04 February 2015

The Bitterest Pill

by Garry Carmody | Contributor

I told myself it didn't matter. I did try. Up until about an hour before kick-off I did all I could to suppress all distant sentiment of hope – the romanticism of a famous Hampden win was locked away in the back of my mind. 

I promised myself that this was simply a distraction which would be forgotten about after the 90 minutes and it would be a quick return to normality.

Alas, that could not be the case. From the train to Mount Florida, to the short walk to the ground, to taking my seat, the sober reality in front of me was quickly distorted. For a short time, this was no distraction and it became the main stage again. 

As the atmosphere built and as the crowd grew, it suddenly became just another Old Firm match where winning is everything. It is difficult to remain pragmatic when you can barely hear yourself think. The crowd roared the players onto the field like it was the second coming of the Rangers 1993 team, and after a fairly solid start, it felt like anything was possible.

It lasted ten minutes.

It didn’t take long for the Rangers defence to be cut open and once it was, no mistake was made. “Header from Leigh Griffiths” wasn’t how I expected this defence to surrender, but little surprises any regular viewers of this Rangers team. The full extent of just how poor this squad is was back on show for all to see – an average Celtic team strolled through the match. The second goal came in the form of a rasping shot from Kris Commons, and it was game over. If the result was in little doubt after the first goal went in, it was beyond question after the second.

As the first half drew to a close, it was suddenly a case of damage limitation. If the second half started in a similar vein, it could quickly become the annihilation everyone had at least briefly considered in the weeks leading up to the game. However, the second 45 was a non-event. Whilst the half time introduction of Jon Daly improved the shape and performance of the team, in reality they never challenged Celtic and the opposition never had to step out of second gear.

Rangers produced a shadow of a performance. All the qualities required to win an Old Firm were completely devoid from that side – no grit, no determination and no passion. It has been a long time since a team has been fielded that actually looks interested in a game, but if a group of players cannot motivate themselves for one of the most well-known games in the world, they may as well give up now. 

Realistically all Rangers fans wanted from Sunday was a performance that they could be proud of; a reminder to the world that they would be back soon. Yet what was on show was a gutless display which could have resulted in a more embarrassing result on a different day, but could never have gone the other way.

Sunday was perhaps the most striking reminder of the drastic and immediate overhaul that is required at Ibrox. Every director and coach that has stepped over the threshold over the past three years should not have been able to watch that showing without a great degree of guilt – they shoulder the blame and have all played their part in facilitating such a low standard of expectation and belief. Whilst Rangers have tasted a strong dose of medicine in recent times, the rebuilding has to start at some point, yet those in charge at the moment only appear intent on stripping to the bone. 

There is no perceived plan of how to get this back on track – petty game-playing and self-preservation reign supreme by those currently holding on to boardroom position. The product itself is an unnecessary distraction for those choking every revenue stream.

To either the current or prospective power-bloc in control of the club, Sunday must be a reminder that what happens on the pitch must always be of utmost importance when running the club. Never again should Rangers enter a match against their age-old rivals with such a deficit of quality. Of course, the immediate steps needing to be taken possibly mean such games could be put on the back-burner for longer than expected, but anything other than the long-term goal of once more competing with Celtic will never be acceptable to the fans. 

Sunday showed it remains a while away, but with the proper people in charge, it most definitely is possible. If a boardroom and management team is in place which can harness the passion that surrounds this club and do so with honesty and commitment (which none have in recent times), the sky is the limit.

Until then, there may well be many more bitter pills to swallow.

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