Friday, 3 August 2018

Four heroes - have they made all the difference?

We have to say there comes a point when you must start to accept what you’re seeing as not being ‘still early’ days when you’ve had 360 minutes of it.

Four matches in serious competitive action Rangers have now had, and if we wish to add Wigan and Bury to that, it’s a total of 540 minutes of football this ‘pre-season’ and just one sloppy goal conceded against a very decent Wigan side, a top class Croatian one and some slightly weaker opposition from Macedonia.

There comes a point when you start to believe this defensive unit is looking the real deal, and in every sense a true Rangers quality back line.

Let’s start at the beginning.

We love Allan McGregor. We always wanted him back, and he is the best Scottish goalkeeper of the past 15 years. The only one borderline in the same league is Craig Gordon and there’s a reason he only managed 88 appearances in five seasons for Sunderland (outwith injury) while McGregor managed over 140 for Hull in the same number of campaigns.

He has been a massive start to this incredible-looking defence – a real top-quality goalkeeper who was happily at his level in the EPL, Uefa Cup, Champions League, and for his country dozens of times. He’s marquee and we’re thrilled to have him back.

But in front of him is where the plot thickens – no one, not least of all us, knew who the hell Brighton’s Connor Goldson or ‘Slaven Belupo’s’ Nikola Katic were.

We sure as hell know who they are now. Both of these two have been magnificent. Goldson is sleeping through matches Carlos Cuellar style – it’s so easy to him, and he doesn’t even have to push himself at this current level. He is a fantastic stopper of what we’ve seen so far of him. We’re truly talking England national team level here. Perhaps not a starter, but certainly squad. We understand now why Albion fans were gutted to lose him. We will be fascinated to see how he copes against Aberdeen on Sunday.

Meanwhile his team mate Katic has the heart of a lion and for a 21-year old man, is maturing into a massive stopper. He happily gets hurt, runs his heart out for the team, and leaves it all out on the pitch. He is the ‘brawn’ to Goldson’s ‘brain’ and both work superbly together.

Then there’s Jon Flanagan. He’s been slightly up and down, but he has been playing in his weaker LB position, and when he really gets in the zone he’s a top class fullback. It must be remembered he was a massive part of that near title win alongside Gerrard at Liverpool – you don’t play fullback at Anfield if you’re not a bit decent. And he’s showing that more and more.

There is a ‘but’ – James Tavernier. He is the big weakness in this increasingly impressive rearguard. He is lucky to have the other four bail him out not to mention Daniel Candeias, but he really is the blot on what is currently developing into the best Rangers defence since the days of aforementioned Cuellar. But then, Walter kept on playing Steven Whittaker so we suppose even the best managers and defences still aren’t perfect.

That all said, what a backline Rangers seem to have now. The tests keep coming – as Andy Halliday once said ‘every match seems to be a new test’. And he was right. Aberdeen is the next one.

We can’t wait.
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