The aftermath of an Old Firm defeat is traditionally characterised by crashing waves of emotion and frustration as we mentally torture ourselves with replays of key moments and re-run the reasons that the latest particular result slipped away from us on derby day. But not this time. Not anymore.
The familiarity of defeat in these games has become disconcertingly common to the extent that the usually sharp edges of despair have been blunted almost to the point of indifference. Of course we never quite reach that red line of not caring but I find myself softened by the expectation of this Rangers team being perennially inferior to our rivals.
The post-mortem of the weekend’s match at Parkhead revealed a familiar killer: schoolboy errors. They may have been assisted by the referee and his VAR colleagues who appear to have been robbed of the gift of sight but the fact remains that we were conspirators in our own downfall once again. We didn’t just shoot ourselves in the foot, we blew the fucker clean off.
The manager selected a line-up that would have received approval or at least acceptance from the majority of supporters and we did look to have a better shape and organisation out of possession. But despite the team being more or less our strongest available and despite probably matching Celtic in general play it was the key areas at both ends where the difference was found.
We weren’t dominated like Hampden. We weren’t torn apart or destroyed on the wings. But that counts for nothing when you proceed to gift-wrap two utterly horrendous goals to our opponents while being too hesitant and wasteful at the opposite end. Where Celtic would cut through our defence and create an opportunity, we hesitated or chose the wrong option once again. It’s a recurring theme with the same culprits and I’m fed up watching it.
I wrote before the League Cup Final about the need for Michael Beale to lay down a marker and erode the psychological and mental advantage that our Glasgow rivals have seen carry them through these games for far too long. We failed horrendously then and we failed on Saturday. Each win bolsters their confidence and dents ours. They emerge from these games with a swagger resulting from repeated victories while we meekly shuffle uncomfortably down the tunnel with our tails between our legs, promising that we’ll do better next time.
And yet as I write the above I struggle to raise much more than a shrug. I find myself mentally writing off the coming weeks and willing the season to end so we can get to the summer and finally consign this team to the history books, books on which they’ve made such an insignificant mark. There will be no fanfare and no rapturous applause from the stands of Ibrox Stadium as players shadows of their former selves depart down the tunnel for the final time. There will simply be relief, relief that we will no longer have to endure some of the team who have become characterised by persistent failure.
Sure we have been unfortunate with injuries at times but you only have to revisit Connor Goldson’s comments after the Hampden humiliation by Hibs to get a sense of this team’s character or lack thereof. One title and our hunger had dissipated. One. It’s pathetic.
The summer provides a natural transition as many contracts expire and players who have been here for too long leave for pastures new. I wouldn’t be rushing out to renew many of them, perhaps save for Ryan Jack, as they’ve simply proved time and time again that they are not at the level required to deliver even moderately consistent success. Change always comes with risk but that risk surely outweighs the known quantity of sticking with something we’ve known to deliver too few shiny things over a prolonged period of time.
The players aren’t solely to blame because many should have been moved on by the club before now. We have failed to sell and reinvest at the opportune times and the staleness post-55 has delivered a staggering regression that’s put the club back into the early to mid Gerrard era in terms of falling behind Celtic. Even now we’ve spent money, increased the wage bill again and yet the return on that investment has reduced.
Celtic sold their Croatian international full-back and bought a replacement for half the price and you’d never notice. Giakoumakis was allowed to leave for a modest price and yet they haven’t really been weakened judging by their continued goalscoring exploits. We on the other hand have a 41-year old goalkeeper, a £7m winger leaving for nothing and a key striker who has spent most of the season unfit or overweight and with no obvious replacement.
The above suggests that those within the club are either incredibly resistant to change or they completely lack any faith in our recruitment model to find and sign adequate alternatives. Neither are remotely excusable when all we are fed are soundbites about being ‘best in class’. Christ, Celtic overtook us with no Director of Football, with their CEO resigning after a couple of months and an unknown manager going through his phonebook for summer signings.
If there is one positive I can take is that I firmly believe we have the right manager in Michael Beale. On Saturday I think we saw glimpses of what his team may look like in terms of shape, organisation and pressing. The form we’ve been on can’t really be criticised if we look back at what he inherited and the results he has achieved with a squad that’s begging to be put out of its misery.
The rough edges though can only be polished off by fresh faces. The weekend’s match was not a tactical defeat or one that was lost in general play. The difference was in individuals. At one end we were hesitant and blunt in attack meanwhile at the other we made errors not worthy of amateur football. And Celtic capitalised with the ruthlessness we should probably have come to expect and fear.
As we look to the summer therefore we might have the right manager, and I believe we do, but without the required financial backing we’re sending him into battle with one hand tied behind his back. The board therefore must find the finances to fund the required rebuild. Money will be freed up with the expiration of contracts, we could perhaps sell a Kamara or Hagi for a few bob but we will need more than that to fully strengthen the squad to a level where we can have a realistic expectation of success.
I’m not normally one for the scorched earth approach and tend to be more calm and measured in my reaction but I am so done with this team that I’d happily drive many of them to the airport or to their next club destination. Some have given us great memories, sure, and I’m happy to savour many of them but at Rangers life is very much ‘what have you done for us lately’ and lately all we’ve had in return is domestic inferiority.
We have one more meaningful match on the calendar between now and the end of the season as things stand. It’ll be two if we win it. Silverware has very much been the exception rather than the rule with this particular Rangers side but please, just please can we close this chapter with one final exception and allow at least some moderate dignity to be salvaged from the decaying trajectory of this squad.
It might not be the last dance but hopefully for many it should certainly be the last curtain call.
7 thoughts on “Time for farewell to the failures”
Absolutely spot on. ,
Good blog Stevie
One point where we disagree is Ryan Jack. He’s as culpable as Kent and Morelos for the repeated failures and should also be shown the door. He’s not robust enough to fully rely on, and even when fit, he can look like he’s towing a caravan. His first thought is a negative one and his pass to Soutter before their 3rd was a perfect illustration of a very limited footballer.
Excellent piece. I really want Michael Beale to succeed because I think he’s capable of building a more robust club structure.
I couldn’t have put it any better myself, it has become more than embarrassing and too painful to watch. There are not many I would kee6to be honest. Apart from squad regeneration by buying in new faces, we must be giving our young superstars that I keep hearing about their chance to make the step up. If you’re good enough you’re old enough and there are young teenagers in first teams all over Europe that proves the point.
One certainty is regardless of it all, I will be rangers til I die.
Like you Andy I have faith in Michael Beale to get this sorted for next season. He has stated that for the remainder of this season this squad are playing for their futures.
No need to wait for Kent, Morelos, Kamara, Hagi, Helander, McGregor, Arfield and sadly Davis. All of these have served us well in the past but must now be consigned to the ‘Always a Blue’ category. It would be grossly unfair to Beale to have to carry any of these past heroes any further.
I remain to be convinced that any of those in the B team squad will reach the level of any of the aforementioned past heroes.
The remainder of this season should be about the current first team squad playing, as Beale has stated, the best version of themselves. We, as always, live in hope. @Billytf 🔴⚪️💙
Well written article with some painful home truths. I admire the way in which the author approaches this without making any personal attacks on under performing player’s.
Ryan Jack was ar fault in the 1st and 3rd goal on Saturday . The 1st standing watching play in front of him no idea what was happening behind him, the 3rd a pass to put pressure on a teammate. No new contract for Jack no good enough.