Last updated : 11 September 2002 By Grandmaster Suck
Back the team, reap the rewards!

When was the last big match at Ibrox?

Feyenoord? You could say that but I'd say that it lacked two crucial things. First, it was the UEFA Cup which is a kind-of B&Q Cup for Europe and secondly, it was only the first leg of the tie, therefore nothing could really be attained.

When I say big match, I talk of Kiev in 87, Celtic in August 88, Aberdeen in May 91, Leeds in 92 or Marseilles in 92 so I'd go for the 2-2 match against Monaco.

(Admittedly, there's a lack of pre-Souness games there but for this writer, in the first four years of watching Rangers, "big matches" were things like the 2-0 win over Motherwell which qualified for the 86-87 UEFA Cup or a friendly with the touring China XI!)

I say these were huge occasions because of two things :

1) The outcome of these games saw us attain something, whether it be respect in England and Europe (only for a year, but you have to start something to capitalise on it) or putting the vile tims/sheep in their place.

2) The importance of the matches coupled with the expectation and anticipation of the fans seemed to develop Ibrox from a sleepy footballing equivalent of Bridge of Allan on a wet Tuesday night to a vibrant, atmospheric arena fit to accomodate the best support and the best team.

I believe that this evening's fixture against Hearts holds that significance.

Ibrox Stadium is home to the 50,000 Bears who pack the place for every game and not 500 assorted day-trippers who appear in the corner and outsing AND out-support the home 'fans' as many of us complete yet another immaculate 90-minute silence in memory of Craig Paterson!

Perhaps it made more of an impression on me as a youngster but I swear that 25,000 Rangers fans in 1982 made more noise than double that amount today.

But this match is special. We can re-establish ourselves as the team to catch in Scottish football and we must take the chance because there may not be another one. We must put the pressure on Celtic by taking pole position and not giving them an inch and that starts tonight.

After Basle and Motherwell, a few may think that O'Neill's side are a spent force. However, when you consider the quality of opposition in the SPL, a workmanlike tims XI could easily graft out result after result and hardly drop a point, no matter how poorly they play in relation to the solid, if unspectacular side that has won two-in-a-row.

Another point with regards to getting our noses in front. They have stated that they have no funds available for O'Neill to spend so if we get ahead, who can they bring in to change it? Bobby Petta? Neil Lennon? Tom Boyd?

As we found under Walter Smith, it is far easier to keep winning when you are at the top. When you have to play catch-up constantly, like Tommy Burns did and Dick Advocaat did, you tend to slip up more and more.

We must try to re-create the atmosphere of Kiev 87 and back the team all the way. The difference that it can make to the players is enormous. I'm not talking about De Boer, Moore or Ferguson who are reliable and have a lot of experience at the top level either in Scotland or mainland Europe.

I'm talking about the likes of Lovenkrands, Ricksen, Arteta or Arveladze. These are guys who probably fail to see what it means to supporters of Rangers Football Club to gain and maintain the position at the top of Scottish football, even if it is only Hearts on a Wednesday night. (apologies to Rambo only the Jambo!)

So ignore that old bag who looks funny at you when you try to encourage the team, forget the old codger who reckons saying "Play up, Rangers!" at kick-off is enough and stick your leg out for the Subway Loyal if you sit at the end of a row and they run downstairs after deciding that 0-0 on 85 mins is enough.

Scream your heart out for Rangers FC for you are a Rangers fan and if being top of the tree doesn't mean enough to you to cheer on Eck's 11 for 90 mins, then sod off to Asda's at the top of Helen Street and get the messages in or something.

Observe the silence perfectly as a Rangers fan would do and then get ready to give it laldy for 90 minutes. The desired effort from the players should see to it that the opening day disaster at Rugby Park has been nullified.

And how about a word for a guy who has given us the chance to rectify that?


Yours in Rangers,