Following a mediocre November culminating in a dreadful team performance in a 2-0 away defeat to Hearts, It would have been fair to say that not many Rangers fans seen much cause for cheer in the run up to the festive period - particularly with Aberdeen and another Hearts fixture looming on the near horizon.
However, in an amazing display of “bouncebackability” Rangers duly dispatched both opposing teams at Ibrox with relative ease. Not only that but in the process seemed to find a level of performance that very few fans prior to these fixtures seen coming. Both home wins were quickly followed by a well-earned 3 points at Hamilton, which together with Aberdeen and Hearts failing to record victories seen Rangers open a gap of 7 points to our 3rd place rivals - albeit Aberdeen still have a game in hand.
The inclusion of Hodson at right back with Tavernier pushed into midfield makes Rangers harder to beat as he leaves less space for forwards to drive into and the difference in the two Hearts games when watching Tavernier and then Hodson at right back was night and day. Hodson is not averse to getting forward but is easily the more defensively minded of the two. While there may be doubts about Tavernier’s long term suitability in his new found midfield role, turning some of his marauding runs into goals will do him no harm at all in his effort to cement a position there.
The main source of festive cheer for Rangers fans however, must surely be the return to form of McKay and Waghorn - goal scoring form in Martyn Waghorns case. While Joe Garner remains somewhat of an enigma with his work rate, endeavour and ability to win aerial challenges a major strong point, there is no escaping the fact that he was signed as Rangers centre forward. 3 goals in 15 appearances in the league is not a good return for any centre and Rangers desperately need someone to take the chances the team have been creating. If Martyn Waghorn can embark on the type of goal scoring form we seen from him up till his injury last season, then far more Rangers games will not be the “squeaky bum time” affairs we have almost become accustomed to recently.
The Celtic fixture on Saturday 31st December 2016 would be a nice time for Waghorn to have found his scoring touch. While the Intervening games against Inverness and away to St Johnstone are important fixtures in the Christmas calendar, and having no wish to detract from Mark Warburtons commendable “one game at a time” ethos, this particular Old Firm game will be the first time Rangers have played Celtic at Ibrox since Sunday 25th March 2012. Ally McCoist was in charge of Rangers and Craig Whyte was still the owner of the club. So much has happened in the intervening, tumultuous years, both on and off the park, that it almost defies description. However, one thing has not changed and that is the desire of the Rangers support to beat our oldest rivals at our home ground in the premier old firm fixture of the season - just as we did at the last one nearly 5 years ago. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
While it is doubtful Rangers can equal the feat of the corresponding wartime fixture in 1943 where Rangers demolished Celtic 8-1, should Mark Warburton and his team pull off a victory, I can think of nothing else that would help Rangers fans bring in the New Year in a better manner.