Category: Cups

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.


Category: Cups

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.

Category: Cups

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.

Category: Cups

Reality Check

In the run up to the recent Scottish Cup tie against Kilmarnock at Ibrox, the media narrative was largely made up of the fact that the only other time Rangers had played Premiership opposition this season, against St Johnstone, we had come up short in a 1-3 home defeat. It begged the question as to how Rangers would handle a side who are struggling in the Premiership and had recently sacked their manager? Had the team learned any lessons from the St Johnstone defeat or would it be another "reality check" for Rangers when they come up against decent opposition? Well, it was indeed a reality check, but not in the way most people imagined.

The reality was that after a fairly tame first half, where both teams could have scored with Tavernier smacking the post and Kilmarnock’s Craig Slater smacking Foderingham with the ball full in the face from close range when it looked easier to score. Rangers settled down and completely dominated the second half. A tempting Tavernier free kick with no takers, a Halliday shot superbly turned round the post, a Wilson header crashing off the cross bar, Forrester's  shot skewing wide and Waghorn's miscontrol after some superb wing play from McKay, were only some of the chances that on another day could have gone in and would have provided a truer reflection of the dominance of Rangers in the second half. The reality was that Mark Warburton's side can play against Premiership teams with no need to compromise their style of play, other than play a holding midfielder – a job ably done by Dominic Ball on the day. The reality was that this Rangers team were a better team than their Premiership opponents and had reduced them to "parking the bus" across the Copland Road end goalmouth.

However, another uncomfortable reality for Rangers fans is surely the fact that whatever the second half dominance, Rangers have it all to do again because of an inability to capitalise on the numerous chances created. Additionally, Kilmarnock showed they can defend in numbers and do themselves pose an occasional attacking threat. The game could easily have gone badly if Slater had found the net rather than Foderingham's face at the end of the first half. Rangers will have to be  patient, defend well and be far more clinical in front of goal if we are to progress.

The prize is surely worth it though, with a home fixture against Dumbarton or Dundee awaiting. Given the recent Scottish Cup draw debacle which was broadcast live on Sky, I suppose we should be thankful we didn’t end up with Galatasaray away.

Written by cushynumber