Paying Dearly For Our Dignified Silence
As soon as we got to the nitty-gritty bit of the season, with the Gers and Celtic running neck and neck for the SPL title, there was sure to be no lack of controversy, referees' performances would be under the microscope and it will surprise nobody on here that it is the Rangers who suffer. The 69th minute goalmouth melee at Easter Road, with the linesman and referee waving play-on when the ball was across the goal-line, is symptomatic of what our team has been up against for some considerable time.
Anybody who couldn't see it coming obviously hasn't been paying too much attention lately.
On our bus to Edinburgh, the chief topic of conversation was the ref's lack of action against Loevens when he went in late on Maurice Edu at the weekend. The fact that the same thug later had a sneaky off-the-ball dig at Pedro Mendes which went unpunished, leaving him free to play and score against Dundee Hibernian on Tuesday, merely underlines the point. And of course McDonald then had a bad foul on Wilkie disregarded by the ref in that game, leaving us all to wonder where it would end.
Knowing Eddie Smith was in charge of the Hibs game, I voiced the opinion that things were likely to get worse before they'd get better and I wasn't wrong, was I? Martin Cryans was in a perfect position to see the ball cross the line and, as I understand it, was initially about to sprint back to the halfway line when he had second thoughts. That the Hibs player did well to hook the ball out so quickly probably put a slight doubt in his mind but surely match officials need to be assertive and confident in getting it right at the first time of asking. Would he have been so indecisive if it had been Celtic and their double-glazing trashing fans who claimed a goal?
That is where Scottish football is at this moment in time. While Liewell is constantly haranguing the legislators, the Great Unwashed do what they do best, making sure that Celtic get the benefit of every doubt both on and off the pitch.
Yes, I know we didn't start to play at Easter Road until we went a goal down, I know the manager was far too negative in his thinking, I know we've not shown anything like the true qualities which win titles. But neither have our rivals. Unlike us, they have a safety parachute to call into play and, having worked a treat last season, they have every confidence of finishing on top again this time around, whether by fair means or foul. Even if our men had gone about Wednesday's game in the proper manner (and Walter had picked the right team), there is every likelihood that another controversial call would have us growling all the way towards the weekend.
C'mon guys, the game is all about scoring goals, it is what the players are trained to do and, when they do it, it is not unreasonable to expect that they reap the benefits. But without putting too much stress on my fading memory, I can instantly refer to three crucial incidents (Beasley at Pittodrie, Boyd at Motherwell and this week's incident) in which Rangers were robbed of vital goals, decisions which have cost us six crucial points which would have us needing just a draw this weekend to wrap up the flag.
The less said the better about the five points we threw away against Hearts and Caley Thistle in March and I've always had a sneaking fear we might regret downing tools when 5-0 up at half-time against the Inverness lot last November. Come to think about it, didn't Boydie have a perfectly good goal disallowed that day too? I've not even touched on the decisions which have gone in Septic's favour but can you picture the outcry if they were on the receiving end of such shocking incompetence?
And therein lies the reason why we are again playing catch up when we should be in the driving seat, possibly even having the thing done and dusted already.
Nobody at Ibrox is prepared to face up to those who are consistently sticking the boot into Rangers. Whether it be SPL match delegates with a selective hearing disorder, discredited journalists who have long since abandoned the hidden agenda for a full-frontal assault on our club, the incompetent and corrupt clowns who pass for referees in this country, or opposing players, managers and directors with nothing but contempt for their opposite numbers at Ibrox, they all know they can do their worst without any fear of being held to account by anyone within the Rangers hierarchy.
That is what you get when you roll over meekly over the singing of the Billy Boys, it is what you get when you allow Celtic to grab the moral high ground in the sectarianism debate, clearing the way for their OTT response to the Famine Song, it is what you get when you say nothing in response to the cancellation of an Old Firm game in bogus circumstances, it is what you get when you allow a one-man integrity committee to take control of end-of-season fixture congestion on the pretext that his team is committed to a non-existent tour and it is what you get when disreputable politicians, both local and national, can demonize our great club without fear of reproach.
I'm still hoping we can come out of all this at the top of the heap but anything we achieve will undoubtedly be against the odds. Sure, scoring a few against a piss poor Aberdeen team should be well within our capabilities on Saturday but I just can't imagine the Hibs fans cheering as loudly if their lot manage to get a result on Sunday. And as I expect the Jambos to wrap up third place at the weekend, it wouldn't surprise me to see them putting out a patchwork side on the last day of the season, while Levein will no doubt remind his Arabs of their defeat in last season's League Cup Final, making sure they bite and scratch for everything against us. The circumstances of their exit from the same competition at the semi-final stage (and Septic's swoop for the player who missed the crucial penalty) have long since been forgotten.
Of course, looking for favours from anyone is not the Rangers way. It never has been and it never should be. Motivation to see the Premier League Championship trophy draped in red, white and blue ribbons should be more than enough to see to it that our players approach their remaining games with the proper outlook. If it isn't, they should be looking for a new line of work but they, like me, will surely be wondering if playing well and winning both games fairly will be enough.
Not so very long ago, the Rangers Supporters Trust issued their 'we deserve better' statement and only those who are happy to see our club in decline, gloating over things in their republican slop houses or sneering at our disenfranchised support via newspaper columns or radio rants, can argue with those sentiments. Sadly, while our club is managed at every level by a Hear-no-evil, See-no-evil, Speak-no-evil regime, I have to ask: What chance have we got? When seeing the ball cross the goal-line is not enough to merit a goal, the response has to be: Not a lot!
The Rangers F.C. is not in safe hands.