Saturday, 3 December 2016

The (continued) silence of the sheep


I love these articles. The ones frequent last season but few and far between this time around. Positive and happy articles reflecting performances where few have a bad word to say about how Rangers played. This is the kind of feeling Rangers fans like myself and I am sure every one of you wants to have more often than not.

We know Rangers cannot play this well every single match but if the level can aspire to this height maybe seven of every 10 matches we will know our Rangers are delivering what our Rangers should.

Following the absolute atrocity in Gorgie where everyone including yours truly had Warburton’s head on a silver platter and the players making their way out of Govan, mood and sentiment regarding this present regime had rarely been lower.

It had truly been one of the worst displays in a long time by a Rangers team, with even the ever-optimistic Andy Halliday confirming he considered it the absolute pits by a distance. Following Wednesday, belief in Warburton’s system was on the floor, compounded by a total lack of quality displays since the tail end of last season. His tactics were not working, his players were not playing for him, and something had to change.

Well, today’s monumental tussle with traditional ewe-bound foe Aberdeen proved one thing for certain; this Rangers squad, low standard though it evidently is, is still capable of playing for the shirt like a true Rangers team should. It can fight, harry, poke, press, and even play good football, and it can make every Bear proud to be a supporter, pride which has been slightly dented in the pit of recent Rangers’ despair.

Do not get me wrong; after the Killie match we also thought a corner had been turned, then Ross County showed up and square one was ground zero all over again. So while today’s display carried all the hallmarks of a team starting to believe in itself, nothing is being taken for granted unless that level holds over the next few matches and beyond.

Barry Ferguson, when things were bad under Paul Le Guen, once said he would not believe a corner had been turned until Rangers went 10 games unbeaten. Well, these new circumstances make such a demand a little too high – and as such, that kind of expectation may just be a little too lofty. However, readjusted for these unique times, I would argue perhaps a period of no more than two defeats in 10 with maybe 6 wins minimum and two draws might show real progress. Crude, but probably realistic.

However, all too often Rangers fans feel the zenith of a great result, and want to believe everything is on the right path. I want to believe that. We all do. Then it all falls apart the following match. Which is why I will still reserve judgement while allowing myself to savour a truly wonderful afternoon at Ibrox with one of the best matches the Premiership has witnessed between two of its best sides in some considerable time.

Indeed, the early signs of this match showed promise – while Rangers did not come out the blocks quite as fast as they did v Killie, they nevertheless showed guts, heart, ferocity and bite once they got going around 10 minutes in. Aberdeen had shown real danger, and in reality could have made it 0-2 before 20 minutes; but a bit of earned luck, good defending and fine saves prevented that and the game became a true blood and thunder encounter with both teams throwing themselves into tackles and sparing no quarter at all.

This was a real match of football, and Rangers were up for the fight.

And a word has to go to the manager. God we have been critical of Warburton recently. This site, the media, the fanbase; and it has been fair. But today he sprung two massive surprises – Kenny Miller in midfield, something which had most fans scratching their heads, and a well-earned start in James Tavernier’s place for Lee Hodson, an international who really has been wasted in his time at Ibrox.

Guess what – these changes, coupled with a complete overhaul of the front three, worked perfectly – particular Miller, whose presence deeper made that midfield work harder than it has this entire calendar year (Killie and Celtic wins aside). His battling leadership qualities alongside Jason Holt and Andy Halliday pushed both to a level we have not seen from them in far too long, and the three of them played with gusto, quality and tempo, not to mention grit. Not quite Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta, you understand, but it was what Rangers needed. It was a masterstroke from Warburton, who, while he did not change the system (explained here), nevertheless showed the ability to really try something new.

Hodson also had a fine match down the right, and while one early booking could easily be attributed to ring rust, the Norn Iron international was polished and solid otherwise and his goal a truly fine strike.

O’Halloran’s pace was a real problem for Aberdeen’s rearguard too – resorting to just taking him out when they could. While the ex-St Johnstone winger maybe did not produce too much in the way of delivery, his presence was a handful and caused McInnes’ men no end of grief.

McKay played a similar role on the left – not a lot of end product, true, but fine use of pace to imbalance the backline, and it was a tactic Rangers used over and over to vicious effect.

Meanwhile Clint Hill and Rob Kiernan’s burgeoning partnership, while not quite Gough and Butcher, is nevertheless actually starting to look convincing at times. It is not perfect, the lack of pace can be an issue and both can get caught for position too often, but Hill is starting to lead well, and it seems Kiernan is learning from him. We are even seeing Rob heading convincing clearances from his own box, something he was afraid to do on Wednesday alongside Wilson. If Rangers do have a best partnership, it definitely is not Wilson and Kiernan.

Fundamentally though, getting back to the bigger picture, this was a glimpse, a glimpse of how Rangers, focused properly, set out correctly, and showing grit and determination, can live with the best teams in the SPL. They matched and beat the very, very tough Aberdeen, and proved when it clicks, Warburton can get it right and the team can play like lions.

There is a long way to go, and I am mindful of the high likelihood Rangers will lose all the impetus with a predictably feeble display against Hearts next weekend, but if they can stride onto the pitch like they did today, believing in each other, the system, and will play for themselves, each other, their manager and most of all us fans, victory is quite possible and maybe this season is not a bust after all.

Keep this up lads, please, keep it up.

10 comments:

  1. Excellent article mate.I hate the sheep and their scum fans with every fibre of my being,I DESPISE these people.I'm an easy going quiet guy but they bring out the absolute worst in me.Anyway,the game.Big Hill was superb and he did more organising and cajoling and displayed more passion in one game than I've seen from Wallace in years.He brings out the best(if any)in Keirnan too. Glad we rammed it up a few arses today like f***in Sutton etc.We show the same level of commitment as today we won't go far wrong.Happy Bear here tonight. WATP

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  2. I don't know why this author is pretending things are well with out team because one win against Aberdeen covers up nothing. We've been found the majority of the season. I honestly have lost faith in the manager of our team.

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  3. Did you actually read it Martin?The deliberate use of terms like"reserve judgement" and such are a hint the author is not pretending all is well. Ps I'm not his lawyer,spokesperson nor am I hingin oot him before you ask.

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  4. Great game today played like a Rangers team. Only concern is Hill missing v Hearts.
    Someone has obviously had a word with the goalie actually coming off his line and claiming the ball ...great stuff.
    Well done the Gers today. The scoreline flattered Aberdeen. ..... and the referee had a nightmare! He was shocking.

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  5. I still lack faith in our manager but what a brilliant result today! It's been 25 years since we lost to Aberdeen at Ibrox. If the sheep can't beat us just now, when we're vulnerable, it could be another 25 years before they beat us at Ibrox again! They must be gutted! lol.

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  6. I was fortunate to be at the game today. First half was frustrating. Dons man marked very well. First 10 mins was the same with Wes kicking out to have the ball returned so quickly. 2nd half much more assured. Kenny is a player that doesn't get praised highly enough. His work rate around the park was again brilliant. Attack, but also in defence. Gers harried and showed they wanted the ball today at any cost (as transpired), but it shows they do care and maybe the corner is about to be turned!!

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  7. First game av been at for a long time at ibrox that I actually enjoyed, I agree with a lot of the comments and the article but it's defi far to early to think a corner has been turned that's the only big match test they have past all season however we have to start somewhere so time will tell.......

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  8. If the sheep played with the same passion last sunday at hampden they might just have got something.

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  9. Well we all got what we wanted ,and he showed he will change it when he has to ,a team should be adaptable and speaking of adaptable I hope iam not alone in noticing that link up play was much improved mid to front when tav went on in midfield could he fill kranjkars shoes for now I certainly think so ,who is more creatative mid to front in our team and has goal threat? Hodgson at rb is no brainer ,so makes sense as tav cant defend bt is too talented a footballer to sit on bench ,remember where gattuso started

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  10. Thought Garner fought for everything,Hodson better at right back as Tavs is no good in defence.
    watched the match on Ranger Tv the best £5.99 Ive spent so far this season happy days

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