May 19 2011

Fat Eck

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We do enjoy rewinding the years occasionally, especially if it involves reminding ourselves of some of the happier moments in the history of Slovak football.  Which is why I’m absolutely delighted to publish the following 2 articles written by Rangers supporter Alex Anderson for his ‘Fat Eck’ blog at the time of Rangers 2005/06 Champions League campaign. That season saw Rangers face Artmedia Bratislava [now FC Petrzalka] in the group stages of the Champions League, something which is almost impossible to imagine today:

Part 1: Rangers v Artmedia

Before

What are we?  What are we up to? Just who the hell are Rangers this season? What are we all about?  Are we spiralling downwards, out of control – about to crash in a managerial sacking?  Are we a doomed team of bottle-merchants with the tactical nouse of an American Tank Division … in a desert … at night?  Are we chucking it?  Are we playing at it? Or is there something else afoot?

It’s never deliberate.  We don’t PLAN to drop these points and be as shite as we have been in Scotland this last few months.  We’ve watched The Gers with our own 100,000 eyes - it’s plainly a malaise with genuinely unwanted roots.  But is it all down to a re-directing of the team’s energies – a psychological and physical move of the rudder?  We’re not TRYING to fuck-up in the SPL – it’s just happening naturally … because there’s a bigger plan.  Right?  RIGHT??

Are we a club unconcerned about our domestic stumblings because we know European glory is on its way?  Do we think we can piss about that bit longer in the SPL because we’re champions … because we discovered we can win it with the last kick of the season’s last ball?

Now O’Neill is nothing but a retainer fee at parkned and Hearts are thinly-spread arrivistes, do we think we can let them both steal a march on us – and we’ll catch them in March … coz that’s how long we plan to be “distracted” by matters continental?  We could be about to do great things in Europe and that would make all the early-season domestic garbage well worth it – particularly when a mega European moment starts boosting our SPL form.  Hearts may not be catchable but Celtic certainly are.  We ain’t gonnae win no Champions League but, luckily enough, we don’t have to in order to create that history I was talkin’ aboot (sorry – been watching Trailer Park Boys again):

We can do it over the next two European games – and we can be safely out of Europe in time to rectify things on the home front – ie, ensuring we finish above the smellies and second only to a rampant Heart of Midlothian.

It’s simple:  No Scottish side – club or international - has ever qualified from a significant Group stage.  Nine points COULD see us do that.  Ten definitely will.  Get through this group at the beginning of December and then we only have a glamorous pressure-free double-header with Chelsea or Real Madrid in February to distract us from the SPL.  Two games gone in UEFA Champions League 2005/2006 Group H and we already have three points and we already have our toughest fixture out the way – Inter at the San Siro reaped as few points as we expected but not the humiliation we feared.

What everyone in Blue now wants is a home and away win over the most inexperienced European team in the group – Artmedia Bratislava.  Porto are collapsing all over the place – a home defeat by Benfica at the weekend had the white hankies out at Do Dragao.  Should Co Adriaanse’s side lose both skulls of their double-header with Inter then The Gers would have two games – one against an already qualified Inter at Ibrox - in which to garner that one final point needed for qualification.

The problems are three and easy:

(1) Even if both the double-headers go the way we want, we’ve been in the situation before where we needed “just” one point from our last two games to go through … and didn’t.

(2)”What everyone in Blue now wants is a home and away win over the most inexperienced European team in the group – Artmedia Bratislava.”  Trouble is, some of those people in Blue expect those six points as much as they want them.  No – no – no – no – NO!  This attitude will simply not do, will simply not help The Gers because …

(3) “… the most inexperienced European team in the group – Artmedia Bratislava”… are making a speciality of identity crises.  If Rangers are struggling to work out exactly who Rangers are this season then more fool us.  Ye see, Artmedia Bratislava have never been Artmedia Bratislava and they’re so comfortable in that knowledge that they’re putting the shits right up pre-conceived footballing notions everywhere:

If we don’t take this team seriously we will be fucked.  Even if we do they might leather seven shades of shite out us anyway.

No-one had heard of Artmedia Bratislava before this season?  Up until a few years ago, most of their fans had never heard of them either!  For a start, they don’t even come from Bratislava.

They’re the club of Petrzalka – a toon just oo’r the Danube river from the Slovakian capital city.  They’ll play us in the national stadium in Bratislava – the Tehelne Pole – but only because they’ve become such a big deal and their own stadium isnae up to UEFA standards.  In 1898 they started life as Pozsonyi orna Egyesulet (that’s Hungarian ye ken!) and have changed their name 13 times since – including a short-lived merger with Inter Bratislava.  They were latterly “Petrzalka” again, until sometime after the millenium when the advertising agency called Artmedia hit them with the ultimate request in exchange for sponsorship dough.  Who knows - maybe they’re all over in Slovakia  talking about playing Carling Glasgow … AGAIN!

But the identity crisis has been honed and used to their benefit.  Winning the league for the first time in their history was a great enough achievement last season but Artmedia took the cup too to make it a double:  Beating Kairat Almaty of Kazakhstan in the first qualifying round of this season’s Champions League was seemingly as far as they would go – playing the mighty Celtic of Glasgow, former European champions and recent Uefa Cup finalists, was reward enough for all this amazing little club’s exploits.

But nah.

They then started to take the personality changes to a new level:  They dole out Celtic’s biggest ever Euro hiding.  Amazing.  Biggest achievement in Slovak club football since Slovan Bratislava beat Barcelona in Basle to take the 1969 European Cup Winners’ Cup home to the last four syllables of Czechoslovakia.  Unbelievable stuff. But they then go all “Partick Thistle” by almost chucking away the 5-goal lead in the second leg at Darkhead.  No-one else loses 4-0 and then celebrates the biggest victory of their history!

Then they do the narrow-Euro-win thing in the more usual way.  Home and away nil-nils with the also very mighty Partizan Belgrade end with Artmedia entering the Champions League Proper via a penalty shoot-out.

They get all run-of-the-mill by losing narrowly at home to Inter of Milan with the Italians down to ten men.  That’s the expected stuff – as was going 2-0 down to Porto in Do Dragao in their next Champions League game.  But they pulled one back in Portugal, did our Slovak sensations … and another one  …  and  then fekin won the game 3-2!   Now they’re doing comebacks too!

It’s probably down to a manager who is nothing less than a Guy Roux but has every chance of becoming a Brian Clough.  No-one in Europe knew much about Nottingham Forest in 1978/79 until it was too late.  But we have had all the warnings we need about the single-minded mental determination of Vladimir Weiss.  This guy has made Artmedia so fit that they can do what they did to Porto and he’s made them so confident that Artmedia themselves have learned from what Celtic did to them at Paranoia Palace and turned it into what they then did to Partizan in Belgrade … and morphed that into what they did to Porto in Oporto.

Now they’re playing Rangers in Glasgow.

Aherm.

This means there is plenty for us to fear on Champions League Match Day Three   – and there always is with Rangers in Europe – but if I know all this about Artmedia then Alex McLeish had better know it too. We have no excuses.

We do have solid reasons for dropping our expectations.  As long as we take as many points from Artmedia as they take from us then, frankly, I’ll be satisfied with The Gers.  But we’ll only do that with a win tomorow and worrying later about the trip to Bratislava.

They aint glamorous but they’re fucking good - the worst scenario. This is a horrible prospect of a game troops.  Only The Gers can make it lovely … and then we can have another look at ourselves in the mirror and see something we recognise.

After

Superb!  What a result!  For only the second time in 315 years, The Rangers fail to concede an away goal in a European tie.

And, furthermore, your Fat Editor here is delighted to be proven right on three personal scores.  “Artmedia will take points from us”, I said.  “Porto will take points from Inter”, I said.  “Rangers have never won two home games in one edition of the Champions League Group stages”, I said … apparently … to a Bluenosed mate … who reminded me of this fact today … a few hours before kick-off … just when I was looking for another solid reason to justify the well of pessimism which was slowly drowning me …

So, yeah – I’m really happy about tonight’s Group H Results because they proved me 100% correct at the earliest possible opportunity.  Happy to be correct, I am.  Happy with the results at Do Dragao and Ibrox tonight, I am.  Really happy.  Really …

totally

fucking

delighted.

Scroll down this page – Take a look at last night’s preview piece.  Jump down to the right hand side of this page – hit the Gers@OpenFootie archive and take a look at any of the pieces I wrote when the draw was made for this Group.  Take a look at any of the archived match reports and comments on any of our last 38 Uefa Champions League matches – any of our last two zillion European games of any kind:  What you’ll find is an oh-so-fekin-canny foreknowledge of Rangers continental failings … borne from bitter experience.

This is something all True Bluenoses share.  This is why tonight’s result doesn’t surprise us.

All true Gers fans are true fitbaw fans too – so Artmedia’s continuing “spirit of adventure”, “nothing to lose” debutant flourish is no shock.  We saw Basle do it a few years ago.  We saw Rangers themselves do it in 92/93.

So no-one, no-one whose opinion counts in any way, found tonight’s goaless draw at Ibrox in any way unexpected.

And that makes it so much easier to take, doesn’t it.  Doesn’t it?

Does it fuck.

We know Artmedia are an organised, up-for-it, who-gives-a-shit team of tryers.  But when you see them in the flesh, see how they became the one European team to create least chances in Rangers’ box of any side I’ve seen at Ibrox in the last twenty years, then you know we only need one goal to take all three points.  When Rangers then create two clear-cut chances in the first 10-20 minutes and miss both – Dado and Nieto at fault – you start thinking “CSKA in 93, Galatasaray in 2001 – this has nil-nil written all over it”.

But you chide yourself.  You don’t want to end up like the fucking tourist “Gers fans” who’ve come along for a Big game and spend most of it slagging Rangers and tut-tutting as loud as they possibly can because, like, no-one else knows Stephen Thompson and Hamed Namouchi are PISH these days.

No shit, Sherlocks!  No – you don’t want to end up like these gits who forget to keep their objectivity for the boozers and the workplace, who forget that when you come to Ibrox you too have a part to play in spurring the team on to historic glory.  You want to do your bit so you keep hoping and keep cheering and when Namouchi misses a sitter and the Artmedia goalie starts making endless photographer-friendly two-handed saves, you try to avoid adding to the sea of negativity pouring down the stands onto the pitch.

But then one corner after another free-kick is delivered staright into the hands of that same 6 foot 15 inch goalie and you think “Man! – we really are PISH!”

Just coz we’ve been so bad so many times before does not make it in any way excusable to be equally bad once again.  Failing to build on our one-goal home leads against Bayern in 1999 and Monaco in 2001, amid an expectant, optimistic chorus of exagerrated “ooohs” and “aaaahs” upon each “near” miss – this was hope triumphing over reason as Rangers played above themselves for the most part.  But tonight, with no lead and no Albertz, Mols, De Boer or Billy Dodds on the field and no Simones or Effenbergs playing against us, the “ooohs” and “aaaahs” were forced:  We were trying to fool our PLAYERS into thinking they could do it:  We the punters were in no way fooled.

That’s two games on the trot where we’ve had one dramatic save from Rangers – it was Waterreus tonight but it was Rodriguez on Sunday – and Kyrgiakos has left the field of play early – it was an inury tonight but it was a sending off on Sunday – and we’ve suffered a body-blow 0-0 draw against a team of very average tryers - it was in the retrievable SPL against Dundee United on Sunday but it was in the blank-and-you’ll-miss-it CHAMPIONS LEAGUE against Artmedia Bratislava tonight!

Artmedia will come at us in a fortnight and I’ll go over there hoping to see The Gers take advantage of the extra space afforded us.  But we created so much heat and light tonight withoiut ever looking like really scoring, I can’t see that we’ll be any better away from home.  My only hope is that Artmedia, having also defeated Porto on the road, will now think they’re superstars and lose their sense of unity and integrity when they take us on at the Tehelne Pole stadium in Slovakia.

Can’t see it somehow but ye never know.  Stranger things hae happened in the Champions League.

Trouble is, they never happen to us.  Once again, it looks like us and the other minnow of the group will cancel each other out and Porto will steadily waltz into second place behind the un-phased Inter.

Stranger things do happen – but we patently lack the ability to make them happen in Red, White and Blue.

***************

 

Part 2:  Artmedia v Rangers

Before

Anything better than a five-goal defeat and we’ll have improved the standing of Scottish football among the Slovakian public!

Hey – don’t let me joke about this stuff.   The way The Teds are going right now, a wee repeat of the mighty shitey sellik’s record pumping could well befall us in the capital of Slovakia.  I don’t think so but, well, the fact that Yours Bluely will be there adds the jinx factor to the fate-tempting component:  I’m less convinced we’ll draw or win in Bratislava this Tuesday than I was that we’d beat Livingston last Wednesday.  We all know what happened in West Lothian.

So let me just say that I HAVEN’T GIVEN UP HOPE that Eck McLeish can pull another Big Positive One out of the bag.  A defeat would see him resign - voluntarily or otherwise.  A win would be heroic and a possible launch pad for salvation on all fronts.  A draw, however, would be the kind of result we can’t slag and can’t fully celebrate – it’s respectable but, in light of our failure to beat Artmedia at Ibrox, it’s not enough for Champions League progression.

A draw on Match Day Four, depending on how it was achieved, would probably be enough to give Eck a stay of execution through the two Celtic games and the match in Porto – but we’d have to win two of them to make his job secure again.  Should we fail to beat Aberdeen next Saturday, however, then a draw this Tuesday night will not be enough.  The fact Celtic have now edged to the top of the table shouldn’t make any real difference – we’re actually closer to the top now than we were last Saturday.  But, I’m afraid it makes all the difference – it shows Alex’s record in an even worse light, it puts him under an even darker cloud.  It’s perverted but it’s true – for Rangers, being ten points behind Celtic is far worse than eleven points behind Hearts.

A draw, by the way, let’s face it, is our most common result these days.

The gallows are being erected for Alex McLeish.  He needs a momentous win to get a last-minute reprieve.  It may seem fortunate that, following our fudge-ups at Tannadice, at Almondvale and at home to Artmedia and Inverness, he now has just such an opportunity, through one match, to score the kind of victory which would gloss over all that crap.  But it ain’t luck – it’s merely Eck cashing in the last of the credit he’s earned through his own hard work.  If he’s the sole reason we’re struggling right now then he’s the sole reason we’re in the Champions League in the first place.  If his thinking has been about risking SPL form to make history in Europe then he’s about to gamble his last chip.

A win puts us in the driving seat for a UEFA Cup spot and may well put us top of the group.  Artmedia are a team flying by the seat of their pants and loving it – but the one type of manager who can beat them is one whose career currently dangles by a thread or, maintaining the clothes-related theme, whose coat is on a shakey peg. Quite simply, the re-named Petrzalka FC are exceding all expectations – they were having the greatest season in their history from the moment they thrashed Celtic 5-0 in July.  McLeish has to have his players performing with all the conviction and, damn it, desperation of his predicament:  Artmedia should not, cannot, DO NOT, want this more than us.  For once, Rangers have to let the pressure feed our performance with an unplayable hunger – Artmedia should find themselves up againt a bunch of guys playing for their reputations.

The distance from Scotland should allow both the Gers players and travelling fans to put all the huffiness and grief to one side – it should only be Belief in Red White and Blue this week.  Me?  I’m stil trying to get my head round the fact I’m going to Eastern Europe for less than 24 hours.  I’ll be by the Clyde at 8am tomorrow – and by the Danube less than 3 hours later.  I hate the idea of travelling to such an interesting and exotic location as Slovakia’s only city and not spending at least the night there. But needs must.  So it’s the SAS, in-and-out job for me and a few thousand other Bears like yerselves.

Still, doing the official Rangers tour thing gets ye into the city centre before lunch time and allows ye plenty of time to decide whether to get wrecked (something I can do quite well) or be really boringly anoraky about yer day trip (Something I EXCELLLLLL at!).  I want to see Inter Bratislava and Artmedia’s stadiums – get them “hopped” – because our hosts are not hosting us at their own ground.  We’re playing them, as did Celtic and Internazionale of Milan, at Slovan Bratislava’s Tehelne Pole or “Brick Field” stadium.

Like so many other stadia around the continent I first became aware of this ground thanks to Simon Inglis’ brilliant, seminal, BIBLE of a publication The Footbal grounds of Europe.  It hit the shops in 1990 and I’ve been reading it like some fetishistic football pitch voyeur ever since.  I love European travel, I love football grounds - this is MY Playboy (“Man! Check out the floodlights on that baaaaaaabe!”).  Pages 88 and 89 deal with Bratislava and Slovakia’s main venue and the black and white photo, which seems to show an international between Czechoslovakia and Denmark taking place (I’ve looked into it – a 0-0 draw in November 1986), made the ground instantly recognisable to me, even though the end terracings had been seated subsequently, when England played a recent controversial EURO 2004 qualifier there and Celtic played a brilliant Champions League 2005/2006 qualifier there.  Once again, I’m looking forward to that buzz of finally being physically inside a ground which has so long been inside my head.  Now THAT’s something most of us can’t say about the beauties we see in Playboy …

Sorry to go on, but it’s maybe important to see the wider picture when our club’s in such a “crisis” at the moment.  Is Rangers’ progressing in the Champions League more important than seeing the Carpathian mountains with your own eyes?  Is one football team’s victory over another more important than visiting a country which fought so long to be independant  from the Hungarians, only to be subsumed by the Nazis then the Soviets and which finally became sovereign in 1993 when it broke from the Czech Republic?

I don’t think so.  But cheering on our fotball team is, in itself, a political act – the ability to travel to other countries to do so is a special kind of freedom we shouldn’t take for granted.  The Third Reich football team played its last ever match at the Tehelne Pole, in November of 1942:  The Czechoslovakian national side caused a riot at this venue in November 1983, resulting in the reported death of a visiting Romanian fan, when the manager refused to play one Slovak player, even using only Czech subs.  This is the ground where the famous Czechoslovakia side of Dr Jo Venglos (Yes, him!) defeated England and the Soviet Union in qualifying for the European Championship finals where, with seven Slovan Bratislava Slovaks, they defeated West Germany in the final.

Stuff like that shows both the insignificance and power of football.

On Tuesday night I want Rangers to make Petrzalka Artmedia Bratislava realise that while we respect and admire them, we are just far too important a club to allow their fairy tale to extend our nightmare.  It’ll be great to be there, no matter what happens, but it’ll be even better if we can ensure that, like the Bluebells, the Danube stays Blue.

Sorry, troops – no laptop with me and no time to hit an internet cafe as I’m heading straight back for the plane at the final whistle – all this means no match report until I get out my kip on Wednesday.  Still haven’t negotiated the full next day off work with my gaffer either so maybe it’ll be Wednesday night before I can hit the PC and give you my two Slovak Coruna’s worth on what is sure to be an historic occassion for The Teds.

Aye Yours, Aye Ready, Aye Fat …

… Eck

After

Artmedia Bratislava 2-2 Glasgow Rangers

Perspective.  I enjoyed a few belting perspectives on Tuesday 1st November.

High on Bratislava’s Castle Hill, as the sun set behind the Small Carpathian mountains to my right. The Danube below me, stretching off into the distance on each side, spanned by many gargantuan feats of engineering.  Ahead, on the other side of the famous river, endless ranks of grim, communist high-rises flank the road to Vienna. To my left, the Historic Centre of Bratislava with its spires, towers and roofs of the many architectural styles which influenced this city over the centuries.  Behind me the impressive but grimly rebuilt Bratislavsky Hrad, the castle, and beyond it the eight floodlights – four for Slovan’s Tehelne Pole Stadium and four, with leapordskin design on the masts (!!), for Inter Bratislava’s neighbouring ground (these two run Dens and Tannadice close – pardon the pun - for proximity).  All this at 4 pm local time, on a beautiful Autumnal central European day.

Jump to 8:45pm local time and Yours Bluely is stood on the blue plastic, numberless bucket seats of that Tehelne Pole stadium’s away corner.  Surrounded by fellow Bluenoses, looking over a blue fence and towards the blue seats all round, the matching blue roof of a building behind the home end away to the unlit distance and, mostly at the blue shirts, white shorts and Red and Black socks of the away team before me.  To my right is another high blue fence of steel, one of a few dozen militia in full riot gear regards me and my ilk coldly as we give it large with the flags and the songs.  The tall fir trees enclose the unroofed ends of the stadium and the Petrzalka fans in black and white favours are as peaceful and non-threatening as the Slovan Bratislava fans who usually fill this ground would be intimidating.  We’ve been searched and delayed getting in and we’ll be searched and delayed getting out but that’s the way it is and maybe the way it should be – just to be safe.  As I buzz on the fact I’m in such a famous/infamous stadium and buzz on the fact The Gers are playing in the Champions League and buzz on the moderate number of local beers I’ve sunk from tea time onwards, I realise this is as great a perspective as any I had in the beautifiul town of Bratislava.

Go back to the afternoon.  Standing outside the National Theatre at the top of Hviezdoslavovo Nam, the Carlton hotel across the road, the balcony of Le Monde restaurant above us, the long pedestrianised walks down past the US Embassy, towards the Danube in front of us and MacDonalds, to the right pulling us in for ridiculosly cheap Burgers served by ridiculously good-looking staff.  The Davie Cooper flag  stretched out on the pavement and all the other Red, White and Blue flags – Preston, Clarkston, Barnet, Glossop, Lerwick, Coatbridge – sretched out wherever they could find space.  The Tesco Loyal making the trip up Gorkeho Ulica and round the corner to the supermarket offering the cheapest drink we’d ever known and the tourists thinking we were part of the view, wondering where all these Union Jacks were coming from and wandering  “What the hell’s “the bouncey”"??.  Memorable perspective.

Then later, seeing my team walking around our glazed departure lounge at Bratislava airport, ashamed to look at us – except Fernando Ricksen who gave us a wave - all taking abuse from some Stone Island-wearing retard who insisted on chanting “There’s only one Stefan Klos” at Wattereus and berating us all as Rangers fans because (a) he knew no-one was up for messing with the resident crackpot and (b), unlike him, we weren’t being as verbally abusive as we could be towards the team we love.  Seeing the look of resignation on so many fellow fans because they knew, like me, that results like this always let the nutters come to the fore. Not a nice perspective.

But, right now, let’s remember that Rangers, in this one game, won as many Champions League points as Celtic have managed in their sum total of nine away from home in the world’s premier football competition. Let’s remember that Celtic, currently top of the SPL, were destroyed by five goals to nil on the ground on which we drew 2-2 last night, by the same team. Celtic may have eventually lost by a single-goal over the two legs but Rangers, were our double-header with Artmedia Bratislava a one-off tie, would have gone through on away goals. Does that seem like a bit too much perspective?

It probably seems like I’m slagging Celtic – what with me being a Bear and having a rather skewed perspective on Scottish football – but this is not the case.  To prove it, let me mention the fact that Celtic have won the European Cup – using them as a benchmark for what a Scottish club can do in Europe is not always bad.  Artmedia’s thrashing of them can be seen in more than just the perspective of Martin O’Neill’s departure or Gordon Strachan’s new job. Looked at historically, what Artmedia did to Celtic, and then another European Cup winner, should sober us up.  A team who beat Porto in Porto were unable to beat Rangers at home last night. Surely this shows we’re not all that badly off?  The fact we can narow the failure to take all three points on Tuesday down to one defensive blunder and one missed sitter is a sign that we’re far from a lost cause – isn’t it?  Two games to go and we’re possibly one win from making European history?  This is getting things into a proper perspective?  No?

No. As always for Alex McLeish, it’s the draws which kill us.  Artmedia Bratislava’s results against Celtic and Porto came because those opponents under-estimated the Slovak minnows.  This, for Goram’s sake, is only one of two clubs EVER to go through three qualifying round of the Champions league into the group stages. The other is Liverpool, who were reigning European champions at the time!  Artmedia Bratislava showed in their two games against Rangers that they are hard-working, organised and skilful to a level of European competence.  But by the time we played them their “surprise” package had been well and truly unwrapped.  We saw at Ibrox two weeks ago and again in Slovakia last night that Artmedia Bratislava are one of the most beatable teams we’re ever likely to face in this stage of this utterly ruthless competition.  Right now the perspective on our two draws with this friendly, HARMLESS, little club is being skewed in Alex McLeish’s favour by the fact Artnedia blew Celtic away in July and, also, by Rangers’ and Celtic’s own historical shortcomings in the Champions League.

This result was shite.  Whatever way you look at it – we should have had this team beaten.  Sod what Celtic did forty years ago; To hell with whatever a shitey little side like Strachan’s Celtic are doing in an SPL which Rangers are failing to take seriously and Hearts are imploding on; Sod what Celtic EVER do – good,bad or indifferent.  We shouldn’t EVER judge Rangers’ failures or achievements from the perspective of others.  The sixz of the support we take to these games, the money we spend on watching Rangers at Ibrox, Dundee, Hamilton, Dublin or anywhere near the Vatican – THIS is the perspective from which we judge our club’s achievements.  We are fekin MASSIVE and quite frankly, our persistent qualification for the Champions League Group stages is only giving the rest of Europe a HINT of this fact.  And it’s only repaying our support with pennies-worth of glory.

I’m sorry but David Murray went for this before – he went for it in Europe and took us closer to a level of Champions League comeptenece than we’ve ever been.  In so doing he took us to a level of debt which was frightening – until he wrote it off with the flick of a pen.  My qualified instinct, when I see the queues of Bears and Bearettes at Glasgow airport who want to travel to one of Europe’s least glamorous football locations to watch an ailing Rangers team, is that we need to be run by a man who shares our passion and Murray had that til we kicked it out of him.  I don’t know who else in the world has the money and interest to go “Berlusconi” with Rangers. I don’t know who else there is in Scotland – coz it’s only someone resident here who we can trust not to sell our stadium and piss off. So, right now, for some reason, I’m thinking we should get Martin Bain back in the rank and file management.  Get Murray back in, hands on

If we want to make our own bit of European history, if we ever want to become the first Scottish football side to progress from a significant group stage then Artmedia Bratislava should have been six points in the bag, not two.  Abusing Rangers, as we all know, is not my style – I now feel utterly convinced it’s actually not the style of the vast majority of Bluenoses – but neither is ignoring their deficiencies.  Effort, I’m sure, is still there.  Ability, for the most part, is plentiful enough but really rarely evidenced these days because ORGANISATION and BELIEF is sorely lacking.  Alex McLeish, I’m sorry to say, has to take the fall for that.

He’s earned his right to stay in the job for the Porto game but only if he wins the domestic games inbetween times – two of which are trips to Parkhead.  I can’t see this happening because I see Dado Prso and Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Barry Ferguson becoming more and more frustrated with what’s going on around them.  The collective belief is being sucked out them by individual errors.

You don’t need me to tell you about the game – you’ll have your own perspective, whether you were there or saw it on TV and you’ll have heard the comments on the radio and read the slaggings in the papers, clicked on the rantings on the net. For me, the first equaliser is slaggable.  The second is negligent, but not on the part of any one player – I’d say four of them are guilty to varying degrees.  Hutton should have been more careful with where he was throwing his shy.  Hemdani’s attempt to take the ball was culpable, J-Rod’s attempt to retrieve it was disasterous – Waterreus’ attempt to clear was understandable given the chaos in front of him but he was then fooled too easily, like Hemdani, by the back-spinning bounce of the ball.  But it should never have been allowed to get to that stage and, had Peter not shat it when a defender appeared in front of him in, of all places, the six yard box, then that farce would have been irrelevant … as far as our standing in the section was concerned.

I still hold that Ronald has made only one truly negligent error – against Livingston last week – and it seems unfair on him that he should be the only player involved in these debacles who has a proven class alternative sitting on the bench.  But football is unfair. He may only have made one mistake for which he is totally blameable but he’s been involved in too many other “conspiracies to concede a daft goal” for there to be any alternative now.  Klos starts against Aberdeen on Saturday or McLeish loses all credibility.

We’re second in the group and have put Artmedia out the picture in terms of a possible head-to-head with the Slovaks for the UEFA Cup spot or the qualifying spots for the knock-out stage of the Champs League.  But the reality is that we could still finish bottom of the group and playing Porto at Do Dragao and facing Internazionale at home are frankly terrifying thoughts if we play as we did last night.  Sorry, but that’s my perspective.

 

 


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