03 October 2012

If Robert Louis Stevenson did Scottish Football

by Andy McGowan | CRO Contributor | amcgowan@coplandroad.org | No set of football supporters understands what a rollercoaster the game can be better than those who follow Rangers - out of defiance and not loyalty of course.

It has been the most turbulent year in the Club’s history with more than one false dawn causing the club and its fans heartache. The off-the-field roller coaster has now seemingly been replaced with an on-the-field one, courtesy of Ally McCoist and his playing staff.

Rangers’ performances this season have been nothing short of baffling, often finding themselves out fought, out thought and out played by semi-professional players and managers. Yet there are occasions which Rangers simply blow their opposition away, as is expected of them. This curious form fluctuation can be summed up neatly by the events of both cup competitions Rangers took part in last week.

Last Tuesday night Rangers took on then SPL leaders Motherwell. It was a moment fans had waited for, in more ways than one.

On that night Rangers clicked into a gear they’d been waiting for since a ball was first kicked in anger in Brechin - and a bit of an up yours to the club’s many detractors - seeing off Motherwell 2-0.

It was a result which flattered the SPL side who could have easily left Ibrox on the end of a four or five-nil canning, such was the form the Rangers side, which consisted mainly of youth players and new signings.

Rangers fans left Ibrox with a renewed sense of hope that both coaching and playing staff had finally upped their game. This should have been the end of the Jekyll and Hyde syndrome Rangers have suffered from all season: They had taken on a credible threat, the first side who had any right to dare consider a victory against them and they’d beaten them, and beaten them well.

Rangers passed the acid test in a big way.

Rangers then travelled to north to take on the Highland League champions Forres Mechanics, an amateur side who train just two nights a week. With top gear finally found just a few days earlier against Motherwell this should have been nothing but a training exercise for the club, truly a David vs Goliath contest.

On this occasion Goliath won, but it was far from convincing. The Motherwell victory seemed a million miles away as Rangers toiled and eventually fumbled their way to a 1-0 victory in a match that could be argued should have gone to a reply.

How could Rangers in the space of 4 days go from dismantling the side who sat top of all of Scottish football to struggling past a side not even part of its professional setup? What is the magic ingredient that seems to go missing? A look at Rangers last 4 fixtures further highlights the on-going problems in the coaching staff and players.

Scottish Challenge Cup - Rangers 2 - 2 Queen of South. Mr Hyde strikes as Rangers are eliminated from the Challenge Cup by SFL2 side QoS. The penalty loss shattered the myth that Rangers’ troubles were exclusive to away fixtures, as for the first time this season Rangers struggled at Ibrox, and struggled mightily.

Scottish Third Division: Rangers 4 - 1 Montrose. Rangers, drove on by a fantastic Frasier Aird performance, turned round a poor first half performance with a the goal second half to usher in the return of Dr Jekyll.

Scottish League Cup: Rangers 2 - 0 Motherwell. Comfortably Rangers biggest and best performance of the season. A bad injury to Fran Sandaza brought the introduction of Kyle Hutton and a tactical switch which saw Lee McCulloch move up front.

The lads never looked back. Fantastic performances from Neil Alexander, Emilson, Kyle Hutton, Lewis McLeod, Frasier Aird and a man of the match performance from Dean Sheils assured Rangers would move through the round, and a rare clean sheet for Rangers struggling back line, seemingly transformed in just 90 minutes of football.

Scottish Cup: Forres Mechanics 0 - 1 Rangers. A return of our old friend Mr Hyde as Rangers played out an ugly 90 minutes of very forgetable football on a slanted pitch somewhere in the Highlands of Scotland. Thankfully the clubs blushes were spared on this occasion by another promising youngster – Kal Naismith.

There are of course worse things in football than winning while playing well and there are certainly positives that can be taken, such as a clean sheet and our youngsters learning how to win ugly.

Not all games will be as slick as the Motherwell performance, but one thing that has to be addressed is this
peak and trough form the club seems rooted in this season. Rangers travel to Stirling this weekend, but which Rangers side will turn up? No one knows.

What is for sure is that there are few clubs in football as unpredictable on and off the park as Rangers.

It takes a special bunch to make Motherwell look like Forres and Forres look like Motherwell.