Rangers have a key puzzle to solve as fans return

Rangers have a key puzzle to solve as fans return
Tranmere Rovers v Rangers Pre-Season Friendly 10/07/2021. Ranger s FC manager Steven Gerrard looks on during the Pre-Season Friendly match between Tranmere Rovers and Rangers at Prenton Park, Birkenhead, England on 10 July 2021. Birkenhead Prenton Park Merseyside England Editorial use only PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUK , Copyright: xPhilipxBryanx PSI-13026-0067

This definitely isn’t intended as a negative article, nor is it intended as a positive one, just an honest one which looks in the middle and sees both sides.

With crowds returning to football at long last, it hasn’t escaped anyone that the surreal world of season 2020/2021 had no audiences at all.

It doesn’t discredit any achievements secured last season, Rangers won 55 by right and matches the UEL run from the previous season which WAS in front of a crowd, so there are certainly caveats.

But some fans have wondered just how our team will perform with fans returning to Ibrox and everywhere else.

It’s a fair point – when a match wasn’t going our way last season (albeit most did) there were no disgruntled fans baying for blood or groaning in the stands just because a defender committed a dodgy backpass or Alfie missed another shot.

In short, in the stadium there was a lot less pressure on players, but of course, this applies to Celtic too, who still didn’t have any kind of answer to Rangers’ quality regardless of fans’ presence or otherwise.

As such, we are intrigued to see how the return of fans affects the players this season.

This squad, this team, this manager won the title and became champions in front of no fans at all, and while there’s been fleeting matches with a few supporters (and for some of our players, the Euros) nevertheless this team isn’t familiar with major success having beaten adversity in front of supporters.

And we’re truly curious how the return of the supporters en masse is going to affect the squad.

Will it inspire the players even more to put in even better performances? Will that backing make players’ blood pump harder and work ever more? Or will they feel the pressure of the expectant crowd and feel the weight of the shirt much more?

We just do not know.

We’ve had one pre-season match at Ibrox in front of some fans v Arsenal, and the performance was alright, not spectacular, but summer friendlies aren’t exactly a wonderful example of accurate competitive football. The defence was a bit shaky in truth, but equally Arsenal are a high quality team the likes of which Rangers will not face in the SPL.

But they will in the CL, should they get there.

And the fans will likely be there.

It’s down to the players how they cope with a different pressure now. Previously, it was trying to win the title off Celtic and how they handled that expectation – and the truth was they couldn’t. Now it’s being the ‘hunted’, as Stevie said, being the one everyone wants to gun down. How will they handle that kind of pressure with fans around them.

This coming season we shall see.

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