do make sure you catch up with it today, folks!
  10. Jim McLean - An Appreciation Our last match of the 1983/84 season took place on the 14th of May away at Tannadice. I remember very little about the match itself other than the facts that Rangers won and that there was a rousing rendition of ‘Rangers are back, Rangers are back’ from the away support situated under the old covered terrace along Sandeman Street. Season 83/84 was one of major change for Rangers. For only the 9th time in our history we changed managers when John Grieg, arguably our greatest ever captain, resigned following a run of poor results and vocal supporter unrest. Ironically we replaced the eighth manager in our history with the seventh, Jock Wallace. There were 14 days between Grieg resigning and Wallace being appointed, during those 2 weeks former Rangers player, supporter and Govan boy, Alex Ferguson, signed a new, improved contract with Aberdeen amid much speculation that he was top of Rangers wanted list and Dundee Utd manager, Jim McLean, travelled to Glasgow for an interview for the job, returning to Dundee and announcing he didn’t want it. It might seem strange to some that the death of a man who never played, coached or managed our club should warrant any comment in a Rangers supporter’s website, but for me Jim McLean actually had a profound and long lasting influence on Rangers, despite the lack of any formal attachment. The feeling of rejuvenation our supporter’s felt at Tannadice that May afternoon wasn’t a delusion. Following Wallace’s appointment in November Rangers only lost 2 matches for the rest of the season and won the League Cup, defeating Celtic in the final. Dundee Utd finished one place above us that season, so beating them in that final match felt significant, like laying down a marker for the following season. It wasn’t, but we didn’t know that at the time. The other aspect required to understand the context of that victory was just how good a side Dundee Utd were back then. Dundee United weren’t even the best team in their street before appointing Jim McLean as manager. People with greater insight than I will be able to explain how he transformed Tayside’s second team into Scottish Champions and a genuine force in Europe. Much will be written about his methods, his perpetual sense of injustice and his volcanic temper. What shouldn’t be overlooked though is the magnificence of some of those Utd sides. Dundee United had width and speed, they played fluid, attacking football and featured players you hated and coveted in equal measure. As surprising as it might seem now, visiting Tannadice in those days wasn’t an unpleasant experience either. I never felt the hostility that exists now. Perhaps their supporters, unaccustomed to success, were simply enjoying the ride. Perhaps back in the 1980s, during enormous social upheaval, we all realised we were more alike. Whatever the reasons it feels like a long time ago now. McLean was one of 3 brothers born and raised near Larkhall in Lanarkshire. It was a footballing family, his grandfather had played for Rangers, his father had played Junior and McLean and his two brothers, Tommy and Willie, all played and managed professionally. Tommy, the youngest brother, was the the best player, winning the league with Kilmarnock before joining Rangers and enjoying a long and distinguished career. When Jim McLean was interviewed for Rangers manager, his brother, Tommy, was the caretaker manager. Tommy McLean was assistant manager to Greig, and while not really in the running for the manager’s job at the time, his presence must have played a part in his brother’s thinking. Many theories exist as to why both McLean and Ferguson didn’t want the Rangers manager job, most of them are without substance. What can be said though is that Rangers were at a low ebb. Our scouting and player development was poor and the creativity our board showed in planning and building the Ibrox Stadium we recognise today was sadly absent when looking at football matters. It sounds arrogant, but the inability of a club like Rangers to attract the manager of Dundee Utd was a seismic blow to our standing. McLean, then in his mid-forties and at the height of his mercurial powers would have transformed Rangers, had he been allowed. At Utd he had complete control of the football side, it’s unlikely he’d have ever got that at Rangers. Ultimately his loyalty to Dundee Utd and his family, who were settled in the city, is admirable and should be recognised as such. McLean’s refusal led to the second Wallace era. It started well but ended badly. Wallace was unable to craft a side from the ingredients he inherited. Despite some success his tenure went the way of Grieg as crowds fell and mediocrity normalised. There had been a change in the Rangers boardroom too during this time and Wallace’s dismissal, whilst sad, was largely welcomed by the support. The imagination lacking in his appointment a few years before was very much present in the choosing of his successor; Graeme Souness. This is where Jim McLean’s influence on our club is most significantly felt. Souness was wise enough to know he needed someone beside him who understood Scottish domestic football intimately. He chose well, he chose Walter Smith, Jim McLean’s assistant, confidant and consigliere. It’s impossible to overstate the influence McLean had on Walter Smith. Smith was signed from Junior football for Utd by McLean’s predecessor, Jerry Kerr, but it was under McLean that he became a first team regular. Smith stayed there for 9 years, returning for a further 2 as a player following a couple of seasons at Dumbarton. On retirement from playing at the end of the 1970s McLean took Smith onto the coaching staff and he eventually became Dundee Utd’s assistant manager. Smith’s time as a coach coincided with Dundee Utd’s most successful spell. Winning the League Cup twice, reaching the semi-finals of the European Cup and of course winning the league itself. McLean and Smith achieved this with a side largely made up of home grown players and cast-offs. Perhaps the greatest tribute you can pay that United side is that during a period when Scotland were rich enough player-wise to overlook European Cup winning captains for caps, Dundee Utd supplied 5 players to our World Cup final squad for the Mexico finals in 1986, more than any other team. Rangers only supplied one player, two if you include Souness. Smith’s tenure at Rangers needs little embellishment from me here. His long time assistant, Archie Knox, was also a disciple of McLean having played under him in the 70s. I mean no disrespect to McLean’s memory when I point out that Dundee United’s decline as a force in football started after Smith left. There was a time in Scottish football, and it doesn’t feel all that long ago to me, when any one of five clubs could realistically expect to win the league and when an away win at Tannadice was something to be really savoured. Jim McLean belongs to Dundee United, and it’s their supporters who will feel his loss, but we shouldn’t overlook his influence on Rangers, both directly and indirectly. The last 30 years would have been very different without him. Sincere condolences to the family and friends of Jim McLean, a genuine football legend.
  11. I was lucky enough to be given a copy of a new book titled The 50 Greatest Rangers Games by Martyn Ramsay. This is my review of it. We all have a favourite Rangers match, or at least a handful that standout above all the others, but I’m not sure I could rank my top 50 and certainly not in order of importance. So I approached this book with a mix of trepidation and excitement. In a recent edition of When Saturday Comes magazine, the writer, Taylor Parks, talks about the 3 ages of football supporting. The last age is nostalgia; always looking back, comparing everything new to what’s been before. That’s the age I now inhabit. The book ’50 Greatest Rangers Games’, by Martyn Ramsay, is a sepia hued, blue-nose nostalgia-fest, that skilfully avoids rose-tinting the past, while celebrating the seasons, matches, moments and people who have shaped our club and our relationship with it. The premise is simple enough. Ramsay, who is involved in The Time Capsule on the Heart & Hand podcast, asked listeners to select their ten greatest Rangers matches in order of preference. From that a top 50 was created out of over 170 matches suggested. It’s democracy in action and like all democratic decisions it will have its dissenters. Ramsay is self-aware enough to say that this isn’t the definitive list, indeed I’m not sure even he fully agrees with all the matches chosen. It’s certainly not my top 50 and probably not yours either, but it is a wonderful collection of matches from our foundation right up to relatively recently. One of the more enjoyable aspects of these type of lists is disagreeing with them. Announcing to my startled family my incredulity that the Glasgow Cup Final of 1986 is missing, the match where Souness first showed me what could be possible, or why 3 European Finals make it but the other one doesn’t. Then you remember that this isn’t the author’s top 50, this is democracy’s, and, well, democracies don’t always get things right as we know. But I’m being churlish and nit-picking because while you might not agree with every match featured you’ll agree with most of them and you’ll enjoy all of them. Ramsay, wisely, doesn’t regurgitate match reports instead he paints a wider canvas drawing in the context of the game. Most chapters extract a little colour from supporters or players, helping to personalise the occasion. Ramsay even manages to use both Jerry Seinfeld and Albert Camus to aid his description of our first ever match, two great thinkers on one of the most important occasions in sporting history, now that’s inspired. This book isn’t tabloid hackery and it’s not cliche ridden hyperbole hoping to cash in on the blue pound either. The analysis is considered, the context is thoughtful and the overview honest. Not every match was football as poetry, sometimes the occasion was better than the performance and the book doesn’t hide from that. Memory is deceptive mistress. I found myself reading about matches I attended, and thought I recalled vividly, with renewed appreciation. Many of us will easily remember the Gascoignes and the Laudrups but forget that some of the sides Walter Smith wrung performances from were far from laden with superstars. I was astonished to read our bench for the famous Marseille home game in the first ever Champion’s League contained Steven Pressley, Gary McSwegan, David Hagen, Ally Maxwell and a semi-retired Davie Dodds; even I’d have fancied my chances against them as a 5-a-side team. Smith’s teams feature heavily in the top 50, which, as the author recognises, says more about the demographic of his listeners than the 115 or so years that came before Sir Walter’s reign. But I am that demographic and I lapped it up. My unrequited love affair with Ian Durrant was reawakened reading this and it was magical to relive some of his finest moments. There’s a line in the telling of a 1-0 victory over Celtic in 1986; “…amid the usual cacophony of Old Firm heavy metal, Cooper and Durrant managed to produce a moment of pure ballet” that lifts the reader far above the melee. Ramsay has captured not only the essence of that goal but also something deeper, why we, as otherwise normal, sensible middle-aged men and women invest so much of our time, energy and emotion into something that often makes us miserable. Simply, because there are moments that are almost transcendental, and Cooper’s flick and Durrant’s reading of it were that for me. That moment of beauty and joy sit proudly on the credit side of the ledger so often burdened down by financial catastrophe, lower league calamity and signing Ian Black. Many of your heroes are here, although some might be missing. You are reminded just how fortunate we are to support Rangers. Our top 50 contains league titles, domestic and European cup finals and famous victories over other great sides. If the last decade has taught us anything it’s to not take that for granted and to remember it and enjoy it more often. It’s not all victories, there are draws and even losses in this list, a reminder that greatness can be achieved in defeat as well. But Rangers aren’t about defeat, we’re about trophies and this book doesn’t disappoint on that count. The author has evidently done his homework, the amount of research that has clearly gone into every chapter is impressive. For instance I’m not sure I’d ever known that one of the reasons for the banning of the back pass was the amount of time Pat Bonner held the ball during a match at Italia 90. That this indirectly then led to one of our greatest ever victories over Leeds Utd was an interesting insight. Well done Packy! But it’s when writing directly about Rangers that Ramsay excels. It’s not just his study of the matches that shines through, although it does, it’s that this has obviously been a labour of love. There is emotion, warmth, honesty, jubilation, frustration and disappointment in his writing, but most of all there’s love. This isn’t just a book about Rangers, this is a book about a relationship that’s endured for most of his life. Most football supporters will be able to relate to that, but few will be able to express it so well. This book understands football fandom isn’t just about a professional player who is fleetingly wearing a blue jersey and scoring an important goal. It’s about how that makes us feel. Truly great football matches aren’t watched, they’re felt. It’s why I laugh whenever I’m faced with all that ‘new club, Sevco’ gibberish. Only someone who fundamentally doesn’t understand football could think that way. This book understands football. For me, the author has taken these matches and added the soul that's so often missing from written accounts. There’s a paragraph in The 50 Greatest Rangers Games that particularly resonated with me. It comes at the end of his chapter on the 1973 Scottish Cup Final and I’d read it the night before the news of Tom Forsyth’s passing, a match in which he scored a famous winner. Ramsay talks about the connection Rangers creates between generations of the same family and how that shared passion in Rangers allows us to communicate with each other, something we’re not always good at doing. It was a stand out paragraph for me in a book I really enjoyed. I’ll read it again, and I’ll give it to my Dad and to my sons to read too. I encourage you to do the same.
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