Who says the Rangers support isn't a broad church? I had a spot of dinner last Friday evening in the company of some fine Rangers men and eclectic would not be too strong a word used to describe the spectrum of views held around the table.
For those who would doubt me, let's just say that there are not many occasion when you will find our very own 'SM' and normal people sharing a fillet steak and a creme brulee.
The talk last Friday, naturally, was of the following day's Scottish Cup final. I happened to have on me a cutting from that day's Evenin' Tims and the Down Memory Lane column was Bob Crampsey looking back at the previous OF Scottish finals in his lifetime.
Picture No 6 is of Rangers players running away to celebrate Tam Forsyth's winner in 73. In the background you can clearly see loads of Rangers fans celebrating the goal in the main stand at Hampden. This I may remind you all is at the Celtic end.
This prompted me to tell the table that apparently there were a couple of thousand Rangers fans in the Celtic end at the 63 cup final replay. Another attender confirmed this and for good measure threw in the aside that there were pockets of Rangers fans in the Celtic end at both the 66 and 69 Cup finals for good measure.
After the eats, I had to go to Rutherglen and pick up my briefs for the following day and at this point I would like to pay tribute to 'The Toryglen Trueblues' for their sterling work this year on behalf of the Clipton Handicapped School in Renfrewshire. Their annual club dance last Friday night along with assorted raffles etc, saw them collect £3,000 exactly for that particular charity.
They say that charity seeks no reward and that is the Toryglen Trueblue philosophy to perfection. They could have got The Rangers Snooze involved. You know the usual drill cameras, big cheque etc. They refused to do so. They could have got The Rutherglen Reformer involved. They nixed that also. What they did, and what they have done in previous years, comes quite literally from the heart.
The reason I'm giving them a wee bit of publicity is simply to say thanks to all concerned. This particular RSC, along with loads of others of course, do unsung work like this every year and it goes without mention. In a climate whereby Rangers fans get adverse publicity at the slightest opportunity, it is a pleasure to speak about the nice things that happen also. Well done lads.
I cannot let last Friday go without mentioning a couple of my old 'chinas' from Bridgeton, Tam Bain and John Bradley, who are something like 85 and 74 years of age respectively. Sharing a quick 'Harry the Toff' with them on Friday night prior to my din dins, auld Bain informed me that he had a 'ton' on the teddies at 2/1 and that he was thinking of a naughty wee 40 quid on Rangers and Arsenal (at 2/1 and evens) also. The old song is that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. I would say that 'old dogs' like Bain and the Bradster don't need to learn new tricks. Apart from that, they invented some of the old ones anyway.
Now to the 117th Scottish Cup Final. There is much I want to (and will) say on the subject. But it is important that I say this to begin with. Every now and again there comes along a match or an event in the history of a football club, which welds, binds and unites said club and fans totally together. Finds us both at one with each other. I would venture to suggest that 4/5/2002 at Hampden Park, Glasgow, was one such occasion for everyone connected with The Rangers Football Club.
I cannot remember such feelings if undisguised glee and happiness after any football match I have ever attended, and I include the many triumphs in our NIAR period in this assessment.
There was of course the match before the match. The battle of the banners, not to mention the bog roll and the confetti and so on. Well, a bit like the match itself this was a no contest either. What we have to remember here is that Timmy has absolutely no panache or pizzazz in these types of situation. After all there is only so much you can do with ira/provie drib drabs.
For instance, how can your average Beggar going to a football match with his 'Tom Williams CSC' banner honestly make a contribution to a spectacle of gaiety, splendour, pomp and colour? One-nil the Gers it was before a ball was kicked. And don't let Timmy kid you that he wasn't trying to put on a show. The web-footed site was harping on about it for a couple of weeks before the match.
Getting to the real action now. The bottom line is that our win was a victory not only for football but also for sport as a whole. If nothing else, last Saturday saw Rangers expose them for the one-dimensional cheats and cluggers that they have been moulded into under Martin O'Neill. Without doubt there is a fine team spirit at the munky-hoose but they are cheats nonetheless, with Larrson the undoubted star in that particular sphere.
In many ways, the contrast in style of both clubs on Saturday was a throwback to what both clubs represented at the time of their inception. Rangers being a mixture of youth, players slight of build whose game is based on pace and skill whilst on the other hand the yahoos were full to the brim of cold, ruthless professionals whose only thought was to use the negative aspects of the game to their advantage.
When they had to hack, they hacked. When they had to elbow, they elbowed. When they had to go over the ball, they went over the ball. When they had to take out a Ranger who was looking dangerous, they took out that Ranger. When they had to dive, they most certainly dived.
Of course the yahoos only got away with their game plan because the man in charge allowed them to do so. Really what else is there left to say about Hugh Dallas that hasn't already been said. The man is a coward and a cheat. Of course the guy's life has been made intolerable because of the behaviour of the yahoos, and always there will be the spectre of 2/5/99 hanging over him, but that being the case, the guy should have the integrity and decency to resign.
For goodness sake, we had an ex-Celt come out in the papers after the last OF game at CP and tell us quite openly that referee Kenny Clark was right NOT to play stoppage time, because there would have been trouble if Celtic had lost the game after having two men sent off. Can anyone say in all honesty that there wouldn't have been hell to pay for Dallas and his family if he had awarded Rangers a last minute penalty for Mjallby's clatter into Lovenkrands?
Dallas is a cheat, there is no other word for him. He cheated us when he refused to book Sutton for his bargie at our Argie, which succeeded in putting the wee man out of the game. He cheated us when he refused to red card Hartson for elbowing Craig Moore, which he actually witnessed. He cheated us when he allowed Bobo to go through young Lovenkrands and escape censure. He cheated us when he allowed Larrson to dive all over the shop.
However, he did us a big favour though when he cheated us out of that aforementioned penalty at the death. Because instead of winning with a disputed spot kick which would have had the yahoos griping from here to eternity, the winner when it came was a thing of beauty. And wasn't it just the most amazing coincidence that Lovenkrands header went in at the same time as a bomb scare went off at the yahoos' end of the ground? The GFITW, my erse!
Heroes on Saturday? Well Bazza ran the show and finally came of age. It was a pleasure watching him demolish not only Lennon but also the myth surrounding this non-entity. When it comes to the arts and crafts of the game, the peroxide bam is not in Bazza's league. A competent player certainly, but a dour, negative clogger nonetheless. The fact is, Lennon and Lambert need each other v Fergie. One on one and it's not a fair fight.
The captain was ably assisted IMO by Ricksen in midfield, who also came in for a fair share of abuse and who would assuredly have been booked if he had dished out the kind of tackles that regularly rained in on him. Once again though we were let down when it really mattered by arguably the most talented Ranger of the lot. The bottom line is we need to get de Boer off the pay roll. He should be allowed to wind down elsewhere.
Young Maurice Ross came in and looked as though he's never been away. It also made my heart jump with joy when he gave his Ibrox mentor, the late John Chalmers, a mention in an aftermatch interview. It's nice to know that we've got a young man at Ibrox, who even in the most joyous of occasions and despite the bedlam and euphoria all around has his feet firmly planted on the ground, and thinks of others. That was a real, genuine class touch by young Ross.
Arthur Numan had one of his best ever games and I feel that he and Neil McCann, especially in the second half combined constantly to keep us firmly in the driving seat and in control of the game. Also, the cross by McCann for the winner was truly superb. When you look at it again, there are about 4 or 5 Celts in the camera shot and only Lovenkrands to aim for. Nice one Neil. Although one can only hope that his family don'' suffer like they did three years ago.
Amo tells us that he thought he had a bad game. I don't agree. Despite the fact that he was by turns being barged all over the shop, and having to cope with Larrson's constant diving, both he and Moore combined well to give us a solid defence on the ground. The bottom line is, the yahoos' only tactic was to dive in or around the box and rely on brute strength in the air. As I said earlier, it would have been a miscarriage of footballing justice if these cheats had won with that kind of strategy.
Without doubt young Lovenkrands has become something of a talisman for us this season against our rivals from across the city. I make it that his 5 goals in 5 games against them this season is the best by a Ranger since a certain Ally McCoist bagged 6 against them in season 85/86. The thing is, when you have his kind of genuine pace, then it is always going to be a handful for a static, stodgy defence like Celtic's.
Which brings us to the guy who made Saturday possible. I refer of course to the guy with the freckles. I think it is fair to say that Alex McLeish now has the Rangers support eating out of the palm of his hand. Which no one could honestly have envisaged when he took over last December.
Apart from having the gift of the gab and being some of an unassuming charmer, what is most pleasing is the way it appears to be our man who has MON trying to do the second guessing and not the other way around leading up to an OF fixture.
What is now also becoming increasingly apparent is that it is MON who has the lesser options and more often than not has to resort to muscle, brawn and outright thuggery. On Saturday, there was something wholly inevitable about Cannigia being hacked out of the game after his bright and breezy start.
Of course this is something Celtic teams of the past have got up to, the difference being on Saturday, the footballing side still came out tops. Sutton ending Cannigia's interest in the match last week was all too reminiscent of the 1965 League Cup final when 'ba face' came out on the eve of the match and told the press 'we have a plan.'
As you all know, two minutes into the following day's Cup final and that 'plan' was put into action with full back Ian Young, crippling 18 year old Willie Johnston out of the game with a crude assault. Remember that this was in the days before substitutes.
Getting back to the present day, I reckon that by deploying Lovenkrands, McCann and Cannigia at Ibrox in the OF league encounter back in March that Alex McLeish served notice upon us that he knew that pace and skill was the correct way to beat this mob. If you can recall though, that match was played under horrendous conditions and our 'wee men' never really quite got going in that first half.
So apart from the victor taking the spoils last week, I reckon the manager also deserves the utmost praise for sticking to his attacking principles. I think it goes without saying that AM is all too painfully aware that the side needs 'beefing' up. I get the feeling though, that it will not be done at the expense of attacking flair, and amen for that.
As for our footballing press' take on the match... Well, they said to a man that we deserved to win but only Gerry McNee (of all people) had the courage to take the yahoos to task for their boorish and uncompromising play. And what is it about not being able to come out and criticise this man Dallas? All we got in the rags was that 'He never put a foot wrong' or 'If he did make a mistake then I never saw it.'
It's also funny (although no one of a blue persuasion is laughing) that the laws of the game seem not to matter if it means putting a Celt in the dock. I've still to have it explained to me why Hartson was allowed to get away with an off the ball elbow on Craig Moore. No one is denying that the referee witnessed it, but his refusal to take the appropriate action is ignored altogether? As for Bobo the animal? You can forget any sense of perspective from our Tims with typewriters where this particular thug is concerned.
On the same subject, am I the only bear who finds David Syme's aftermatch (ref-watch) verdicts more than a little tiresome? In Monday's edition of 'The Sun' he justified Sutton putting Cannigia out of the game thus; 'Hugh Dallas was trying to let the game flow'
May I remind you all at this point, that Syme was the ref who booked John Greig in the 78 League Cup final because his momentum as he strained to get a cross in, carried him over the line. You just couldn't make it up could you? A referee who once booked a Rangers player in a cup final for a triviality defends a modern day ref for allowing a Celtic player to boot a Rangers player out of a match.
Just to make my weekend complete, there was Ally McCoist putting the boot into the yahoos in 'The News of the Screws' for their crass sportsmanship after the game. It's taken a while but at long last Ally seems to be getting the message that it is his duty to talk about all aspects of a given game. And if that also means getting stuck into the yahoos then so be it. Way to go Ally, there's hope for you yet.
So that's us for another season. Without doubt the league title is the main attraction, the only game in town but it was hardly Alex McLeish's fault that it was already out of reach this time around. No one, should be thinking that all in the garden is rosy because of last week, but by the same token it is beyond dispute that the guy with the freckles has given his opposite number more than a little food for thought. But hey, we've got all summer to talk about such things.
Have good weekend troops. I know I will.
We are the People!
The Govanhill Gub.