Lucky for some? It’s taken thirteen attempts but, boy, it was worth it. As comprehensive a 1-0 win as you will ever see, anywhere. Every battle was won and every Rangers player was better than their opposite number, except for maybe Alan McGregor. In fairness, he had nothing to do though!
Rangers fans have seen flashes of this type of performance but never for a full ninety minutes. But was Rangers’ first victory in thirteen attempts against Celtic a surprise?
We are told all the time by managers “I’m not making excuses but…”.
After this game, the narrative has been about Celtic being so poor and Tom Rogic, Kieran Tierney and Odsonne Edouard not being available/fit. There has also been a lot of talk about Celtic’s summer recruitment. No left back? Wrong, they have Emilio Izaguirre. No strikers? Wrong, Leigh Griffiths is on a sabbatical (for whatever reason).
Not once have I heard that Rangers had Borna Barasic missing, or Jamie Murphy, Graham Dorrans or Gareth McAuley. Four experienced, international players. That Scott Arfield, Ryan Kent and Ryan Jack were all 50/50 to make the game but went above and beyond to make themselves available. This only makes Rangers’ performance all the more remarkable.
Rangers have been going through a sticky patch. The sheer volume of games played since July has been catching up on the relatively thin squad. There have been comments from high profile journalists that Steven Gerrard hasn’t really improved Rangers. Before the Old Firm game, we were only three points better off than last year. The Europa League run was now irrelevant apparently and the huge improvement in goal difference in both columns ignored.
In recent games, we have had as many as seven international players missing. It’s not an excuse. It’s a cause. You can’t perform to your highest levels without your best players available. It’s a fact. Barcelona without Lionel Messi aren’t as good. The Scottish media can’t blame Celtic’s ineptitude on the absence of the aforementioned players without applying the same rules to Rangers in recent weeks. Much like the fans across the water, it doesn’t wash.
The Old Firm game showed what we already knew as Rangers fans. Kent and Arfield are integral to how we want to play and desperately miss their physical and technical ability. Both players only needed a goal to be 10/10 performances. Kent denied by an incredible save from Craig Gordon when 1 v 1 and Arfield denied by a clearance off the line and a wee bit of hesitation.
It was a truly stunning performance, even more remarkable given it was the 38th game of the season. A full league campaign in less than six months. We have exceeded expectations. A League Cup victory would’ve been nice but the league position is more important. The Europa League campaign brought in a much-needed financial bonus.
The Rangers players deserve their break. We will bring in new players to add quality and depth to the attack. We now have a good, solid core of a squad that just needs tinkering and not a major overhaul. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to say that. In Mark Allen and Steven Gerrard we trust.