If someone had said to any Rangers fan on the 11th of July this year that on the 29th of November we’d be in contention for a place in the last 32 of the Europa League, we guarantee that not even the most ardently blind and loyal would have considered it feasible.
Indeed, only 12 months earlier, we had been about to embark on the most embarrassing exit of European football in modern history, for despite our transitional and recovery status, we were still considered giants of football compared to the minnows of Luxembourg that were Progres Niederkorn.
As fate had it, the team and manager disgraced the club over two legs, and the rest is history.
So while there were some hopes this time, with new manager Steven Gerrard’s overhaul having managed to bring in some potentially decent players, no one, I repeat no one had us on final match day contention to make the KO stage of the competition.
And sure, we have ‘only’ won a single match and drawn three, but aside the financial benefits of these results (on top of the guaranteed £4M for making the group stage via our route) is the astonishing truth that what our club is achieving is miles ahead of schedule.
No one envisaged that a place in the final stages of the Europa League would be at stake – indeed, few believed there would be a final group stage match to look forward to – most were happy with a second or third round qualifying knock out.
While we complain sometimes about this player, that selection, this quote, that tactic – whether Lee Wallace is our left back or not quite frankly doesn’t matter a damn when we look at the bigger picture.
Not only are we on the cusp of getting out this incredibly tough group (which, frankly, would rank up there with 9IAR, Manchester, 92 and 72 in terms of comparison and context of where the club is compared to then) but this weekend a win at Tynecastle takes us top of the league for the first time since 2011.
We’ve given Stevie Gerrard a hard time now and then here on Ibrox Noise, and we know the wider support has too – we’ve castigated him for smearing the players publicly, ardently telling him it it wouldn’t work.
And yet look who’s laughing now? He’s sitting there with a team which has three wins in a row in the league, a serious chance of a last 32 in the UEL, and a real opportunity to top the SPL for the first time in a borderline generation.
He got it right. He knows more about football than you and I, and what seemed counterproductive now seems to have hit the spot.
Does this mean your chums at Ibrox Noise will shut up and let him get on with it? Not a chance! We will always call as we see it, but we’ll also hold our hands up when we appear to have got it wrong.
And if present circumstances at Ibrox are anything to go by, Stevie really is nailing something right now, and we couldn’t be happier if we have indeed got it wrong recently about him.
Top of the league. Possible last 32. Consistent results.
It’s looking good. Whoda thunk it?