There is no doubt a lot rests on Sunday’s curtain-raiser at Rugby Park – regardless of Celtic’s result tomorrow v St Johnstone we know Neil Lennon’s men are the team to beat, so Rangers’ result v Angelo Alessio’s men is the one we must all pay attention to. The one that means the most.
And while a lot of implications sit awaiting in Kilmarnock, one man more than most is playing for his Rangers future, even this early.
Fan reaction to Borna Barisic’s less-than-stellar performance last night in Luxembourg told its own story, and after all the hype, all the promise, all the optimism that the Croat had turned round his Ranger career in pre-season and was happy, settled and comfortable in the shirt, his disappointing shift v Progres was a massive backwards step. If he couldn’t deliver at a pretty modest standard in Europe, what hope did he have of doing so in the SPL where he legendarily struggled last season?
Last night’s meagre offering from the ex-Osijek man had huge implications – this wasn’t the SPL he was struggling in, this was continental football that he had thrived at for Osijek. He stood out strongly against Rangers last season, but for Rangers in the same tournament in the same qualifiers he completely stunk.
Up till last night his performances had been passable. No crossing, reasonable defending, some signs of linkup with Jordan Jones. Some modest positives.
But when he offered absolutely nothing except a little defending, and lost his discipline as well (yes, it was a ridiculous yellow card, but his being taken off at half time spoke volumes), he appeared to revert to his old self, but without the torpedo left foot.
In short, two huge factors are on display on Sunday:
1: Will Steven Gerrard select Barisic? If not, that’s damning and we’d imagine that’s about as close to end of the road at Ibrox as it gets even at this stage.
2: If he does get the nod, but performs anything other than well, the pressure on him will get unbearable.
Yes, it sounds like we’re borderline bullying the lad, and we really don’t mean to be so harsh on a fella who is very likely a decent gent. But we need a real left back, to cope with the rigours of the SPL for a whole season, and if he can’t deliver on Sunday, signs are very, very damning that Barisic will ever be the player Steven Gerrard forked out £2M for.
Prove us wrong Borna. Please.