Ibrox Noise has referred to 2007 and the return of Sir Walter Smith many times over the years, simply because it showed what is possible upon an average squad when the right manager appears and changes everything overnight.
But what Walter really did that January return was signed three players who instantly made Rangers the best team in Scotland:
David Weir, Ugo Ehiogu (RIP), and Kevin Thomson.
What do these guys have in common? That’s right, they’re either defenders, or defensive-minded. Ditto Andy Webster but that one was a crock, sadly.
However, Walter knew from the start that defence is the first line of attack. You don’t have a team without a solid back line, and he quickly got two alpha defenders in Weir and Ugo, and a tough-tackling midfielder who could protect the rear as well.
Immediately, and we mean instantly, Rangers were the best team in Scotland. We didn’t win that season’s league, but from January to the end of the season we were the best team in the country.
And that’s where Michael Beale falls short, in Scottish football anyway, given his obsession in the modern game of tiki tika – the Warburton model of copying Luis Aragones’ Spain of 20+ years ago, that Pep mastered too.
Defending without defenders – he had a midfielder at the back, for goodness’ sake, in Mascherano, it was all about keeping the ball and not needing defenders.
The Magic Hat tried and failed in the Scottish Premiership to do this, and Beale has a similar obsession with not bothering with serious hard men defenders to emulate that style.
Our league needs big strong CHs. Like Starfelt and yes, like Vickers. This gives Celtic a solid rearguard to impose themselves.
We have wimpy Goldson and Davies – they’re not horrible defenders but they’re too neat and aren’t the big strapping lads we need to physically impose themselves, ala Weir and Ugo.
There’s just no emphasis on defending by this manager, or by quite a few previous ones, and while Bassey failed in Holland and wasn’t even all that in Europe, he had the frame, the physique and the toughness that we now simply don’t have in our team.
But Celtic do.
It’s not that complicated. You don’t have winners without a defence.
What we’d do for a Richard Gough eh?