Do We Even Need the SPL?


Rangers fans went into last
night’s encounter against SPL leaders Motherwell with a huge deal of
trepidation. After all, despite a 4-1 victory over league rivals Montrose in
the previous match, form has been substantially patchy this season,
particularly away from home. And the best side Rangers have faced, Falkirk, managed to push their visitors all the way
before the Ibrox men scraped a 1-0 victory.
So with the country’s top-placed
side coming to Ibrox in the League Cup, and with worries over Rangers defensive
frailties’ concerning anxious supporters, little hope was truly coveted that
the side from Govan could overcome their visitors and progress to the next
stage of the tournament.
Motherwell have been flying in
recent weeks, with a sparkling attack having scored more goals than anyone else
in the top flight and an unbeaten record to be proud of; so Stuart McCall’s
Steelmen came to Ibrox with high hopes of fulfilling their tag of favourites
and securing passage to the next stage.
Sadly, for the visitors, when
this game started, it looked every inch like Rangers V Motherwell. Rangers
pushing, flying out of the traps and pressing Motherwell’s rearguard with
intent. The difference this time the two sides met was this was, of course, a
third division Rangers who lost, as Ally McCoist put it, around £40M worth of
players, who have had to rebuild by signing workmen SPL players and relying on
promising youth players.
This is not the Rangers of Allan
McGregor, Steven Naismith and Nikica Jelavic. It is the Rangers of Neil
Alexander, Barrie McKay and Andrew Little.
Yet the gulf between the two
sides was evident from the first whistle. Paradoxically that gulf appears the
wrong way around. Motherwell are supposed to be the country’s top team, while
Rangers are playing their football in the bowels of the bottom division. It
looked every inch like it was the other way around.
And herein lies the crunch – for
all the lost revenue, players and upheaval at the club, Rangers remain, quite
possibly, the best team in the land. While league form is patchy, last night’s
endeavours showed the capacity of this team – and they dispatched a currently
in-form Motherwell side with aplomb.
Does this prove anything? The
biggest argument to come from last night is there is basically no gulf at all
between the SPL and the SFL. The difference in sides appears to be their
stadium sizes, little more. Rangers beat Motherwell as comfortably as they have
beaten Division 3 sides at Ibrox, and while detractors could point to the fact
the scoreline was only 2-0, the counter-punch is Rangers were missing David
Templeton, Andrew Little and Ian Black.
And Division 3 sides have caused
Rangers a great deal of grief on their travels, pressing home the argument that
they are barely any inferior to sides Rangers would be playing in the SPL. Yes,
Rangers’ form has not achieved any major consistency away from home, but could
it be to the credit of these SFL sides? I have made the argument before that
they are playing to their maximum potential against Rangers, and showing up SPL
sides in the process.
Whatever it proves, the SPL is
not covering itself in glory this season. Appalling attendances, dire football,
and teams who apparently lack the quality of those in leagues below them.
Maybe Rangers are better off in
Division 3. At least we get a game there.