28 July 2013

One year on

by Peter Ewart | Contributor

Bears heading for Livingston’s Almondvale ground (ssssh don’t tell the BBC) for the season opener against Albion Rovers will do so with the club in very different circumstances than this time last year. 

For a start we’ve had a pre-season. Some pretty decent work seems to have been put in. Firstly the trip up north with a training camp, followed by games against Brora and Elgin. There followed a scorching trip down to Bristol, where the support was absolutely amazing. Two games on the continent v Gutersloh in Germany and Emmen in Holland gave some of our European legions the chance to see the club, as well as some decent away days for the diehard faithful.

And then there was Sheffield. By all accounts [our own Alan Clark wrote about it here] the trip to Hillsborough will go down amongst the epic Rangers games in England alongside Bradford in 2002. Huge numbers, huge noise, big respect and no trouble. We might not like to admit it but we know the damage to our reputation the negative side of Manchester ‘08 brought will take a long time to repair. Bristol and Sheffield will go a long way to showing people what our real support is all about.

Friendlies to come at Dundee and against Newcastle United at Ibrox will allow those unable to play competitively before 1st September to keep their eye in.

All-in-all so far, plenty of clean sheets, plenty of players and formations tried out and valuable match fitness gained. A great looking signing in Nicky Law. Jon Daly looking lively. And some shrewd long term business with the likes of Nicky Clark and other longer term players. There is a lot to look forward to on the park and the pre-season has been a useful platform for the coming season. There can be no excuses this time around. Five wins and only one loss won't harm confidence either. Those who tell you pre-season results don’t matter, won’t have won many of their friendlies.

The contrast to this time in 2012 should never be forgotten. The planned pre-season was decimated. Six players had initially reported back for pre-season training. Ongoing blackmail and brinkmanship from the Scottish footballing authorities left it till late on the Friday evening to allow a temporary licence to allow the Ramsdens Cup game vs Brechin to even go ahead. The period prior to that had been a particularly unpleasant one for fans as the spectre of a ‘year of friendlies’ or year out had been drawing ever closer.

The pre-season had imploded and that had made everyone increasingly nervous. One by one fixtures had disappeared – the German pre-season tour was cancelled. Our invite to the Southampton tournament, including them, Arsenal and Anderlecht ended unused. We also had to cancel a prestigious game against Le Harve to open their new Stadium. Any hope of a pre-season had all but run out. Continuing SFA indecision put paid the Stefan Winiarski testimonial at Kelty Hearts on 24 July - it would have been the first game in Scotland and tickets had sold out fast. But that too was postponed and at great inconvenience to the junior club (Rangers honoured the fixture on October 7). And so Brechin was it. No warm-up games, we were straight into the heat of competition.

I've never ever been happier or more proud to see a Rangers side emerge from a tunnel than when Boca led the team out at Glebe Park. It marked another very significant moment in our long history.

I get the sense that last season’s absence of a pre-season added to the clamour to see the team in this pre-season. Last year's events have brought the fans even closer to the club. That spells an enormous message to the blood thirsty haters who thought they could kill our club off. You didn’t succeed, you’ll never succeed and you’ve only made it even harder for yourselves in the long run.

We are certainly in a different place as a club than this time last year. Many questions remain about the club off the field. Squad size, wage bill, financial performance and boardroom shenanigans all have to be addressed. A long road lies ahead.

Our detractors and those that openly attack the club are also still very much around. The usual nonsense from the usual suspects Keevins, the Rhecord, Britney and other dross within the Scottish media all present and all taking digs. As is the slightly odd axis of bullshit outside Scotland, from Thomson (and his pal who has escaped to the country) to Greenslade to Cosgrove, everyone is standing up to sling their shit. So we’ll be keeping out usual eye on things off-the-field too.

Enjoy your 2013-14 season. We at the CRO will be with you every step of the way.