The Rangers Support Expects
Now I don't know if it's just that we're the footballing equivalent of Jonah Lewie or if it's just that my old man fancies himself as the bluenose equivalent of Jamie Oliver. But whenever I visit my parents' house, my old man and me seem to do most of our talking about all things Rangers in the kitchen. Of course all those surreptitious snootfuls of Smirnoff might just have something to do with it.
Anyway it was in the kitchen at a party of sorts over the festive period that he said to me words to the effect that yours truly had changed as a Rangers fan and not for the better. In short, I have evolved into a somewhat intolerant, greetin faced cur. What could I do? I had to answer the charges levelled at me. 'You're darn right' I said, 'and I make no apologies for it.'
My old man is old school. But hey don't knock it because his logic, which says if we score one more than the opposition then the Teddies win everytime, is impeccable. It's just that I do want more, helluva lots more and I suspect so do most of the Rangers support. I don't think it is an excuse but I firmly believe that the top dollar we have continually shelled out over the years has heightened the expectations of the support at large.
So when I compare my expectations against what has actually been achieved these last two seasons then it is pretty safe to say that I've had to do quite a bit of soul searching. The conclusion I have came to is that we are now back to where we were pre-Souness and my aims for the club and my previous levels of expectation have no place at Alex McLeish's Ibrox. At present anyway.
Alex McLeish achieved all that was asked of him, in fact he achieved more than could reasonably be expected of him in the second half of last season. This culminated of course on May 4th, when we witnessed one of those once every couple of generation type matches. I do firmly believe that every now and again there comes along a match, which helps bind both club and fans together. That Scottish Cup Final was one of them.
So at least Alex McLeish goes into the new season safe in the knowledge that he has the total backing of the fans. Given the less than rapturous acclaim accorded him when he started at Ibrox, I'm sure that fact gives him a huge sense of satisfaction. Although the feeling I get is that one of his main features of his character is that he will never allow himself to get carried away with any adulation which may come his way. And amen for that.
So what are our hopes and fears for this coming season? Well, it goes without saying that the recapturing of the title is what we desire most. I don't however fancy that it is going to be easy. For a start, the divers, thugs' n cheats (for that is what they are) across the way will redouble their effort in that respect. Given that there is no-one else capable of standing up to them, then that leaves only us. At this point the feeling still persists that we are still rather lightweight in all areas of the park.
Arteta, despite all the rave reports, remains something of a puzzler. True, you cannot have too many good footballers in your side. It's just that I'd like a few of them to have a smidgen of steel thrown in for good measure.
The full backs offer us a somewhat lopsided arrangement with Ross who surely deserves to start the season as the man in possession of the No 2 jersey on one berth and the ever yappity Numan on the other. Apparently we have another left back, a fella by the name of Ball, somewhere in the immediate vicinity of the Ibrox pay roll. But that is another, separate issue altogether.
Many of my fellow Rangers fans believe that Ricksen can do a job for us in midfield. I for one remain to be convinced. The bottom line is, until he can learn not to go dive into tackles that he cannot win, until he learns to keep his temper in check then he remains something of a liability. The fact that he has decided to mouth off in the general direction of the yahoos in the rags this summer tends to suggest that is just not going to learn.
Before we go any further, I'd like to send a memo out to the likes of Ricksen and Amo. I don't want to hear boasts about being better than the yahoos. I don't want to read any guff about being technically superior to them. I just want you lot to go out and prove it. When you prove it, then you can open your 'gubs' but only then.
You do have to feel a bit of sympathy for this devil called Tore Andre Flo. It's not his fault that a financial fool paid way, way over the top for his services. But that's all part and parcel of the pay high/expect high results syndrome, which earned me a rollicking in my old man's kitchen at Crimbo time. The bottom line is, he is expected to produce the goods and then some. And it's the same with fans and big priced strikers the world over, I fancy.
You get the feeling that the manager still hasn't settled on his final pairing. Also, the fact that he has shown that he is prepared to chop and change his tactics (And he appears to have MON trying to second-guess him now) and throw in Lovenkrands to utilise his electrifying pace to best effect, means that maybe we'll never get to see AM's dream team as it were. One thing is for sure. Lovenkrands is not an out and out striker. But his pace and directness is such that he would never be out of my team. I just feel he gives us an out that McCann can't. If you get my drift.
Another wee bonus for us this season is that we are not under pressure in Europe right away. It is an absolute pleasure to be approaching today's friendly match without the added pressure of knowing you have to fly out to a village in war torn Jobrovia to play in a pre European qualifier later on in the week. It's just like old times this season with the first European tie not taking place until mid September. Hopefully the players can reap the benefits of this wee break.
Incidentally, for those of you out there who still harboured notions that we could possibly have won the UEFA Cup last season on the strength that we were more than a match for the eventual winners in a previous round? I have to say I disagree. The fact is, we were still ravaged by injuries late on in the season and I very much doubt that a side who couldn't win at Livingston despite being a goal to the good, would have been able to see off Inter over two matches at that period in time.
So there you go a slightly more subdued look at the coming season from previous years. It goes without saying, that I am not in as optimistic a frame of mind as I was just a few years ago. Too much has happened on the park in that time, the faith in certain individuals has been dented too much over this period to think that all we need to do is turn up this season to reclaim the title.
The grit and determination, which was very much in evidence in the Cup final, will need to be displayed every week. Given a wee break though injury wise and it should turn out to be a rather more interesting story than the last two seasons. One thing is for sure. Alex McLeish's OF counterpart has shown that he doesn't like pressure. This is not something he's had too much to handle of in these last two seasons. It'd be nice if Alex could apply some and then some more in the coming months. Then we'll see what transpires. Hell there might even be a party in my old man's kitchen.
Just do it bears,
The Govanhill Gub.