This Is The Big One - Gers Must Rise To The Challenge

Last updated : 21 February 2006 By ERWIN GANGHUTTER
When the teams emerge from the tunnel to a thunderous roar and a colourful Blue Order card display, then the Champions League anthem booms out from the p.a. system, it will hammer home the message that, despite all our problems, our team is still alive and kicking on the biggest of all stages. Hey, won’t they all wish they could grab a slice of this?
And as they savour the atmosphere, our players must surely realise that this is why they signed for Rangers. All the slackness and uncertainty which has marred our season must be forgotten, this is the moment to enhance reputations and show that, despite much evidence to the contrary, we can hold our own in the big boys’ playground. It might also dawn on them that, their form has been so erratic, nights like these might not be on the menu next season. Get the finger out, guys.
Our ‘friends’ in the media have made such a big issue out of Rangers’ ropey form that is has almost passed unnoticed that Villarreal are also going through a bit of a crisis. Lets hope our lot are in the mood to play on any self-doubt which may have infected the Spaniards. With the crowd right behind them, this is the night to make the rest of Europe sit up and take notice. Any player who can’t blossom on such an occasion should look elsewhere for a pay packet.
After all the hurly burly of the SPL, this will be a real football match, with patience in possession being the key. We’ll all be thinking ‘get it up ra feckin park’ but we also know speculative hit and hopes are not on. If we’ve got the ball, Villarreal can’t do any damage with it so concentration is the name of the game. If Barry has been saving himself for anything, this has to be his stage. He can answer his critics in the best possible manner by calling the shots in midfield and delivering the telling penetrating pass when the possibility arises. And scoring chances will be few and far between so our front men must be at their sharpest.
Rangers’ chances of progressing to the quarter-final will, however, hinge on our ability to keep a clean sheet at Ibrox. Villarreal are a counterattacking team and will surely revel in any defensive slackness. There can be no place for any comic-cuts stuff from Soto and, having waited so long to get a shift out of J Rod, we must hope he is on top of the job. A clean sheet, even if we fail to score at the other end, keeps the thing alive and I’d fancy us to nick a goal in Spain where Villarreal will be more inclined to open up.
Of course, the scrupulously unbiased Charlie Nicholas has taken great delight in telling everyone that he expects Villarreal to kill the tie on Wednesday. I trust Big Eck has stuck the wee toerag’s insulting efforts on the dressing room notice board. Despite a Rangers success boosting Scotland’s UEFA co-efficient, I detect a widespread desire for us to fall flat on our face. The greater good of Scottish football? Don’t make me laugh.
Having been on the receiving end for so much of this season, this is our chance to grab the bragging rights. The Champions League adventure has been the only plus point in this whore of a season and there is every chance that we can make further progress. The draw was relatively kind to us but only if the players rise to the task and show a burning desire to make their mark.
The chance is there. Take it Rangers!