20th September 2018, and Rangers fans were surprised and stunned to Croat favourite Nikola Katic dumped to the bench for Rangers’ trip to Spain to face Villarreal.
Recent loan signing Joe Worrall was started instead, and over the course of the season his inclusion over the fan preference became a huge topic of contention and debate.
Many cited the fact he was a loan, and therefore had an appearance clause, something we know to be true for many if not all loan deals, but it didn’t exactly make his detractors feel much better and gave rise to social meme ‘free Katic’ as the ex-Slaven Belupo man found himself mostly benched.
Fast forward one year, and following his triumphant return to the first team where he’s clearly been the best choice for the back, Nikola Katic once again finds himself bizarrely rejected at the same time, to another player.
The puzzling thing is Steven Gerrard only a few weeks ago confirmed Katic’s form was the reason Filip Helander wasn’t getting game time – and then prior to Feyenoord it was announced the Swede would take his place.
In Helander’s defence, he did well v the Dutch, and fairly acceptably against St Johnstone (for all the potency they had…) – but his awful night last night will only have given Katic’s fans (and there’s a lot of them) even more ammo to decry the absence of him.
To make matters worse, Gerrard favourite Connor Goldson continues to play come hell and high water, no matter how poor his form is, and believe us when we say it’s mostly not good enough.
Last night seemed to be the very ugly epitome of Steven Gerrard making all the same defensive mistakes he did 12 months ago, one exact year on, and breaking up a working defence (despite Goldson’s failings) in favour of one the supporters appear not to favour.
Of course, Gerrard sees these guys every day in training – he has a better idea of who’s in the zone and who isn’t – but Katic’s form this season was undeniable – he was becoming an asset of great value, and just like last year he now finds himself either benched or out of the squad entirely.
And yet, Filip Helander has taken his place, rather than Goldson’s, and last night’s physical tussle which saw Livi’s Dykes destroy both of them in a oner really did scream of a match which needed Katic’s physical prowess.
What’s going on with all this? We really couldn’t tell you.