• A Wasp in the Ointment

    Alloa Vs Rangers

    There are so many stupid, amusing and downright ridiculous quotes by football players, managers and football panelists that is difficult sometime to pick out the most laughable. However, sometimes there is a message in what they are saying, trying desperately to get out. In attempting to come to terms with the recent 1-1 draw with Alloa at the renamed Indodril Stadium,  three “Colemanballs”, as these sporting quotes are now known, struck a chord:  "Most goals are scored between the posts" from Jamie Redknapp; Alan Shearer's "We haven't been scoring goals,  but football's not just about scoring goals. It's about winning", and Chris Waddle's  "That was a great finish, but you could say it wasn't a great finish because it didn't go in".

    All three successfully managed to mangle the English language in an attempt to say the same thing:if you don’t score, you won’t win football matches. For the second time in a few days Rangers have found out to their cost that despite almost surreal amounts of possession, chances created, corners, shots on target - in fact, any stat you care to mention -  they are all completely irrelevant alongside the score line at the end of 90 minutes.

    In a game of absolute Rangers dominance, where, for a spell at the end of the second half it appeared that the entire Alloa team was standing on their own goal line, Rangers managed to somehow end up  chasing a game that should have been out of sight by half time. Nobody can disagree with Mark Warburtons understated  summary of the game: “We have to be more clinical in front of goal to get the rewards for all of our good work.”

    This is easier said than done, though. Rangers appear to have developed an increasing tendency to overplay in and around the opposition box and are always looking for an extra touch or pass. Martyn Waghorn - who  has scored 27 goals this season - has now not scored in 5 matches. Alarmingly, Waghorn appeared short of confidence before being subbed in the 65th minute. This mini slump is doubly concerning as there is some distance between him and the next goal scorers in line:  Kenny Miller on 12 goals and James Tavernier on 11. Miller has never been the most prolific of strikers and Tavernier is a right back. The culmination of this dearth of goals is that Rangers have only scored two goals in three games so far in February, which is the lowest number of goals in any three match spell this season. The dependence on Waghorn to find the back of the net has never been starker and the sooner he regains his goal scoring touch, the happier all concerned with Rangers will be.

    On a positive note, Michael O’Halloran, although on the periphery of the action in the first half, put in an excellent second half display on the right wing filled with power and pace which was capped by a fine finish to equal the score. Billy King also gave the Wasps defence a torrid time when he was introduced . Both new signings would surely be certain starters against Kilmarnock if they were not cup-tied and will be a vital part of the title run in.

    As for the home side, well, every decision regarding reduction of pitch width and “park the bus” tactics was validated by the result they secured. They need only point to the score line to justify their actions. Ultimately, Alloa adjusted the size of the pitch, not the size of the goalmouth and Rangers can blame no-one but themselves for dropping two points. The players need look no further than David Coleman - the man who was the inspiration for the term “Colemanballs” -  and one of his most famous quotes, to learn a salutatory lesson from Saturdays performance:

     “If that had gone in” he once said, “it would have been a goal”.

    Written by cushynumber

  • As one door closes…

    As one door closes…

    The Petrofac cup is not the most prestigious trophy to be won by Rangers, though it has certainly been the most irritating. Failure to win it in the past few seasons has been nothing short of embarrassing to the extent that a minor trophy had taken on a significance which it scarcely merits. However, all that was put to bed on Sunday as Rangers finally lifted the trophy with a relatively convincing and largely one sided contest against Peterhead on a playing surface that’s a disgrace to the Scottish football authorities and the National Stadium.

    This trophy becomes a footnote in Rangers history and with promotion from the Championship emphatically secured, two trophies in one week is a fitting bookend to Rangers travels through the lower divisions. However, competing in the Championship or the Petrofac cup is not something that Rangers fans should wish Rangers to be involved in again and this chapter in Rangers long history must be resoundingly closed behind us as we move on to bigger and better things.

    As the luck of the draw would have it, bigger and better things await just around the corner in the shape of the latest Old Firm Scottish Cup Semi Final, with Sky Sports recent visit to Auchenhowie providing an excellent advert for Rangers as part of the build up to this match. Unlike the last one sided, embarrassing affair, this match up promises to deliver a far more even and entertaining contest, though the recent injury to Forrester combined with the long term injury to Waghorn and the fact that King and O’Halloran are cup tied has left Rangers extremely thin on attacking options. The timing of Forresters injury could not have been worse as the player had found fitness and form at crucial time of the season, culminating in him signing a new 3 year deal.

    However, this is no time for self-pity and it’s worth noting that four of the last five goals scored against top tier opposition in the shape of Kilmarnock and Dundee came from Holt, Wallace,  Halliday and Clark, all of whom are almost definite starters against Celtic. Combine this with Mark Warburtons statement that he will not be compromising Rangers style of play simply because of the opposition and James Taverniers goal scoring resurgence, then there is no doubt Rangers still possess an attacking threat and still have goals in their locker. The concern for many is whether Rangers can defend well enough to keep the opposition at bay. Again, though, harking back to the same games against Premiership opposition, the Rangers defence did not concede a single goal in those three games. Let us all hope for a similarly diligent  display on Sunday.

    Regardless of the way the match goes, this game will not define Rangers season. It has already been a resounding success in so many ways both on and off the park and one poor result - even against our oldest foes - should not detract from that. However, it would be fruitless to deny desperately wanting to win this match for any number of reasons, though it shouldn’t be forgotten in all the build-up hullabaloo that with victory would come a Cup Final and a potential doorway back to European football with entry to the Europa League.

    All it needs is this Rangers team to step through.

  • Hampden Riot, 2016: The SFA Must Pay

    Hampden Riot, 2016: The SFA Must Pay

    Rangers Hibs SFA

    If you're looking to apportion blame to any party for the disgusting scenes witnessed at Hampden at the end of Hibs' dramatic victory, look no further than the host's themselves.

    Article 28.2 of the Scottish Football Association's Articles of Association states: "A recognised  football  body  which  is  directly  responsible  for  organising  a  match  under  its jurisdiction  shall  [likewise; in reference to Article 28.1]  take  all  such  steps  as  are  reasonably  practicable  to  ensure  the  safety, good  conduct  and  behaviour  of  spectators  at  such  match."

    As suggested by Rangers, in a exceptional strongly worded statement on Sunday, the Scottish Football Association have failed to do everything as reasonably practicable to ensure the safety and behaviour of all spectators at Hampden during the Scottish Cup final.

    Even though it was the supporters of Hibernian who instigated all of the illegal actions, ultimately blame and responsibility cannot lie with them, or their club. If you were to create a 'WHY' tree, often used within the game of Health and Safety to investigate unsafe acts and incidents, the SFA would be at top of the tree.

    • A minority of Rangers supporters entered the pitch and engaged in fighting with a minority of supporters of Hibernian. Why? Because they were being provoked and intimidated by those supporters of Hibernian, some of whom were attacking Rangers' players, staff and fans.
    • A number of Rangers players and staff were assaulted and/or injured by supporters of Hibernian. Why? Because thousands of Hibernian supporters had been allowed to charge on to the pitch to celebrate, and quite a few thugs took that opportunity with both fists.
    • Thousands of Hibernian supporters were allowed to enter the pitch, resulting in damage to the pitch and the goals, on top of the aforementioned assaulting of Rangers' players and staff. Why? Because there was no one there to stop them.
    • The match security arrangements were not fit for purpose, enabling the initial charge by Hibernian supporters to take place. Why? Because the Scottish Football Association did not do all as reasonably practicable to ensure the safety and behaviour of all spectators.

    As well as flaunting their very own Articles of Association, you would have to assume that there will be legal ramifications, and a potential liability claim from Rangers themselves, for the SFA to face. As host's of the Scottish Cup final at Hampden, I think I'm right in saying that the SFA owed a duty of care to all players, staff and officials? As well as to all those well-behaved, and terrified, supporters who remained in the stands (as far as I'm concerned all those who entered the pitch did so at their own risk and are owed nothing as a result). 

    As Rangers also alluded to in their damning statement, the Scottish Football Association have seemingly battened down the hatches, possibly hoping to see out the storm. Presumably all Rangers supporters will be glad to see that Rangers have made it abundantly clear that they will not allow that to happen, even if much of the media continue to seek to change the narrative. After reading the morning papers, it seems that most want to drag all Rangers supporters down to the level of the few hundred violent thugs of Hibernian persuasion, which is unacceptable.

    Rangers themselves, and many who were in attendance, have stated that the minority of Rangers supporters who did enter the pitch only did so following intense provocation and intimidation and to protect their own players. I wasn't at the match, so it's impossible to pass judgement on those who did enter the pitch, but the realist within me can't help but think that there weren't a few thuggish opportunists who just wanted a rammy, and happily took advantage of the police, match security and SFA's loss of control. It's important to make it clear here that I'm not suggesting that Rangers are in the wrong and that are supporters are to blame. It is a basic human nature to lash out when provoked, or intimidated. Any psychologist could tell you that.

    Nor am I suggesting all Hibernian supporters entering the pitch did so to provoke, intimidate and assault. Scotland and Scottish football is littered with hate-fuelled, drunken thugs, and probably always will be. Football always seem to bring out the best and worst in our society and this dramatic and exciting Scottish Cup final was no different.

    So what now?

    Rangers have to ensure that any of our own supporters who went beyond absolutely necessary means of protecting themselves, their players and their staff, are identified and suitably punished for their illegal actions. If we want to regain our place at the top of Scottish football, we have to be exemplary and set the standard. Mindless violence is never acceptable, especially not at a football match.

    Hibernian have to formally apologise to Rangers for the injuries and assaults sustained by their players and staff, as well as the genuine stress and concern experienced by all the Rangers supporters who feared for their safety. It's the very least they should do to try and ensure their famous Scottish Cup win is remembered for what it was within the 90 minutes. Every Hibernian supporter proven to have provoked, intimidated and assaulted must be identified and properly dealt with. 

    The Scottish Football Association have to come out and take full responsibility for the entire terrible event. What hope do they have of creating a safe environment for all football supporters, at all matches, in order to promote and grow the national game in Scotland, if they cannot set the example themselves. 

    Finally, the relevant authorities have to severely punish the Scottish Football Association for this shocking and unacceptable incident.

    The SFA have to pay.

  • Ibrox Quarter-Final on the cards for Rangers

    In the draw for the quarter-final stage of this season's Scottish Cup Rangers, or Kilmarnock, were drawn a home tie facing either Dundee, or Dumbarton. At first glance this draw could appear to be one that all Rangers supporters would have preferred, but that would all depend on who is successful in the replays.

    Dumbarton have visited Ibrox once already this season, losing 4-0 in the process. Rangers have also won twice away from home at The Bet Butler Stadium, including a mightily impressive 6-0 walloping. Presumably all Rangers fans will be hoping Dumbarton can sneak a victory when they visit Dens Park next Tuesday evening, setting up what would appear to be a fantastic opportunity to reach the semi-final stage of the Scottish Cup for the first time since the 2013/14 season. Dundee did not enjoy the easiest of games in Dumbarton but after the match manager Paul Hartley appeared confident of a victory on home turf.

    Assessing Rangers' chances against Dundee is a far trickier task. The last time the two sides met in a competitive fixture was way back in September 2009 at the quarter-final stage of the League Cup. Rangers ran out 3-1 winners on that occasion, going on to win the tournament that season. However, a lot has changed at both clubs in the past five years or so.

    Based on Rangers defensive weaknesses this season, it would be fair to say Rangers supporters could be concerned by the somewhat familiar Dundee strike force. Ex-Gers, Kane Hemmings and Rory Loy, have both been in the goals this season, with 32 goals between them in all competitions thus far. Dundee usually line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Hemmings regularly supplied by Loy, Greg Stewart and the experienced Gary Harkins. As a reward for his recent sparkling form Hemmings was named as the SPFL Premiership Player of the Month for January and would presumably be keen to do serious damage against his former employers.

    However, let's not get ahead of ourselves. The trip to Rugby Park will present a huge challenge to the Rangers. Kilmarnock defended with great discipline on Saturday, successfully clogging up the central area of the pitch, knowing Rangers would pose less of a threat with aerial crosses from wide areas. In attack too Kilmarnock could pose a greater challenge if Josh Magennis was provided better aerial service from the likes of Tope Obadeyi. Obdeyi kept James Tavernier quiet for 60/70 minutes at Ibrox with his dangerous pace, but his crossing left a lot to be desired.

    Let's not forget the advantage lies with the home side when you consider that there is an artificial surface installed at Rugby Park. Hopefully Rangers will be granted permission to train on the pitch before the game and allow the players to get a feel for it, but this is not a given. One year ago Celtic were denied such a request to train on the newly installed surface prior to a game.

    It's safe to assume Mark Warburton won't be looking any further ahead than the replay in Kilmarnock, but you could imagine he would be fairly pleased with the draw.

    Written by The Magic Hatter

  • Not at the Races


    Not at the Races

    Another Old Firm game and another defeat for Rangers.  With  Mark Warburton setting aside his 4-3-3 philosophy for  a more pragmatic 4-4-2 approach in an attempt to make the team harder to beat and avoid another heavy defeat, early signs pointed to a damage limitation exercise for Warburton's team. This proved to be the case and while the score line at the final whistle was not as bad as the 5-1 league game earlier in the season,  this was largely down to a fine display from Matt Gilks on his old firm debut,  combined with no small amount of luck and poor refereeing.

    It wasn’t  5-1 - but it easily could have been.

    Yet another game goes by where some of Warburton's players who are commanding first team starts, appear simply not up to the job at hand. The inclusion of Barrie McKay - when all previous form this season has suggested he didn’t  remotely deserve a starting place -  defies logic. Yet start he did - and was dully subbed after yet another ineffectual display. One wonders how many chances McKay is going to get to try and turn his season around.

    Yet he was not alone. Wallace, Windass, Miller and Halliday made little impact on the game - with Wallace culpable for the goal that Celtic finally got for all their pressure and Windass admitting he “hadn’t  turned up”.  Additionally,  the lack of capable defenders and midfielders on the subs bench was cause for concern as Crooks and Senderos were the only two players who could fill these positions should substitutes be required - and both have barely featured this season.  The chances of either a midfielder or defender  getting replaced on Sunday  were slim to none regardless of how badly they played - and even when an out of sorts Windass was replaced, it was Tavernier that was asked to fill his position as Rangers inexplicably reverted to a 4-3-3 formation to chase a game that hadn’t actually been lost at that stage. While there is no doubt injuries exacerbated this lack of cover in these areas, the rumours of Rossiter's homesickness and  Forrester on a train south before the game, are starting to point to potential problems  arising in the dressing room, which are concerning to hear for the Rangers support.

    Yet even if all these players were fit and well, It is hard to be optimistic when faced with the stark fact that the current squad appears nowhere near challenging Celtic for the top spot.  Previous interviews where Warburton wants Rangers to be “competitive” while Dave King expects to see second place at a minimum only confirm that the Rangers management and directors don’t really expect to be challenging this season either.  Whether you agree with them or not, that is a bitter pill for Rangers supporters to swallow. They have every right to be unhappy and verbal gymnastics from the  manager and directors won’t change that.

    Ultimately, the signings Warburton has made this year have made little or no impact. Ongoing injury problems aside, the Barton/Kranjcar experiment has failed miserably and the uncomfortable fact remains that when Warburton has been provided with decent money he has  signed Joe Garner - a player who has been so ineffectual in a Rangers jersey he is almost anonymous - and Michael O’Halloran, who he now seems loath to play.

    The culmination of this is that serious questions are now being asked of Warburton's ability to manage Rangers. His team selections, his recent  signings and his strict adherence to a formation that leaves the current players  over exposed has resulted in more than just some raised eyebrows.  His saving grace is that there is still a long way to go in this season and another cup to be fought for. Whether Rangers salvage something from it or it sinks into a year of mediocrity may well determine whether or not he is still at Ibrox next season.


  • The Case for the Defence

    The Case for the Defence

    Rangers Defenders

    Since the turn of the year, a large focus on Rangers has been the perceived lack of goals the team has been scoring when contrasted with the possession and chances created. While this is indeed a concern, particularly with the on-going injury to Martyn Waghorn, it’s worth pointing out the obvious – that it’s not just goal scorers that help to win games and titles; defenders  and goalkeepers all have vital parts to play. To that effect the Rangers defence, coupled with the very able Wes Foderingham in goal, appear to have stepped up to the plate at a very crucial time.

    There are a number of factors that are contributing to this new found solidity: Andy Halliday is getting to grips with the defensive side of his role; Ball has been a rock in midfield when required; the positional sense and covering ability of Wallace and Tavernier when the other is attacking has improved; Foderingham has pulled off some crucial saves; the individual errors that were commonplace for the first half of the season appear to have all but disappeared and the teams possession football have all played their part, but the main difference is that Danny Wilson and Rob Kiernan look as if they are becoming a defensive unit and their positioning in relation to one another has improved markedly. As neither is the fastest player on the planet, this positioning is vital. In the first half of the season, it was all too common to see a hopeful ball launched up the park causing chaos in the heart of the Rangers defence as neither Wilson or Kiernan appeared to know what the other was doing. Now they are dealing with this type of ball with relative ease.

    This visible improvement in the Rangers defending is fully backed by the stats: since the new year Rangers have played 13 times for the loss of just 5 goals. Of the 8 games Rangers have played through February and March the team have actually only scored 12 goals but vitally, they have also kept 6 clean sheets, losing only 2 goals.

    In comparison with the improvement in the Rangers, our supposed nearest rivals in the league at the moment (though now in 3rd place)  have lost 12 goals since the turn of the year – 9 of them since the start of February. However, it is the last 3 league games that have made the real difference, as Hibs have shipped 7 goals to Rangers none. The Rangers defence has been watertight, while Hibs dramatic downturn defensively has torpedoed their title ambitions, leaving them 14 points adrift in the title race.

    This is not to suggest the Rangers defence is infallible – far from it. As mentioned previously neither central defender is blessed with pace and the general lack of height within the team leaves Rangers vulnerable at set plays and corners. Both players – particularly Danny Wilson – have struggled mightily at times this season and are still prone to errors. However, credit where credit is due: at a crucial time of the season the excellent form of the centre of the defence has enabled Rangers to win games where the strikers have been struggling to find the net with the regularity they have achieved earlier in the season. Against Dundee in the cup some last ditch tackles from Kiernan helped Rangers to again hold firm and enabled the team to progress against Premiership opposition with relative ease, into a much anticipated Scottish cup semi final against Celtic.

    However, there is no room for complacency. There are 9 games to go in the league, with away games at Falkirk and Hibs among them and the cup semi final looms large on the horizon. Rangers have managed to bag a few goals in the recent cup win against Dundee, but the sooner the team regains their scoring touch in the league, the easier and more entertaining the run in will be and the onus on having to keep clean sheets can be relieved somewhat, with the potential for young players such as Liam Burt to get some game time when little is at stake.

    Until then there is a job to do and a league to be won with the added bonus of a cup semi final against our oldest rivals to be savored. There is a bit of work left to do, before this Rangers defence can rest.

  • Up Periscope!

    Nicky Clark scores against Kilmarnock

    The recent Kilmarnock away game at Rugby Park on Tuesday night clashed with UEFA Champions league football on TV and so for contractual reasons couldn’t be screened live, to the annoyance of many. The Champions league format  has itself been in the press recently  regarding the idea of a select group of teams forming their own elite group of “Champions league “ teams. In counterpoint to this was the mooted formation of an Atlantic league in order to counteract that idea, for teams who would be excluded from the rich boys playground.

    The elite league idea which has been rumoured, appears to be a very short term, business orientated  and clique based view of football.  Despite the already saturation coverage of the Champions league on TV, the novelty of watching Real Madrid versus Manchester Utd has not faded for me quite yet . However, the thought of watching Chelsea  versus PSG does not exactly fill me with anticipation. In fact, the entire idea of a select group of teams constantly competing against each other simply because that’s where the perceived money is for the respective club owners, fills me with one reaction – utter boredom. Where is the audience for a PSG versus Manchester City game outwith their respective cities? These are huge football businesses certainly – but they are not huge football clubs that can boast a worldwide fan base. They simply have extremely rich owners, which has recently catapulted them into the stratosphere of the footballing financial elite. With a select group constantly playing each other, with no relegation or promotion, where teams can only win but never really lose, the appeal can quickly wane. This is an idea that appears to be based on nothing other than the greed of the clubs involved and has the potential to go very stale, very quickly.

    The “Atlantic league” idea, on the other hand, has potential. With the possibility of larger, dispersed  leagues which includes relegation and promotion, it has the capability to have a dynamism and excitement about it that a closed shop “Champions League” can’t match. Some of the clubs mentioned are huge, with demonstrably large fan bases worldwide. As the core of any TV viewing figures are the club fans, it surely wont lack for appeal to TV companies.

    Both ideas have a ways to go, but all this was brought into stark relief during the Kilmarnock game. With the Champions league ties ignored due to complete lack of interest, people were typically listening for snippets of information on the radio while trying to follow RFC twitter feeds to keep up to date with proceedings at Rugby Park;  a somewhat painful process. Then along came the information that fans at the game were streaming proceedings live via the Periscope app. Not only that, but that the viewing figures were amazing  – nearly 20,000 people were watching a Rangers match via a hand held phone. This was higher than the attendance at the Hearts v Hibs game being played  at the same time. The Champions league matches in full HD had been utterly forgotten by tens of thousands of people, in favour of a shaky, dubiously legal,(or so it was thought at the time) camera phone stream.

    There is no clearer way of showing that it doesn't matter how much money some teams have, or what league they play in, or indeed if every other game being played that night is blacked out  - if they are not the team you support then it makes no difference when people  have no interest in watching them.  The legality or otherwise of the stream was essentially rendered immaterial because nobody watching those streams was remotely  interested in the Champions league ties on TV anyway.

    Hearing about the struggle  fans had to go through to get information on the game and hearing about the Periscope streams, it could not have been clearer to me that the true wealth of a club lies in its fan base, not its owners pockets. UEFA should take heed.