Our first defeat was always going to be difficult, it was always going to hurt and the fact it came yesterday meant that it was intensified substantially. It proved to be a 90 minutes too far for the team after the heroic efforts in Russia
The reality of it is however that yesterday’s 90 minutes shouldn’t define the start to our season or the clear progress we have made
That was my point yesterday when I said I refused to criticise this team who have given us so much in the previous twelve games. What I didn’t want to do was go on twitter and slag everything to do with yesterday’s performance or start dismantling every player whilst emotions were still high
The team DO deserve constructive criticism for that performance and in no way are they immune to that, but it has to be measured in respect of where we are and what we have achieved. Knee jerk reactions and calls that Gerrard is no better than Graeme Murty is as laughable as it is deluded. Much the same way as calls that this team has not improved or is worse than that we had last season. That is quite simply nonsensical
Rangers were strong yesterday in shape and in how we set up. There is a determined resolution to our eleven in that is now several tests where we have refused to buckle under pressure. Corner after corner, several attacks yet we stood firm and were strong in defence. That is a massive improvement in itself
What went wrong was that we simply didn’t use the ball as well as we can do. The shape was good but far too deep and the players seemed more concentrated on stopping the opposition rather than trying to enforce our game plan onto them at the same time
We allowed the opposition to dominate the ball in front of us rather than press and move the ball with confidence. When we did manage to move the ball in the second half there was a noticeable difference and we were able to move up the field 30 yards.
The frustration and criticism is that we didn’t do that any where near as well as we can do. It is also of huge frustration that the opposition were able to capitalise on a refereeing error and score a goal which blatantly shouldn’t have stood.
It’s not the first time we have went into a crucial game missing our key player and Lassana Coulibaly is vital to what we do. He has the engine to push our team on and the energy to press the game, this in turn pushing the team forward. Without him we have dipped in our performance
People may criticise Gerrard and his tactics but I refuse to believe he was happy with how we performed or set us up to do as such. The manager will in no way have been happy we were so deep or so lacking in possession. His game plan would have been to be as resolute with the shape as compact, but to be strong in possession and be more positive on the ball. The fact we were so poor in that aspect and the fact he didn’t use his substitutions or squad as well is an area of contention
Rangers have shown in European performance that we can raise our game and yesterday was way below what is expected. Five points collected is not a good start and there is no excuses for that but there is circumstances which have contributed.
It isn’t all doom and gloom
The club have been excellent in Europe and the heroics of Thursday have landed the club with a massive money bonus. That funds will undoubtedly help the club balance the books after a summer outlay of around ten million pounds. But with such an influx of players, in such a short time, comes inconsistency and when we return to action in under two weeks time there will be no more room for that
We have had an excellent summer transfer window both in and out of the club. We wanted quality and we wanted players in, well we have got that but at same time need to accept that it will take time, as much as that is a frustration
We must now go on a run of games, we must produce a consistent level of performance and we must produce the results needed. No one will know that more than the manager and players but we are capable of doing it.
We have Coulibaly to return to midfield and he will make a noticeable difference to the team. Eros Grezda will be that missing spark in the final third and I am more than confident that we will begin to click as a team going forward. He may just prove to be that exciting winger we have missed for several years.
With Joe Worrall available in defence and what looks like Gareth McAuley to join him in the coming days, the squad now have strength to rotate.
With hopefully Jordan Rossiter and Graham Dorrans returning in the next month we will be stronger yet in the match day squad. It’s vital these guys do return although both will need training and match fitness to get up to speed having missed pre season. Dorrans a particular boost given he was openly telling people he feared he would miss the rest of the year and was fearing surgery. Fortunately the player has responded to new treatment from a London specialist and will hopefully rejoin light training very soon.
We have shown enough in the first dozen games to be positive and enough to know it is worth sticking by the team.
Two weeks of solid training and work from the players will allow us to improve and be ready to return to league action next Saturday. Nothing is won or lost after four games and our start to the season isn’t defined by a poor 90 minutes yesterday.
We don’t suddenly go from being heroes on Thursday to duds on Sunday.
We will get stronger, we will get better and like it or not, we are still a work in progress
Have faith in the management, faith in the squad and back them to deliver success this season, they have shown enough to be allowed that faith
Ignore the nonsense, the irrelevant and the noise