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  1. perfect storm noun [ C, usually singular ] UK /ˌpɜː.fekt ˈstɔːm/ US /ˌpɝː.fekt ˈstɔːrm/ "an extremely bad situation in which many bad things happen at the same time" If we go back a fortnight, then things looked fairly good for Rangers supporters. Despite an unfortunate ref-affected draw away at Easter Road, we'd just beaten PSV in the Netherlands to qualify for the Champions League group stages for the first time in 12 years. It seemed the associated monies would allow us to strengthen our squad further to allow us to not only maintain a domestic title challenge but to compete - at least to an honest, hard-working degree - in Europe. After ten year in the doldrums and a slow, slow return to the pinnacle of Scottish football, including our 55th title two seasons ago and an incredible run to the final of the Europa League last term, was the fabled 'journey' back to being Scotland's best finally complete? Just two weeks later the answer appears to be a resounding no. Of course that response is rather flippant. Yes, we've come back over a decade, under various very difficult circumstances, to the top division and have been successful again. Yes, the club is going to post the kind of impressive financial results we've not seen for the better part of 20 years. And, yes, all concerned deserve more than huff-taking when the going may get tough once more. In that respect, surely we've learned by now that patience can be a virtue? With that in mind, I think the current Rangers board - or at least elements of it - deserve our composure. These people have put in vast amounts of their own personal fortunes to allow the club a platform to compete again. Under some impossible to predict situations (a global pandemic and war in Europe), they've provided steady leadership and investment needed to keep the club on an even keel. They can't guarantee success and we should all know by now we cannot afford to take risks with our finances. However, that should also not mean no criticism. In that sense, mistakes are being made and there are issues which they seem to struggle with. MyGers, ticketing portals, commercial partnerships, stadium facilities, PR, scouting, football operations and more all have valid concerns from supporters with few clear answers. Customer engagement is constantly highlighted but not visibly improved whilst fans are asked for more and more money - themselves affected by worsening fiscal pressures. No matter, if things are going well on the park, oftentimes such issues can be masked or at least endured as a necessary part of maximising investment into the team itself. Winning our 55th title in 2020/21 did that. And, despite not enough improvement in the squad, reaching Seville last season did the same. Moreover, early transfer activity this summer allowed further optimism for a new campaign. The signings of Colak, Tillman, Lawrence and Matondo in particular seemed to pacify most supporters - even if there were some doubts about the composition of our midfield and depth in attacking areas. No matter, the season started fairly well - not overly impressive - but results good enough to, well, mask any issues that did seem to be developing. The fitness and attitude of Alfredo Morelos was a major indicator of problems in the dressing room with a not altogether convincing explanation from the manager around squad support for the Colombian's effective suspension. Only an awful away performance in Belgium pointed to a deeper malaise but surely that was a one-off? Unfortunately the last fortnight has seen problems escalate. No further additions to the squad despite CL qualification surprised most fans and subsequent humiliations at Parkhead and in Amsterdam have made that decision look questionable at best. Meanwhile supporter frustration with services from the club has worsened - increased ticket prices, poor payment structures, travel concerns and a club apparently unwilling to engage on any of the above has seen fractures develop. Perhaps understandably (but nonetheless wrongly) fan media with Men's team press access are blamed by some whilst the players, coaches and directors seem to shrug their shoulders to any sort of accountability. On the park has seen our last two matches lost by four goals which could easily have been double. Players look lost in a tactical sense but, worse, many are clearly disinterested and unwilling to do the hard yards - evidenced by Ajax running a combined 6km more than our players in Wednesday's rout. Previously reliable players can't do the basics right and others are shirking responsibility at every opportunity. Few, if any, can say they're doing what's asked of them. Meanwhile, player after player, is suddenly now injured and rarely do we hear why or when they will return. If we're entirely honest with ourselves, all this points to a manager struggling to cope. Even so, I've followed Rangers for the better part of 40 years and rarely is that path a smooth one. Back in the glory years of 9IAR, doubts were still abound. Our European efforts were usually poor, our investment into the team inconsistent and often wasteful, and future planning not to be found under the now discredited David Murray. There were good times and bad, and everything in between so trying to predict what happened next was usually a fool's errand. As such, it could be argued there's some over-reaction now. A win on Saturday at Aberdeen and a positive result against Napoli next Tuesday would help. The return from injury of various players will also make the squad look that bit stronger and allow for under-performing players to be dropped. The end is not necessarily nigh. Yet... that takes us back to the point above about issues being masked. There are clearly problems at the club and we cannot allow results - bad or good - stop us from examining them more closely. Yes, the board should expect our support through good times and the bad but if there are complications then let's work together to address them - don't keep us at arm's length. Involve us, be open and perhaps we can help further. Don't do what David Murray and subsequent spivs did by patronising us and pitting bear against bear through misinformation. In closing, we're in somewhat of a perfect negative storm right now with Rangers. It might well pass but it's fair to say we've not prepared well for it and seem to have no idea what to do. Such moments require clear, decisive leadership and not only does the manager take responsibility for that, so does the chairman and his appointments. The fans have backed you to the hilt in recent years. Do not take that for granted or the storm could easily get much, much worse.
  2. I'm really pleased to let everyone know that we've been provisionally offered B team and Women's team media access for this season - hopefully as a first step to Men's team access in the future. I realise that family/work commitments and geography may rule several contributors out of volunteering to cover matches (myself included) but if anyone is interested then I'd be happy to back anyone who would like to attend any matches. Obviously those who are able to cover these games would then get priority for any future first team access. For information, the Rangers B team will be playing home matches at Dumbarton again this season and the Women's team will play at Broadwood. If you're interested (or perhaps have a friend or relation that might be), please get in touch to find out more...
  3. https://www.gersnet.co.uk/index.php/news-category/current-affairs/1528-from-regrets-to-rebuilds This time two weeks ago, I was full of excitement. I was in Spain, had my Europa League final ticket confirmed and Wednesday evening could not come quick enough. A fortnight later and, as much as our Scottish Cup winning efforts should not be downplayed, regret remains an unavoidable daily emotion. Time for some cathartic writing… First and foremost, losing to Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville hurt badly. Yes, the players gave their absolute all in difficult circumstances: the temperature was stifling but, more importantly, no Morelos or Roofe undoubtedly cost us – even if the German side were tactically clever and ultimately deserving of the trophy. Of course, we can be proud of our efforts in reaching the final and being just one kick short of lifting it (be it by the foot of Goldson, Kent or Ramsey) is something I doubt any Rangers supporters would have envisaged last summer. However, losing the reward of winning the competition – both in a prestige and in a financial sense – just made the initial disappointment worse. Beating Hearts at Hampden soothed that Spanish hangover for a few hours but the sore head is still there. Season 2021/22 was an interesting one in many ways. Failing to secure Champions League group stage football was an early blow and, despite some inconsistent form in the first half of the campaign, losing Steven Gerrard was equally painful as we still topped the table. The board acted quickly and Giovanni van Bronckhorst was a popular replacement. Initial results were decent, performances improved and only a rejigged fixture list stopped our momentum at a crucial stage by the end of 2021. Post winter break, the outlook (domestically at least) quickly changed. Celtic strengthened their squad immediately whilst we left it very late in the window and could only bring in loan players. On the face of it Ramsey and Diallo’s reputations suggested quality whilst the potential of James Sands replaced that of the departing Nathan Patterson. Again, most fans were happy but draws with Aberdeen and Ross County before a humbling to a resurgent Celtic meant that by the end of February and further dropped points at Tannadice the league appeared beyond us. Already fans were questioning Gio and their concerns had some merit. To his credit, our efforts in Europe and progress in the Scottish Cup were maintained and, indeed, improvement amongst the squad amidst more tactical flexibility became more obvious. Wins over Dortmund, Red Star, Braga and Leipzig in the Europa League impressed whilst a vital Scottish Cup semi victory over Celtic and a credible draw at Parkhead in the league showed that whilst we could not retain our SPFL title, we still had enough quality to make a renewed future challenge. Nevertheless, with only the Scottish Cup to show for our 65 game endeavours, it is difficult to make the case season 2021/22 was a success. No matter these regrets though, we must move on and this summer has to be a busy one throughout the club. As it stands, a cursory look at the squad still shows a decent one on paper. However, if we delve a wee bit deeper then uncertainty seems to be the prevailing feeling. Various players are (or are soon to be) out of contract whilst several more are moving into their last year. This is the case from the goalkeeper to the attack. First team regulars McGregor, Goldson and Balogun are about to be out of contract. Meanwhile, Helander, Jack, Aribo, Kent and Morelos will be this time next year. Only John Souttar has been confirmed as incoming with Arfield and Davis extending their deals by a year as well. This means the football department has a conundrum on their hands and it needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. As seems to have happened with Connor Goldson do they allow shorter contracts to run down and try to get the best out of these players over one final season? Alternatively, do they sell now for reasonable sums to reinvest monies into replacements? Can they persuade them to sign new deals to deliver squad continuity ahead of further CL qualifiers on the horizon? One of the biggest positives in having a Sporting Director such as Ross Wilson is to minimise such headaches. Along with Andy Scoulding, Wilson is tasked with ensuring recruitment remains efficient and contracts an ongoing budgetary juggle. As such, it is an undoubted frustration that so many key players are in the same uncertain contractual situation with minimal clarity on their future. By mid-June, tens of thousands of fans will have renewed their season tickets and most will do so in anticipation of squad improvement. Add in the funds secured via the departure of Gerrard and Patterson as well as the substantial income generated by our run to Seville, it is safe to say supporters won’t be sated by further loan deals. Ramsey and Diallo appeared exciting but both lacked any sort of substance so whilst that need not mean the right loan at the right price can’t work, the emergence of home-grown players like Lowry and King should see less reliance in such gambles. Similarly, the overall contribution of some players has to be examined. For example, the quality of players like Helander, Jack and Roofe per se can be defended but their unfortunate injury records cannot. In addition to that, as much as experience in the dressing room is always welcome, how often should a Davis or Arfield appear ahead of a McCann or Lowry? Where is the line between stifling talent and properly developing it? Overall, the arguable first XI this season was McGregor, Tavernier, Goldson, Bassey, Barisic, Jack, Lundstram, Kamara, Aribo, Kent and Morelos. Add in five preferred deputies in Balogun, Davis, Arfield, Sakala and Roofe then only a few at best of these 16 players are likely still to be here for the season after next. That is a huge (and costly) turnaround over the next 12 months and will need to be carried out over the next three windows to offer some semblance of continuity. With that in mind, Wilson’s remit has never been more vital – both logistically and financially. The likely record-breaking income (though not clear profit!) from season 2021/22 and from any summer sales should offer enough working capital to make several signings up front and perhaps extend the deals of one or two existing players. Guaranteed Europa League group stage football at a minimum should also allow further changes in January with the opportunity for more next summer. I would be pleasantly surprised if we’ll need to book complicated journeys again for European finals in Istanbul, Budapest or even Prague next May but positive runs in at least one of these competitions will help balance the books outwith essential player purchases. In conclusion, I started this editorial with understandable regret from recent events. However, just over 1000 words later, and even with the uncertainty surrounding the squad, the excitement of the inevitable rebuild and the opportunity to see new players at Ibrox next season means I’m now looking ahead to what we can expect in season 2022/23. As always, the league title should take priority and we simply must offer more consistency and quality domestically but the European adventures of recent seasons and the necessary monies gained from such can be considered almost as important. Even so, no matter what we consider success or the context around it, the time for looking back has gone. The next step is now vital and we cannot stand still. In some ways, that was a fair criticism of the club last summer so it cannot be this season. We must move forward and with genuine authority.
  4. If 2022 could have started any worse for Rangers fans, then I think only avoiding defeat against Stirling Albion in the Scottish Cup counts. Draws away to Aberdeen and Ross County and our long unbeaten run blown into smithereens with as bad a performance as we’ve seen at Parkhead in many a year means not only have we dropped seven points in the four league games this year, we’ve now surrendered our position at the top of the table to Celtic as well. What has gone wrong? I’d imagine we’d all have our own opinions on that – personnel wise at least. However the bringing forward of the winter break is arguably the biggest factor. Yes, we weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders through December but we did win all six league games and only Lyon managed to score against us in the Europa League. Meanwhile key players like Morelos and Kent seemed to be finding some much-needed form, confidence was high and we were going into games with Aberdeen and Celtic as favourites. The three week break stopped that momentum and it’s fair to say we’ve not got going again since. Nevertheless, the break cannot be used as excuse – quite the opposite in fact. For one thing, when Gio arrived in late November, fans were worried he’d not have time to bed in with a tricky run of games in December. However, the Dutchman started well and his ‘keep the zero’ mantra as well as scoring more goals meant our form was healthy. Yes, a premature break was disagreeable but it allowed us to regroup, get injured players fit and work on tactics under the new manager. One or two players were going to be missing through international duties but there’s something far wrong if a 26-man squad can’t cope with the loss of a few players. Unfortunately, struggle we have and the loss of confidence right through the side appears stark in the last week or two. From the goalkeeper, through the defence, midfield and attack, it’s difficult to point to any player and say they’ve turned up in 2022. McGregor had a nightmare in Dingwall, the full backs were appalling at Parkhead, the centre backs seem unable to communicate, our midfield is non-existent, our wingers rarely beat their man and our strikers lack presence. All in all, if there is a system to speak of it’s not working. We carry a minimal threat and ‘keep the zero’ seems to have instilled a defensive mindset in periods of matches that is now difficult to shake off. Last night’s game at Parkhead summed much of these criticisms up. The starting XI was one many supporters (yours truly included) predicted and wanted. It was a strong line-up, one with attacking intent and a defence more than capable of providing the platform. Yet, almost immediately Celtic forced us back and it quickly became evident, we could not contain our hosts. Worse, as is becoming a habit this year so far, it was very difficult to suggest a Rangers player that did their job. Substitutes Ryan Jack and Leon Balogun undoubtedly steadied the ship but, by that time, Celtic players were smoking cigars. In retrospect, it’s easy to criticise our starting line-up and I’m happy to concede I under-estimated the opposition. If we had to contain Celtic in the first half, then a double-pivot should have been deployed but, if not, why were so many players incapable of following instruction? Celtic could have driven a bus through either flank and, even when we did get the ball, in possession we were so weak – mentally and physically – it was obvious we didn’t believe in our own abilities. So much so, waiting until half-time to make changes resulted in the game being out of our reach by the time the whistle did go. What now for the team? Well, that’s a very difficult question to answer. It’s fair to say the honeymoon period for the manager is now well and truly over. But, it’s also fair to say, all is not lost yet and that must be the mindset going forward, even if our next two matches against Hearts and Hibs won’t be easy. With both games at home and the return of the hugely missed Alfredo Morelos, the Rangers camp simply must remain positive over the next week in particular. Yes, losing our place at the top of table hurts but everyone, from the manager to the players and supporters should use that hurt, that palpable pain of an Old Firm humbling, to turn things around. Of course that can be easier said than done so it will be interesting to see how the manager achieves it. Does he change his system back to something more familiar to the players? Does he make wholesale changes to his personnel and, if so, who is dropped? And, who among the squad will show the leadership qualities required to change our fortunes? One thing is for sure these players are capable. Right through the squad, we have more than enough talent to win us games and many of them demonstrated this last season. The addition of Aaron Ramsey will help and, whilst Amad Diallo had a dreadful evening against Celtic, he won’t be the last to do that. Both come with impressive reputations but their profile won’t be enough to deliver results. Effort, humility and teamwork will also be required and that goes for all of the existing squad. The winning of league title 55 is still fresh in the memory for many of us and shows what remains possible for this group of players. Delivering a 56th title will now be much more difficult but that challenge should be something successful players crave and face head-on. The next few weeks will show if last season was a one-off and if a genuine winning mentality is something we can rely on at Rangers. At this point I could conclude with a suitable Bill Struth quote but I’d rather Gio and his team made their own history. I cannot wait to get back to Ibrox on Sunday afternoon – I hope the players are making their way onto the training pitch today with the same hunger, determination and belief.
  5. @Rick Roberts challenges Nil By Mouth hypocrisy: https://www.gersnet.co.uk/index.php/news-category/current-affairs/1435-negatives-by-mouth
  6. When Rangers were beating all and sundry in Scotland (and occasionally further beyond) in the 1990s on our run to 9IAR, life couldn't have been better for many Rangers fans. In those days, I felt invincible. I was in my mid-teens, playing at a decent level myself and, even though that meant I didn't get to many Rangers games in person, my club's almost constant success gave me a life confidence that only football fans might understand: a swagger, a gallusness and a self-belief that took me from being a child into adult-hood. As such, when people talked about the death of Walter Smith as being like the loss of their second father, I can identify with that. Of course he wasn't by my side on a day-to-day basis but his management of Rangers was an example of how I could lead my life. And the success he brought our club, seemed to transfer itself to my own outlook. I was lucky enough to meet him once during that period. Ahead of a Victory Shield decider with England at Ibrox in 1992, Walter and Archie Knox were invited into the dressing room to give us an extra team-talk whilst Brian McAlinden (later made a CBE himself) stood aside. Archie did most of the talking but I remember Walter looking us all directly in the eye as we walked out. My football career ultimately fizzled out some time later but that moment will live with me forever. After I stopped playing, I bought my first season ticket in 1999/00 so by the time Walter returned in 2007, life was somewhat different for us all. I was now married, my first daughter was on the way and, despite not having the same success as in the 1990s, Rangers were arguably a bigger part of my life than it had ever been before. As well as being an RST board member, this website was increasingly popular meaning Walter Smith was again a key presence in my life. Again, not standing by me day-to-day but someone I listened to and again admired. On the field at that time, the Rangers team perhaps lacked the individual brilliance of players like Laudrup, Gascoigne and McCoist from his first spell but Walter was quickly able to put his usual pragmatic stamp on the squad in terms of building a successful team. That led us to the UEFA Cup final of 2007/08 in his first full season back and onto three league titles in the following three seasons which, in many ways, were just as impressive as the run he gave us in the previous decade. In that second spell, he proved 9IAR was no fluke, wasn't bought as some critics claimed and that he could stand toe-to-toe with anyone in any dugout. His legendary status was confirmed. As such, when Walter retired in 2011, the loss was immediately felt. Ally McCoist is an incredible man - one I admire more with every time he commentates on football - but he was unable to transfer his quality as a player into management. Events off the park would also take their hold and none of us need reminded of the disappointments of the last decade. In that vein both Ally and Walter would try to help but the frauds associated with the club by then would defeat even their efforts. I contributed to and edited a book on these difficult times and Walter provided the foreword - he didn't know myself or the other editors but he gave his time for nothing because he was a concerned fan like us. It took ten long years before the club would win the top league championship again and in Steven Gerrard we have another winner like Walter. Gerrard also played at the highest level in a very different era - a modern game of money, agents and glamour. Yet, Gerrard is clearly a family man too, equally admired by his peers and, whilst it is too early to say if he'll have the same long and successful association with Rangers as Walter did, delivering our club's 55th title was as important as any of Walter's successes. With that in mind, Gerrard's interview discussing Walter's passing was an emotional one. Steven Gerrard is an indomitable icon of modern football but was brought publicly to tears by the loss of a humble man from Carmyle in Glasgow. Indeed, the tributes from all over the world - sport, politics, TV and film - show just how much of a colossus Walter was. A true giant of world football. That's how I'll remember him. I also believe that his guiding hand will be there for Rangers forever. And for all of us, too.
  7. 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
  8. 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)
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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!
  15. 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.
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