There was plenty of talking points during the match against Aberdeen. Strong performances and poor decisions by the referee were two obvious examples. The way Aberdeen played was also worthy of discussion. There were positive signs that Rangers have improved, certainly in terms of mentality.
Despite that, there’s only really one thing I want to focus on here. The post-match comments by Steven Gerrard which noted that the perception is that Rangers rarely get any benefit or luck from big decisions was met with some resistance by our ever-vigilant Scottish media outlets. Pretty much every journalist described them as nonsense or even somehow bitter. That’s worth having a look at.
Firstly, anyone judging the comments has to be taking the situation into account. Gerrard had just watched his team concede a late goal, to drop points, in a match they should have won. One player was in the dressing room, having to be sent to a hospital after the match in an ambulance. That player had been outstanding and was deliberately targetted for abuse. The cheer that went around the ground when Jack got injured just summed up the Aberdeen fan mentality, where hatred of others trumps love of their own. To believe that Gerrard wouldn’t be annoyed by how the game went after all of that is unfair.
But let’s analyse his point. He’s said that he was told before he came in that Rangers don’t get the benefit of decisions in this regard. Last season, there were a number of incidents which can certainly prompt that perception:
Ryan Jack – numerous red cards rescinded, proof that the decisions to send him off were incorrect. They also had an effect on the matches.
Tackles which seriously injured Fabio Cardoso, Graham Dorrans and Ryan Jack were not punished as they should have been.
Against St Johnstone, David Bates was kicked from behind. The violent conduct there was more egregious than Morelos yesterday, yet only received a yellow card. The referee clearly saw the incident.
The challenge by Scott Allan on Jordan Rossiter in the last game of last season was disgraceful, yet only deemed worthy of a yellow card.
In the first game against Hibs, Stokes was allowed to wrestle a player to the ground, and that player also received a yellow card for reasons unknown. He then went on to commit numerous offences which should have been at least a yellow card, yet stayed on the pitch.
And that’s just a small selection, with others I’m sure to be forgetting right now. None of that includes some of the ridiculous off-field stuff the SFA and SPFL have done.
When you’re told that these things even up over a season and that referees are just poor in general, it becomes something that has an actual measurement. You could look at every decision, for and against, and see if that is true. When you consider high profile, game-changing moments, the only one Rangers fans can point to last season as going our way was the Bates handball against Hibs.
Steven Gerrard is not the first manager to have a go at the standard of refereeing in Scotland. Somehow, him doing so is received in a way that’s far less analytical than others. Pundits trying to claim that they don’t understand why he’d say it are, at best, being lazy. At worst – well, I think we all know what’s going on there…
Aberdeen should have had at least one red card. A harsher ref may even have sent off Mackay-Steven for throwing the ball at Katic off the park, something which never even got him spoken to. When Gerrard says “it feels like the world is against us”, he’s talking about perception. Anyone who thinks there’s no evidence for that is being selectively blind.