Our European Expectations

Last updated : 02 October 2002 By Grandmaster Suck

The runup to the UEFA Cup match with Viktoria Zizkov seems a bit muted,
and there are many reasons why.

I will confess, as a dedicated Europe-first advocate in years gone by,
that my enthusiasm for a 2nd consecutive UEFA Cup campaign has been
somewhat dim. There's nothing wrong with the competition, and I'd enjoy
a fightback Thursday as much as the next guy, but it takes no brain
surgeon to realize that it's all about the SPL championship this year -

With that in mind, the first Old Firm match is coming up, and we get
some disappointing news from the AGM about the club's debts, so an
uphill battle at home against a Czech side we've never heard of before
seems second-tier importance.

It's also difficult to get pumped up for this after watching AC Milan
and Bayern Munich play a cracker in the Champions League Tuesday. Was
it really just 24 months ago Rangers were playing matches like that
against clubs like that? It seems ages past.

Scots clubs had the chance, it seemed at the beginning of the season,
to move into a place on the UEFA coefficient table that would bring
automatic qualification to the Champions League group stage for the SPL
champion. With Celtic being bounced out of the Champions League
qualifying, Rangers stuttering start in the UEFA Cup and of course,
Aberdeen and Livingston providing no help at all, Scots club teams seem
to have lost their opportunity, probably for some time.

Maybe it's best for the team not to have any distractions as it seeks
to wrest the league championship back from Celtic. Certainly last
season's run in the UEFA Cup did nothing to help the league effort.
Nobody's interested in returning two domestic cups of course, but does
making the final 16 of the UEFA Cup count as cup "glory?"

Two seasons of near-success in the Champions League were great in
themselves, and a nice run in the UEFA Cup in the 1998-99 season was a
welcome return to some degree of European viability for Rangers. Two of
these seasons also brought league titles, but the last was the
beginning of the end for the Dick Advocaat regime. While success in both Europe and domestic play clearly can be had simultaneously, this squad is not
nearly as deep as those were (and this manager has nowhere near the
financial resources at his disposal). Of course you will see a Rangers
side giving its all Thursday, but if there is a choice between success
Thursday or success Sunday, even the Europhiles among us will have to
concede that, at this point and time, and for Rangers long-term well
being, it all points to the Old Firm derby being the priority.

Many readers will wonder if this is news to me, and I will reiterate
that for the long term health of this club, there must be some ability
to look past the short-term euphoria of getting one over on Celtic,
involving youth development, prioritizing European competition and so
forth. Still, the prospect of failing to advance past the Czech side
Thursday doesn't depress me the way losing to Feyenoord last year,
Monaco before that and Bayern Munich before that (and Parma before
that), did.

Not winning the league this year, now that's depressing.

By The Resident Alien