Let’s get one thing straight, however you wish to analyse it, since January, Rangers’ performances and results, especially the results, since Graeme Murty and Jimmy Nicholl cemented their captaincy of the Rangers side, have been excellent. Two losses all calendar year is a pretty exceptional return for a rookie manager when the previous manager could not even manage three wins in a row in all competitions.
So, we must keep some balance before getting hysterical about yesterday’s result.
And we must also remember that for major swathes of the match Rangers punched at their weight – that we actually gave Celtic some real problems and worries to think about.
A post-match meltdown was inevitable but not entirely fair such has been the clear progress Rangers have made in the past two and a half months.
But this is football, and this is Rangers, and the buck stops at Graeme Murty as Rangers’ manager – when things go well, he gets applauded. When they do not, he gets castigated.
That is the nature of the beast at Ibrox and always was.
Are we fans of Murty? No. We never were. We were against his appointment, and he has defied those expectations, and even managed to get us much more onside with his apparent vision for the club.
We seemed to inexplicably be moving in the right direction and we were happy to have been wrong about Murty.
But, at the end of the day, he is judged on how he does against Celtic – and while his men did indeed make a far better fist of things yesterday, the second half borderline capitulation and his absolute failure to turn things around spoke volumes of his long-term ability to manage Rangers at the highest levels.
He has done amazingly well against Hearts, Aberdeen and the rest of the SPL bar two teams – Hibernian and Celtic. Both have got Murty’s number, and it does not get much easier when bang in form Kilmarnock come to Ibrox on Saturday – we fear the worst for that one given the Rugby Park side’s incredible renaissance under Steve Clarke.
But end of the day, while his Rangers team fought like dogs last year to earn a point at Parkhead twice, somehow Murty took a backwards step with a better team to come away this time with nothing.
His tactics were questionable, particularly his inability to find a useful alteration once Celtic went a man down. For the 10 men to actually bring on a striker and Murty do nothing in reply spoke volumes. It spoke of Brendan Rodgers not fearing Murty and being willing to change things – and it worked.
Murty’s post match comments have been terrible, frankly. From blaming the players over and over again (not entirely wrong but hardly good for morale to publicly flog your charges countless times), he has done nothing to admit any of his own errors which very much reminds me of Ally’s post-match reaction after a bad result. Warburton too was incapable of taking responsibility either, and incredible the only one who ever held his hands up and said he might have made a mistake was the hapless Pedro!
Murty is learning on the job, but he has damaged his reputation and manager credentials quite significantly following this match. We measure our Rangers managers on what they do against Celtic, which is why Murty got a lot of goodwill – two punchy draws at Parkhead as caretaker gave him a hefty chunk of slack, albeit the results this year have been very promising too.
But for the first real time Murty is under pressure – we always promised here at Ibrox Noise that we would not start to judge the new manager until late February. We have completely stood by our word and even waited till mid-March before assessing things.
And they are by no means bad – but for all the good work he has done, Murty has failed at the big test, and has a very hard match against high-flying Killie next week to console himself with.
The honeymoon is well and truly done, and now we will see what Graeme Murty is really made of.