Today is the day. In only a few hours, Rangers take the venomous turf at Parkhead for the last time under Graeme Murty, with anything less than three points accrued seeing Celtic’s direct lead over them remain at 33 points, or, worryingly, extend to 36. With the gap between the two already smashing all historical records, certainly post-war, Rangers do not want it any bigger, and this clash today sees every squad member given a ‘tabula rasa’.
Pedro Caixinha will be at Celtic Park to witness his new squad for the first time in the flesh, and the new manager’s advantage is a fresh pair of eyes and a new perspective with which to run the rule over the personnel at his disposal.
In short, today is the biggest audition these players will ever undertake – each and every one of them gets a blank slate to prove their worth. The disaster of the ex-manager is erased on this basis, and even the worst players under his tenure could get a brand new lease of life and display their right to be involved in this new era at Ibrox.
While there are players likely for the chop, based on performances this season, we do also account for ‘new manager syndrome’ where a complete shambles of a player under one manager turned into quite an asset under a new one.
Look at the stunning improvement of Sasa Papac under Walter Smith. After a disastrous start under Paul Le Guen (easily forgotten) the Serbian became a complete mainstay under Uncle Walter and an integral part of the Manchester 08 squad.
It does happen – and each player today is playing as much for their own Rangers lives as they are for the three points and the Club’s wellbeing, not to mention that points gap – three reasons in a nutshell.
The only certainty is that come full time, Graeme Murty returns to the U20s and Rangers will have a new manager ready to take his place – everything else is up for grabs, and if James Tavernier, Jason Holt, or Harry Forrester wanted to prove their value to Caixinha, today is the day to do it.
For once, fans have to look at the bigger picture regarding an Old Firm clash. Yes, we want our players to bust a gut and get the three points; but the long-term future of Rangers is frankly more important today.
I for one would borderline rather a loss, going down fighting, and giving our manager the right information to make the right calls and give the right players the chance to take us forward than a win which leaves him blind to the deep rooted problems we have. This is miles off advocating a loss; God I want us to win.
But I want Pedro Caixinha armed with the most fulfilling data from which to move forward – he needs to know which players can cope with pressure, which ones cannot, which ones have the ability to see this season out and take Rangers to second in the table and which ones should be shipped away.
He is the man charged with getting that right, so whatever happens, we hope he gets the information with which to do so.
But a win would be nice…