We did a piece in recent days following Rangers’ giant win in Portugal, with analysis about what Ryan Kent said after the match.
As a refresher:
“The fact we’re the underdogs in this competition there’s less expectation and tension in our play. We go out there and play with more freedom and we got what we deserved.”
In other words, they do better when demand is low.
Well, yesterday proved Ryan Kent 100% bang on.
And it proved, deeply worryingly, that this squad isn’t up to the task of winning the title, because if it utterly chucks it when it comes to the national cup, and only at a quarter final at that, then it’s not got the mental strength to show the domestic relentlessness that Celtic do in the league to win the thing.
In a way, whose fault is that? It boils down to the manager. He signed players who weren’t winners, who had no history of bottle.
When we look back to 1999, and Walter Smith’s broken-up 9IAR side, Dick Advocaat came in and signed a whole new team. Yes, at significant expense, but it was players who won the league at the first attempt. Yes, Celtic weren’t the force then they are now, but they still won the league themselves under Wim Janson, and we can hardly say Neil Lennon is half the boss Rodgers was.
And yet, Advocaat signed players who knew how to win. Players with steel, bottle, fire in their bellies. Numan, Dutch League and Cup. GVB – 2X Dutch Cup. Kanchelskis – everything. Hendry – 1xPL.
He lost it towards the end, yes, but for the first 24 months Rangers were domestic kings with players who knew how to succeed.
We look at Steven Gerrard’s assembled squad, a squad which cost around £25M, and the only winners we see are Steven Davis and Allan McGregor. The rest may have won a diddy league here (Morelos, Finland) and there or a cup (Jack, League Cup), but the mental strength needed to secure the SPL title is completely awol and that’s something we have to look at our manager for.
So many talented players, so many Kents, or Hagis, or Aribos, or Goldsons, or Barisics – but no winners, no bottle, no heart.
Gerrard may look at his squad and be disgusted by its capitulation, yes, and we all are too.
But this is the man who assembled this group, filled the squad with the kind of player like Goldson, Katic, Kamara and Ojo – guys who don’t know what it is to win.
And if your squad doesn’t have winners in it, it doesn’t matter if you’re Jose Mourinho.