Old Firm Preview - Letting them off the hook?

Last updated : 07 January 2005 By Little Boy Blue

Little more than a month after being knocked out of the CIS, knocked off the top of the league and knocked out of Europe, they know they can deliver a telling blow this weekend, one which will seriously damage the mood amongst Bears and again leave us facing a very uncomfortable second half of the season.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Keeping our Scottish Cup campaign
alive beyond Sunday will have FC Semtex on the back foot once more and
they will be seriously concerned about a lasting shift in the balance
of power. Could our players ask for a greater incentive?

Whilst not sharing the widespread doom and gloom which has been evident
on the FF messageboard this week, it is so annoying to find the Gers
facing yet another make or break game at a time when we really should
be approaching each and every challenge with a skip in our step. But
some sloppy performances have again left us trailing in the SPL, Europe
has once more blown up in our faces and yet again financial matters
(thanks again Minty) have seriously depleted the manager’s resources.

On the day the draw landed us with a cup-tie behind enemy lines, I
greeted the news with a clenched fist salute. Having beaten them twice
in ten days, we had nothing to fear. Indeed, I reckoned they were the
ones who would be worrying. After all, who was it who lost their
dignity when we last met?

While I still fancy our chances to, at worst, bring the tie back to
Ibrox, my outlook is now a little more guarded. Without Boumsong, the
manager has to reshuffle the pack and it is clear it will take a major
effort by every man in a blue jersey to keep our Scottish Cup hopes

I trust this is the message Big Eck will be delivering throughout the
countdown to Sunday. Having waited so long to get the upper hand, it
has been infuriating so see the team let the initiative slip so
gutlessly. Points thrown away to Caley Thistle and Dundee United are
simply unacceptable and the defeat from Auxerre was as embarrassing as
any of the gubbings we have suffered in the Champions League over the

Can we expect more of the same as the season unfolds - or will the
Freckled One and his troops produce something special to rekindle the
FF feelgood factor?

Regardless of any transfer activity, our lot must know that Sellick are
the ones with a point to prove. Having won the last two games, there
should be no fear in our dressing-room. Sure, Septic will be hurting
and are certain to stoop to every dirty trick in search of revenge but
this should serve only to make Rangers doubly determined to take it
all, then hit hard in response. Those making their debuts will take a
giant leap towards quick adulation by producing the goods and, having
had an up and down time over the past month, now is as good a time as
any for our team to show that, regardless of recent slip-ups, we are in
for the long haul.

Celebrating Ne’erday in foreign parts spared me much of the agony of
Tannadice and the double-talk of the Boumsong deal. I’d reluctantly
accepted the big man’s departure as inevitable but I was unprepared for
the shock of logging on here to find out we’d struggled to get a 1-1
draw with the Arabs. Can we seriously regard ourselves as title
contenders if we can’t beat Dundee United (or Caley Thistle), while
also selling off the player who is widely recognised as the main man at
the heart of our defence?

Was it really as recently as November 28 that we were celebrating going
to the top of the heap, wallowing in O’Kneel losing the plot and
anticipating Rangers’ continued presence in Europe while the Manky Mob
were left at home? Oh dear, what a mess we have made of things since
then but this weekend presents McLeish and his men with a glorious
opportunity to show they are made of the right stuff. Nobody should
need to tell them of the consequences of capitulation at the Piggery.

Prior to the Auxerre game, I wrote of it possibly being the launching
pad to bigger and better things or the first step on the slippery
slope. We all know what a grim night that turned out to be and there
have been signs that my dark assessment might not be too wide of the
mark. But all will surely be forgiven, maybe even forgotten, if we can
be doing the bouncy with smiles on our faces at the ScumDome on Sunday.

C’mon you Gers, prove me oh so wrong - and have us rubbing our hands in
anticipation of a memorable second half of the season.