The future of our game at stake? (more…)
Glamour or glory???
The Europa League Play-Off draw is a bit of a mixed bag for the Scottish teams but hopefully at least two of the three clubs can get through.
It does look grim for Hearts although Harry Redknapp’s promise to play youngsters and squad players in the Europa League may give an outside chance. Then again, people shouldn’t believe a single world that Harry Redknapp says so who knows what team will line-up against the Jambos. Regardless of the line-up, it should be a good trip for Hearts fans and one that should create a lot of memories.
Rangers seemed to have got the most straight-forward of ties in NK Maribor but then again, that was what would have been said after they were drawn against Malmo! The Slovenian side will provide a robust challenge to Rangers but you really would have to think that Ally McCoist’s men will have enough to get through the tie. Then again, with just one European win in 23 games, no one at Ibrox should be taking this tie too lightly.
Maribor have played three league games this season, winning them all by a 2-1 score line, sitting second in the league (Maribor have a GD of +3 whereas Domzale have a GD of +7).
Celtic however are off to Switzerland to face FC Sion. The Swiss side finished fourth in their league but defeated Neuchatel Xamax in the Cup final. The internet is already abuzz with the fact that FC Sion hold the world record for winning all 12 cup final appearances they have made. The ground is a 16,5000 capacity so there may well be a limit on the travelling support that make it across to Switzerland.
Again, Celtic should have every reason to feel as though they can progress to the group stages but with their form in Europe not being great, especially on the road, there should be nothing taken for granted.
The Uefa site indicated that both Glasgow sides were drawn away from home in the first leg, suggesting both would be at home in the second leg but there may be a switch to one of the ties. In short, don’t go booking flights until the legs are confirmed!
There is no doubt that Rangers had a bad day yesterday. Exiting the Champions League presents a financial catastrophe for the club that has based their financial expectations on gaining entry to the money-making event. They also finally missed out on the capture of David Goodwillie, who eventually signed on the dotted line at Blackburn Rovers.
It certainly wasn’t the time for putting the boot in that can be very harsh and reactionary in the moments after a defeat. Yes, there were some fans screaming for the head of McCoist and Whyte but hopefully today they will have calmed down and realised there is still a long way to go and these men need time at the club.
However, the reaction to yesterday’s defeat is equally baffling and actually makes you wonder if the reporters watched the game…or were basing their opinion on second hand comments from people like Billy Dodds or Pat Nevin.
With the exception of Whittaker and Bougherra, whose stupidity knew no bounds in Sweden, it was implied that the Rangers performance was heroic. It showed effort and commitment but coming as it does less than a year when a well-drilled Rangers side went to Old Trafford and took a point in a controlled and intelligent, if a bit dull, performance, to label last night’s performance as heroic was just silly.
Rangers were denied a domestic treble last season when their players lost the plot at Parkhead and the same outcome occurred last night. Going into that Cup replay, Rangers, stung by a 3-0 league defeat at Celtic Park, stated they would make it tougher for Celtic. Loan player Kyle Bartley indicated that the team were not going to stand about, they were going to get in Celtic’s faces. It was a tactic that saw Whittaker sent off in the first half and Madjid Bougherra in the second half.
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg, Ally McCoist was quoted as saying that Rangers would get in the faces of Malmo and it resulted in Whittaker being sent off in the first half and Madjid Bougherra in the second. Rangers had learned nothing about how indiscipline can cost a side and it was their downfall.
Nikica Jelavic scored brilliantly on the volley to level the tie and Rangers can complain about the lack of a red card for retaliation on Lee McCulloch. Durmaz should definitely have seen red. However, on the night, McCulloch, Edu and Steven Naismith could all have been given their marching orders (the lunacy of Naismith kicking the ball off an opponent, considering what had already transpired on the night was incomprehensible) and what was going through Alan McGregor’s mind in injury time with his karate kick motion, we’ll never know.
As it was, Rangers only have themselves to blame because even with the lack of men, they had the chances over the two legs. Naismith has to take a lot of responsibility on his shoulders after a trio of gilt-edged chances went a-begging over the two legs. These chances would have been bread and butter to a clinical finisher, which makes the non-appearance of David Healy even the more puzzling for Rangers fans. If McCoist didn’t fancy him to grab goals, why was he given a contract?
It was well known that Rangers were in the hunt for a striker and it looked as though that man was David Goodwillie.
Rangers fans have been quick to vent their anger at Dundee United and chairman Steven Thomson for not selling Goodwillie to the Ibrox club but the blame has to lie a lot closer to home.
United stated that the Blackburn Rovers offer is better for them and without going into details, that is fair enough. Even if Rangers bid was financially bigger (which there is nothing to say it was, or in the manner or method of payments), United would find a bid from down South for their player to be more attractive than selling to a Scottish club. United may not be seen as a direct rival for Rangers with regards to both teams league ambitions but the two clubs regularly face each other 4 times a season with the potential for more in the Cups.
Rod Petrie at Hibs has shown clubs the way to go. It is possible to squeeze the big Glasgow two for as much money as possible if they are the only interested parties for a player. Also, if a club from down South wants a player, as long as the difference in bids isn’t too much, it makes business sense to sell the player outside the SPL.
This isn’t taking into consideration the concern that clubs must have when it comes to allowing Rangers to pay transfers over a lengthy period of time. There are too many unknown variables within Ibrox at the moment with regards to money to make this a viable solution.
Only a foolish club would accept staggered payments from Rangers at the moment. Some will point to the deal that Rangers agreed with Hearts for the transfer of Lee Wallace but surely Heart of Midlothian are the dictionary definition of “foolish club”, if not an even harsher term.
Ally McCoist seems to be regularly upset with the fact that he is unable to speak to players directly and personally tell them of his vision for Rangers. There is a reason for that and it is the fact that he doesn’t have permission to speak to the players. If McCoist is feeling frustration at the thwarted attempts, it should be at the money men in his own club who are attempting to broker these deals in a completely amateurish way.
United fans will think that their club acted perfectly well throughout the transfer and it is hard to see what Rangers fans are upset over…apart from the fact that they haven’t rolled over to get their tummy tickled. There is also the fact that having Goodwillie on board may have been the difference between Champions League progress and demotion to the Europa League.
With only 2 league games gone and four points in the bag, it certainly isn’t panic time at Ibrox. There is still nearly a month of the transfer window to go and a lot can happen between now and then. However, there is a need for people to honestly appraise the situation.
The co-efficient points of Malmo indicates what an upset it was for Rangers to lose to them and even a lack of match sharpness cannot be used as an excuse for such a poor showing over the two legs. Ally McCoist is definitely in the deep end and publicly praising the players who kept their heads is not a bad thing for a manager to do. However, if McCoist was also praising those players in private, he may be setting up poor precedents for the season ahead.
Early starts and early rises, that is what is facing the fans heading to Ibrox to welcome in the 2011/12 season. First of all, there is the business of unfurling the league flag which symbolises Rangers winning the title back in May but as soon as the pomp and ceremony of that dies down, the action begins in earnest.
It really is all eyes on Ally McCoist to see how he makes the step up from assistant manager to being his own man. It appears that with the suit, a vow to watch a lot of the game from the stands and in some of the players he has been after, Ally will take a lot from Walter but then again, is that any surprise?
Having worked under and alongside Smith for so long, it makes sense to use this as a template and with the players McCoist has at his disposal, it makes sense to keep following the route that has made them so successful.
The new man does have new men at his disposal though and the travelling Jambos may see a familiar face lining up against. Lee Wallace may have cost a lot more than Rangers initially bid for him but he has the potential to be a good player for Rangers for many years. Injuries dogged Wallace in the past year but he will be keen to get off to a winning start and to ensure he is in good condition for the Champions League qualifier on Tuesday against Malmo.
Rangers will be pretty much as they were from last season and it will be interesting to see if there are any tactical alterations or differences under McCoist.
Hearts fans have seen a number of new faces come to the club and they appear to be all set for a new campaign. The only problem is, with the exception of John Sutton, who has the potential to be a great signing, the rest are pretty run of the mill SPL signings. Perhaps Mehdi Taouil will take a step on but he was a player who very much flattered to deceive at Kilmarnock. Having one reasonably good game in five or a sparking five minutes out of 90 may be enough to have some fans cheering your name but the Hearts fans will be expecting more from the player who has featured for the Moroccan national team.
It will be interesting to see what Jambos team Vladimir Romanov selects after the controversy of his meddling in the selection during Heart’s last trip to Glasgow. You would have to hope that Jim Jefferies will get full control of his team this time around.
It hardly seems like a break at all but both teams will be looking to grab the points that will have them off and running.
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