That Was The Year That Was
We know that there has been improvement throughout the squad out of all recognition under Alex McLeish in the calendar year 2002. Tell you what though, when they do decide en bloc to have a stinker, boy oh boy do they mean business. And it is safe to say that Firhill and Fir Park this Yuletide has been up there with the best of the worst of the performances these last 12 months.
As per usual, the officiating in both games left a lot to be desired. First off, the bookings for Muscatt and Moore by referee Underhill at Fir Park were a disgrace. No contact whatsoever by the Rangers players in question, yet the referee was on hand immediately to administer the laws of the game. You would have been forgiven for thinking that the officials meant to keep a tight grip on the game at this point. But the assault on Hughes out wide just a couple of feet from the main stand side linesman, which didn't even provoke a raising of his flag, soon saw us realise the folly of that notion.
In my humble opinion, if players can dispute red cards dished out because of bad refereeing or mistakes, then they should be able to be cleared by TV for yellow ones awarded to them also. But I digress. Moore was booked for nothing, but he was from then onwards walking a tightrope and he can count himself lucky that the referee for once saw sense when he caught a Thistle player later on in the first half.
As for the game's other major talking point. I don't care that falling to the ground, as if poleaxed, is regarded as a new footballing craft the world over. I don't care that Rangers players have also been the victims in these sorts of situations. I don't care that the yahoos have taken the game to new depths here in Scotland with their constant cheating and diving. I never, ever want to see a Rangers player fall down as if Rocky Marciano has just plugged him, the way Kevin Muscatt did at Firhill. I refer of course to the incident when Gerry Britton's flailing arm came into contact with him, and resulted in Britton being red carded.
I'm sorry if this is not what some of you want to read, but facts have to be faced here. Muscatt's behaviour was unbecoming of a Ranger. End of story. At the end of the day we can count ourselves lucky to have harnessed all three points at Partick.
I cannot let that Sunday up at Partick go without mentioning the goodwill and hospitality shown to me by Feriens_Tego and friends in various hostelries throughout the area all day and all of the night. Theirs truly is a thriving chapter of Christian fellowship and you can take it as read that this was one bear that wasn't worth a button on the Monday. Once again Mr Tego thanks for a truly spiffing Sabbath. Although, I don't know if my liver will be quite as forthcoming with the praise.
Christmas is supposed to be about the spirit of giving and goodwill to all men etc. But how can you do this readily when the yahoo is always on hand to spread his poison? On ITV's Teletext sports letters page (545) there can from time to time be found striking similarities to the wee wars that are waged constantly here on the FF message boards.
The 'racism' debate was well to the fore in the days leading up to Christmas. You will all of course know the drill by now. Yahoos claim they are not racist, Rangers fans on the other hand are all swastika-tattooed thugs. Only one thing shatters their illusions. And that is the Rangers fans who remind the yahoos and everyone else about the banana carpet welcome accorded to Mark Walters at the munky-hoose all those years ago.
The reaction of the yahoos to this pesky, little fact is the usual one. Yup, you've guessed it, they resort to lies.
One yahoo claimed that Walters in fact made his debut at Tynecastle would you believe. But not to be outdone, another yahoo - a Mr John McGhee from Glasgow - trotted out this novel excuse. 'Dear all, I attended the game that day and it has to be remembered that there was an official 'protest' made by the Rangers support in the ground that day about signing a black player. And their behaviour resulted in many Rangers fans having their season tickets taken from them at Ibrox.'
Doncha just love watching this mhob squirm? I mean we've even been treated here on the Internet to yahoos claiming the banana chuckers (two at the most) were seated in the Parkhead Main Stand. But for the sheer scale of the self-deception and outright lies, Mr McGhee is for my money, the King of the Jungle.
But just where do you start in dismantling the lies? I mean, so many options, so little space to do it in. Given that racial abuse of Mark Walters by his own fans that day never happened how did Rangers FC manage to track down these mythical miscreants? By Plod handing over the names of said mythical racists, who were arrested for said mythical racist abuse?
Who could then be tracked down by what? Seat number? Sorry, the Rangers end was all standing back then. All 18,000 of us.
But season ticket holders would have been able to track down, right? Wrong!
What about season ticket holders who got their tickets not from their supporters clubs, but from the public sale?
What part of the munky-hoose did the singing come from? The Janefield end or the London Rd end? Hell, they can't even get right what side of the ground they pelted Walters with bananas. So it would be kinda fun them trying to explain that question away.
I could go on. But I tell you, I'm even dafter than this cnut McGhee for indulging him, this latest flight of Keltic lies and mythology. My Christmas message is simply this. Of course there are decent Celtic fans. Hell, there are probably even dozens of them out there. But when you are confronted with the likes of John McGhee. How can you think of them as anything less than lying twisted revisionist scum? Sad though it is in this day and age, it is our duty to point out their lies every, single time they and their apologists in the media air them.
Which good mood brings me on to the shambles at Fir Park. The performance was an absolute disgrace. But if there are any silver linings to be brought about from the cloud that was Fir Park? Then surely it has to be that any thoughts of complacency have been well and truly expunged from both the playing staff and supporters. Even now, I'm listening to Rangers fans telling me, they really did think we could go through the season undeafeated. With a defence like ours, how can anyone think along those lines?
I see it being claimed that we were the victims of another diabolical display by Willie Young, especially at Well's goal. Yes it was a foul on Amo, but Muscatt should have played the ball and not the whistle. The bottom line is, given the abject poverty and paucity of our own display, this is one time when I find it hard to look at anything but our own failings.
Hell, there could even be case made for Young being lenient on us, by not red carding Fernando Ricksen after being found guilty of another foul, whilst walking the same tightrope as Moore did at Firhill four days previously.
While we're on the subject of the man with the 'rabbit caught in the headlight' eyes. You do have to wonder if Fernando Ricksen is ever going to be found guilty of showing some intelligence in a light blue jersey? Yes, he has been the victim of some premeditated abuse this year and also some appallingly, lenient refereeing on behalf of our opponents. But the bottom line is, because of his own stupidity at Fir Park last Thursday he found himself on the end of a booking, for being the victim of a foul. Now I've listened to and read Ricksen's fans this season crowing about how good he is and how he is the most improved player at Ibrox yadda, yadda, yadda.
It goes without saying that we all want Fernando Ricksen to succeed, to make all his critics (and I am one of them) eat humble pie. But remind me again here fellas. What good is Ricksen to us, if he is forever going to be banished to the stands for acting like an idiot and a spoiled brat? The fact is, it is his own boorishness and 'big mooth' that has brought some of the unwelcome attention of our incompetent whistlers upon him. Only by walking away, time after time of his own accord, as opposed to being cajoled and petted from the dug out, will he ever earn our total respect.
Which brings us on nicely to the nerve-jangler-that-shouldn't-have-been at Rugby Park on a frozen Sunday. Now, you all witnessed it for yourselves and it needs to be reiterated and shouted from the rooftops once again. That is, all the good play, domination and all the clear cut chances in a game count for nowt unless you bury a proportion of those said chances. It defies all belief and logic that any of us should have been sitting watching that game, either at Kilmarnock or watching the TV, biting our fingernails with ten minutes to go, far less into injury time.
The best thing that can be said about the performance at Killie is that it was by far the most upbeat of the three-awaydays-in-a-week-at-Christmas fixtures that were foisted upon us. But you do have to ask why, why, why does it take a wretched, miserable run out like the one we had at Fir Park, before our lot start getting their act together and be focussed on the job in hand?
But anyway, that's us reached another year in the life of our club. Ultimately, we Rangers supporters aspire to the winning of the league title above all else, (Copyright me, and not David Murray) and anything other is a bonus. That however was always out of the question when Alex McLeish took over at Ibrox. But without further ado, let me give out the Nobel/Govanhill prizes for this year.
Man of the year. - Alex McLeish. Galvanised a shower of misfits, overpaid and ne'erdowells-cum-I'm just looking out for myself - type mercenaries into a squad who have rediscovered the power of resilience and belief and the will to fight.
Player of the year. - Barry Ferguson. Not up for debate this one. Not only the player of the calendar year 2002. Has got to be an almost certainty for the 2002/03 Scottish Player of the Year award. Has matured into the player Dick Advocaat saw, but the rest of us didn't, because of Dick Advocaat's idiosyncrasies in his last year or so in charge.
Turning Point of the career for Alex McLeish - Bertie the bolt at the yahoo end on the evening of Feb 5th. Thirty-yard thunderbolt from the much maligned one means shivers and quivers for Geraldine O'Neill and her groundforce team.
Turning point of the career for Barry Ferguson. - Same game, Feb 5th. Paul Dimbert limps off leaving poor Neil Lennon in a one-to-one situation with Barry Ferguson. Football is the winner and Lennon gets off lightly by being mentioned in the same breathe as a footballer by, erm me.
Referees and InTIMidation of the year Part 1 - Kenny Clark in same game funnily enough. He allowed Hartson to flaunt the laws of the game not once, but twice when the corpulent one is allowed to run off the park behind the goals and then leap onto the park and try to and gain an unlawful advantage at throw-ins. Add in of course the obligatory first bad piece of thuggery by Bobo which is of course allowed to go unchecked. And is of coursed matched and matched at various times during the match, and I reckon you should begin to get the picture.
Referees and inTIMidation of the year Part 1/2 - Kenny Clark once again would you believe at the munky-hoose in April. Watches Paul Lambert cynically kick Peter Lovenkrands on the back of the leg so late, that it could only be construed as an off the ball challenge. Yet quite unbelievably lets said thuggery go with a booking as opposed to a red card.
Part 1/3 - Same ref, same game, red cards three players (two yahoos and one Ranger) at the end of the game after a stupid and needless melee. Three minutes have easily still to be accounted for at the end of the game. Yet referee blows right on full time whistle! The latest addition (at that time) to King Kenny's gaffes/I didn't see it/cheating.
Honest yahoo of the year (First time for everything Shield) - Frank McAvennie. He actually came out and said referee Clark was right to blow early, because if Celtic had lost after being reduced to ten men, there would have been a riot!
Bhoys against Bigotry/Celtic Social Charter, shown up for the sham they are once again award - Well, it takes a lot to beat the booing of a one hundred year old granny during a minute's silence, does it not? Especially when you are a club that is open to all. They'll be telling us next that they are non-sectarian!
Coward of the county of the year award. - Derek Johnstone. Who told us live on air on the 6th April 2002 that only 60 yahoos (rounded up to the nearest decimal point, mind) booed during the aforementioned minute's silence for the Queen Mum. Gosh Derek, it sounded like the doughty 60 had a cast of thousands on hand to help with the atmosphere.
Einstein's theory of relativity was a load of pish award - Well, this is a joint prize and goes to all our journalists who didn't point out that the minute's silence at the munky-hoose on April 6th only lasted 27 seconds. This award of course has been won by 99.9% of the cowards who ply their trade in Scotland!
Worst back of the year award. - No, not Fernando Ricksen you shower of cynical buggers. No, this one belongs to my old man, who was the meat in a Barman-Tego sandwich when Lovenkrands equalised in the Scottish Cup final. The good news is, it looks like he will be walking okay before next spring. Bless im!
Flag confrontation of the year award - Alas, there can be no award this year as the yahoos didn't compete in the two big main events. I.E, the Scottish Cup final in May and their visit to the nice, clean place earlier this month. Let's put it this way, to say their efforts for adding a bit of colour and pzazz to either of these events were pathetic, would be paint an even more negative face on the true meaning of the word. It may or may not be true that white men can't jump. What cannot be disputed is that green mhen can't do colourful or innovative displays either. They truly are a joke.
Keeping alive the memories of Jim Baxter 63-64 award. - By a mile, the actions of the yahoos on May 4th 2002. The grandsons and granddaughters, of the yahoos, Baxter used to send home early some 40 years earlier were offski out of Hampden by the time I had stopped celebrating Lovenkrands' goal. TGFITW? Only in their own, empty, tiny minds!
Funniest/most anxious post of the year award. - A wee guy by the name of 'Android' who decided he wanted to join the rest of the 'net bears' for a day oot in July. 'How the hell will I know you lot' he asked? 'I can't just go up to a guy in George's Square and say, 'Scuse me sir, but are you Simon Le Bon?, I'll end up getting boxed around the earhole'
Bravest poster of the year award. - The very, same 'Android', who had the balls to come up to said meet and introduced himself to all and sundry. Say what you want. It takes a wee bit of chutzpah to do that thing, coming into a company who you don't know. Especially when said company's supposed reputation goes before them. Android, I salute you.
Best FF Summer's day oot during the World Cup award. - Feriens, A_B_B and yours truly decided to have a lark in Larkhall, courtesy of LarkyWAM. That was a good un and no mistake.
Best nite out award 2002 - It has to be said that this year's FF 'bash' was special, and will I think win it hands down for the net bears. However, there was a night in the same venue a couple of weeks later, to raise funds for the Association Boys Clubs' that was exceptional also. I'll leave the awarding of that particular prize to any of the very, privileged few who attended both functions.
And now the end is near and all that. Just a word or three to say, I've enjoyed the company of every FFer, I've met these last twelve months. I'll enjoy even more, the new ones I meet next year.
The Govanhill Gub,
Secretary, The circles grow bigger, the net casts ever wider, RSC.
To all bears n bearettes all around the world.
I wish you and yours a very, happy and prosperous New Year.
We are the People!
THE GOVANHILL GUB