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What a week for Rangers.
The first place to start is the squad and manager.
The truth is they deserve nothing but praise and adulation for the effort and performance. St Mirren dispatched confidently before two superhuman efforts against Braga and then Celtic all in the space of four days over 240 minutes. All the criticism’s flung at them from Celtic’s victory at Ibrox taken and used to fuel the fire which took them to a week that will live long in the memory.
Truthfully? After that defeat at Ibrox and somewhat limp efforts in Braga, I wasn’t sure if they had it in them at all. Braga result not the worst but lack of anything up front left me questioning what the remainder of the season left for us.
St Mirren gave me a slight bit of confidence. We knocked it about well, scored decent goals and created some clear opportunities in spells. There was a decent tempo and in fairness if we had questioned whether they were playing for their manager (more of that in a minute) then this was evidence that any questions weren’t accurate. Saints weren’t up to much in fairness but after Braga away it was a genuinely pleasing response.
Then we welcomed Braga to Ibrox on Thursday. I fancied us and call it blind faith, because given the above was my gut feelings, I’d fancy us at home to anyone when I’m going and the bravado kicks in.
Braga ranks up there as alongside Parma as my favourite Rangers game, certainly for attending, in all my years as a season ticket holder (Women yells, Season ticket Holder!). It was electric. The atmosphere incredible and straight away Rangers were at it and it just galvanised everyone, led spectacularly by our captain (more on him later also). It really was a magical magical night.
Then there was Sunday at Hampden. After 120 gruelling minutes on Thursday I simply wanted a performance we could be proud of, just give us everything and if it comes up short then fair enough. After the Herculean efforts of Thursday it would be wrong to pile in if we hadn’t managed it, but that’s easy to say now isn’t it?!….
What we got was sheer grit, sheer determination and sheer balls, again I’ll be absolutely honest, I didn’t think they had that in them and in the last four years I struggle to think of another time that sheer guts and effort has got us through like that. That’s how massive it was.
I am so proud of them.
I said at Full Time (before ET) on twitter that I had nothing but praise and pride for their efforts no matter how it went. What we then got, after the initial effort, was a massive second effort that carried us to a very famous victory. We rode our luck when they hit the bar of that there is no question, fine margins indeed, but we deserved that luck or break from Kemars touch that brought the equaliser. From that moment we were largely untroubled and a lot of that down to a calming performance by cup GK Jon McLaughlin, he was excellent (more on that also coming).
Extra time was super human and they blew me away with effort and determination. Big Calvin Bassey powering up the line like an absolute monster to provide the winner, no wonder my Mrs loves him, well she has a rival for his affections even more now the big handsome hero. Then there’s Kent, Goldson, Tavernier etc. there wasn’t a failure.
The team worked their absolute bollocks off to record a result that we all craved, a result that brings me to the manager.
Giovanni Van Bronckhorst.
This blog has, I think, fairly asked questions over Giovanni Van Bronckhorst and also fairly, again I think, criticised him for some really poor moments and decisions. I also think fairly I pointed out that IF we had approached the last two old firms and hurtled to two costly defeats there may be no way back. I said he would carry the can for the failings of a squad that needs urgent surgery. I still believe all of that is fair. Despite some calls no where have I said we should get rid of him but undoubtedly I said he had to find big wins or it may be a long way back. I don’t think that’s unfair.
I believe we are right to ask those questions and I don’t believe the last week suddenly means the post shut down league form is absorbed beyond criticism.
But what I do fully believe is this squad ARE playing for their manager and this last week must allow him time.
Of course he has to go on and deliver the Scottish Cup as a minimum, Europe is dreamland and even if we unfortunately fail against Leipzig then there should be zero criticism of anyone. Listen, as a support we will still over analyse subs, performance and we absolutely have a right to criticise the league performance but the huge question of whether this squad believe in him has been answered, they most certainly do.
Gio has won a stay of execution, as brutal as that sounds, but that’s life at Rangers. If he delivers the Scottish cup it won’t be enough or the one we require, but it’s a platform to kick on and he undoubtedly deserves a summer. However there is no guarantees, the cup isn’t a walkover or guaranteed and these levels have to be met now until the end of the season.
We might just be in for a five weeks that will give this squad the legacy it richly deserves after delivering 55. We might be in for a five weeks that hopefully brings Giovanni the stage to go on to bigger success domestically. I like him, of course I do, he’s nice in pressers and we’ve just beaten Celtic, I’m no less fickle than anyone else. I want him to do well, for me he has shown he has it.
Nothing is won though, he’s given himself the right and opportunity however.
For me at least.
The unique thing about 4lads and even my own account on social media, is people will be very quick to recount things you have said and critique opinions you have given.
I have absolutely no issue with that but I’ll remind most that I’m just a supporter like everyone else, my opinions will vary from fair to ridiculous pretty quickly.
What I’d like to do is revisit some of the things I have said and honestly critique my own critique based on things that get said to me.
Something that gets flung my way is the blog I done on Alfredo Morelos and criticism that I said he was finished at Rangers. That blog is there and remains, as does all my scribbles. What I said and the headline was, ‘This can still be Alfredo Morelos Rangers, but in current form his career here is over’. In that blog I basically said his attitude and effort, as well as fitness, was way below and if he didn’t pick up he was finished as Gio wouldn’t allow it as Gerrard apparently had, this was after semi final against Hibs.
Since then he knuckled down, got fit and lost weight then kicked on to proved he was indeed this teams star man. Alfredo went on to achieve exactly what I was trying to say he could. I’m not sure that blog, on that evidence, was anything other than correct even if brutally harsh.
On the last blog I hit out at peoples standards and said James Tavernier shouldn’t be considered Hall of fame or legend of this club. Not a criticism of him as a player because I rate him and believe he deserves the praise he gets, I also believe he has massively stepped up this last week.
This was wrong of me.
My own standards and preferences are that the legends of Hall of Fame or this club are those that deliver the ultimate trophy return and performances. The likes of George Young, Richard Gough or whoever. But that is my opinion and telling others their standards were wrong or opinions weren’t right is wrong. So that one is on me. The truth is I like Tavernier but just because I think something doesn’t mean I can criticise what others want in a grumpy rant. Hands up to that.
Then there is the criticism of this team and their attitudes since the winter break. I’d refer this to the last week as proof this team are absolutely capable but it goes back to earlier point that I don’t believe it absolves them of criticism for throwing away this league challenge or at very least leaving an uphill battle. Questions over attitude in that run are still up for debate because of that form. My own opinion is this team needs freshened and some, for their own goods, need a new challenge instead of playing the same Scottish teams four times a season which is where I believe they struggle. Whilst again criticism of some players, Joe Aribo etc may be harsh to some, I still believe it’s fair in that context and appreciate some others may not.
Allan McGregor criticism? I think Jon McLaughlins performance on Sunday quantifies my preference that he is our number one. I think for what we need he is exactly the right fit and I’ve been vocal on that. It’s not a criticism of McGregor nor does it tarnish his place of status at the club nor my respect for him. That’s my own judgement call or opinion and respect those that disagree.
As for my criticism of Ross Wilson, I can’t get past the contract situation of many of our top players and not to mention Connor Goldson. That is a major failing and if we lose Kent, Morelos, Aribo or Lowry to low ball bids because contract situation forces us to sell, then that is poor. But whilst I criticised Jack Simpson, James Sands etc then he absolutely deserves praise for Jon McLauchlan, Calvin Bassey, John Lundstram, I can’t be selective in that. I believe the January window was poor overall, not the first one either, and with funds available we haven’t maximised them, which has ultimately cost us. I don’t believe any of that is unfair either but I absolutely accept that I don’t know the intricacies of what was available or even the contract situation, but if it was one then ok, it’s not. So again that’s opinion and appreciate those who don’t agree.
As for the board? I’m huge fan of what they have done and the fact they have supplemented this club massively, I believe I have been massively supportive of that and the club. I’m very much pro this board. Indeed in conversations with Rangers officials since, they absolutely know that. It doesn’t mean I will happy clap through mistakes that have been made and I also believe you can be critical without it meaning you are demanding they are chased out the door, there is context to absolutely everything and again I’ll say I have been fair.
That’s the beauty of Fourladshadadream. Nearly two million people have clicked on this site and read my opinion but that’s all it is. One supporter who is capable of the best and worst takes, some of mine have been brutal. I try to be positive and critical where it is required. Sometimes the balance might be off but when you speak to your pals I’m sure it’s no different. I also feel that I must be honest at all time, so sometimes that won’t always suit. But it would have been disingenuous to sit through ‘Australia’ and happy clap through it for example, I have to tell it like I feel.
This blog is hopefully going on to bigger and better things, none of that is possible without all you. But I don’t deny sometimes I get it wrong, I don’t deny sometimes I talk shite. I’m a passionate normal fan. What is also key, I don’t speak for anyone or pretend I do. I accept completely as fan media I may represent the wider support in some eyes which is why I try to do my best at all times, I don’t however believe my word or opinion is gospel. Debate is healthy.
My only concern is same as everyone else, Rangers winning.
Bobby Madden has come in to a lot of criticism since Sunday and as an amateur referee I have a lot of respect for these guys and the magnitude of the job they do. I’m pro VAR and I really think it will help so in the next few lines I’ll give you my honest opinion on the big moments.
Starting off with McGregor’s attempted block on Ryan Kent after two minutes. Easily a penalty.
He’s late, anywhere else on the pitch it is a free kick and clear contact. It’s a caution as not a clear goal scoring opportunity. VAR looks at that again and it very easily could have been given.
That ‘caution’ for Callum McGregor mean the next few he commits he is a very lucky boy. He wipes Aribo out before attempted professional foul on Ryan Kent, mean he’s lucky. However, if he’s booked earlier he’s not going to push the boundaries as much. I believe Madden handled this fairly even if a caution could have come earlier.
John Lundstram? Similar position. He absolutely should have been cautioned. Likewise his attempt block on Joe Hart is an automatic caution as is his tackle on McGregor, I don’t believe he goes in as hard or to ground if he is cautioned. He absolutely should have been cautioned but like McGregor if he is then I believe he reigns it in. I think Madden has to caution him earlier but it’s a derby and has an edge, neither player (McGregor or Lundstram) did things massively wrong, they played hard. If you tally up fouls they both go but an earlier caution they don’t commit the others. Again they played hard. Did he let them away with too much? Not for me, he reffed it like a derby. Scott Brown did the exact same to us at Pittodrie and at Ibrox just weeks ago we could moan about lack of cautions, so I get the frustration completely, I just don’t buy into it.
Joe Aribo, rightly cautioned and the subsequent attempt header with Juranovic was a nothing challenge, no question of a second caution, it’s a foul at most. Calvin Bassey, should be cautioned for sliding foul on Rogic, so does he then over celebrate the goal? Probably not, but again if you want to tally it up, he should go but for me he doesn’t do the celebration if he gets the one before.
Ryan Jack, correctly cautioned also. Roofe’s foul again naughty and I get the frustration for a red, but it wasn’t out of control or endangering an opponent, maximum is a caution. Roofe is dirty even if perfect to watch for us all.
The drop ball was handled correctly by the laws of the game, Connor Goldson had it and Welsh was down. He then drops play to Rangers and moves the player back 4 yards as per the laws. Forget the ‘argument’ you haven’t seen it before, it’s very well handled even if you don’t like it.
The FK for Celtic’s goal? Correct and also wrong for me. The initial foul from Roofe, IF at all, is 15 yards prior to when he actually loses control. Where the foul is given there is no touch, but from angle behind (Celtic end) it shows Roofe impeding the player previously even if it’s soft, it’s a foul. If Madden thinks the foul knocks the player out of control then I understand why it is given where it is. The fact they score is down to us switching off.
Likewise offside and interfering for the goal? I don’t believe Kyogo is in the Gks line of sight, he’s slightly to the right of JM, I believe it’s correctly a goal. VAR would check it and given some decisions we’ve seen it’s borderline I suppose, for me it’s correct and no fault of the official.
Our goal, onside. Calvin Bassey is directly in line, left hand can’t be offside so no matter what any ‘pundit’ says. Their offside chance? Well we know where we stand with that assistant.
Then in the last phase he gives Rangers a free kick and then let’s Celtic take it. He’s got lost in the moment, it happens and he realises the mistake. The very first signal he gives shows a Rangers free kick for holding, he points to the Rangers end. He loses place after it, it’s understandable and I have done it with two men and a dog watching. It won’t suit the narrative but he made an understandable error. The decision to pull it back for his first award is again correct but it does look bad, it’s an error.
Four minutes added, generous at best and I thought ludicrous and still do, of course we can laugh now it came to nothing.
Madden officiated it as a derby should be, fast and frenetic, plenty of tackles. He wasn’t directly involved in any big decisions that affected the game. In actual fact, the so called big decisions we didn’t get. Sure he could have been sterner but overall that’s the only criticism I can offer. That obviously won’t suit the narrative and I think even he would produce a card or two earlier, he might even change a few decisions either way but in a game if that magnitude it’s understandable. He didn’t miss a clear red or anything. He may have missed a red either way if he was sterner but we all know cautions would change players approach.
For what it’s worth, Madden isn’t exactly pro Rangers. If he stops for Welsh on Sunday and Jota before, why didn’t he stop for Joe Aribo at Parkhead? For his apparent obvious bias he had a horror for us at Tannadice in a game that has huge effect on our challenge, he missed two penalties and two red cards in that one! He wasn’t perfect but criticism that he was to blame or the cause of a result is a pile of conspiracy nonsense.
The real truth? As soon as Celtic were getting beat the narrative of who to blame was quickly in force. If it wasn’t that then it was the hurty songs or celebrating too much, it’s pathetic. Rangers have as many legitimate complaints as they do, starting with an early penalty. One wanted Roofe sent off, one wanted our goal chopped off, neither know the laws of the game to make such a claim.
Funny thing, our last two defeats to them? We criticised our players and our failings, Madden could have stopped the game for that Aribo knock but given our performance it would have only delayed the inevitable, we all said that. That’s just honest review. We never went full cheated which seems default of others. I’ve called out some ref performances, that draw at Pittodrie was brutal so I get it. The reality is different however.
Better team on the day won. The rest is just noise, as delicious as it is.
Finally, our friend Tom Miller has a brilliant book on our greatest ever triumph. The story of Barcelona ‘The greatest day in the history of Rangers FC’. This isn’t just the story of Barcelona but the fascinating tale of everything surrounding it.
From the darkest moments of the disaster and how the club responded to arrive at European glory. The league form, the goings on at the club and even a word from some 72’ legends along the way.
Tom’s book is absolutely fantastic and I am enjoying it thoroughly, it’s wonderfully descriptive and tells the story educating along the way. This is a brilliant present or even purchase for any Rangers fan.
Tom is re-releasing the book on paperback and is now available as well as book signings with the legends that is Colin Stein and Willie Johnston.
You will find them at Waterstones this Thursday 21st April 6pm at Waterstones Silverburn and Saturday 30th April Waterstones Braehead, time to be confirmed. Check out Tom’s twitter @tomcomentator for more information.
This book is brilliant and I can’t recommend it enough. By a top man and a top Ranger. Congratulations Tom.
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