Very belatedly, and perhaps missing the party by some distance is nevertheless Ibrox Noise’s things we learned v Celtic.
Usually the phrase is that you learn more in defeat than you do in victory, but this win over Celtic was a rare example of the opposite. A loss wouldn’t have told us anything new that we didn’t already know, but a win, and the circumstances of one would give us something to ponder.
So, without further ado, here are observations and things we learned:
1: Celtic aren’t anywhere near as good as they think they are, and their manager realised how weak his squad actually is when he doesn’t pick his preferred XI. He didn’t actually do that great a job in the transfer windows he’s had, and he’s a chequebook manager. We were led to believe they have a better squad, well, this match did not back that up. Take away a few of their ‘key’ players and the rest just isn’t that great. Rangers blew them away, and gave Stavros a tonne of food for thought. This is a key point, and doused his stock a bit with the ‘would be amazing in the Premier League’ brigade.
2: Rangers, as Ibrox Noise’s Ross pointed out, were also down a whole bunch of players, in fact we were missing many more than Celtic. McGregor, Davies, Barisic, Davis, Tillman, Kent, Lawrence, Morelos, Colak, Kamara… Rangers had a glut of first-team players either benched or unavailable, and despite being many more players down than our visitors were, we absolutely gubbed them. Tells you a lot doesn’t it?
3: This match supposedly ‘didn’t matter’ and was a dead rubber. And factually speaking it was, but don’t let a single tim tell you they didn’t care for the result. Despite being champions they’d have absolutely loved it to come to Ibrox and win yet again, rubbing their title in. But they were absolutely blown away, just like Rangers did to them in April 2012 to deny them the title.
4: Celtic are genuinely in pain from this result. It’s the first time, domestically, this season, they’ve been outplayed, and have themselves resembled the wasteful Rangers that has dogged the Ibrox side this season. They hated losing, and they hated losing to us. But tellingly? They hated losing this badly to a side who deservedly beat them. It didn’t equal a trophy but it warned them their squad beneath about three or four missing players isn’t good enough and that’s a big worry for them.
5: We actually have a little bit of new-found respect for Callum McGregor. He didn’t make excuses – he made it clear his side were outplayed and fell short. That the loss hurt, and he gave Rangers proper and courteous credit for being better than Celtic. Too many of his peers and colleagues are downplaying the loss, and pretending they don’t care. He actually showed some honesty in admitting he and they do.
6: In itself, a win didn’t mean a huge amount – we have to do it in a regular meaningful season fixture when something is riding on it. But it was the most convincing Rangers performance under Michael Beale, period, and showed a tentative optimism that his squad can mix it with Celtic after all.
7: Beale himself still has a lot to learn. He grudgingly gave starts to players he’s been unwilling to look at till it didn’t matter anymore, and there is almost a sliver of resentment on his part that his non-favourites played a damn sight better than his chums. Yes, some of the performances, particularly Matondo and Jack, weren’t at it in the same way the rest were, but compare them with the anonymity of his wee pal Tillman or the disinterested pair of Morelos and Kent and he is probably a little bit frustrated.
8: John Souttar has 100% played his way into being Rangers’ first-choice stopper. Injury allowing, Souttar has been absolutely excellent since regaining fitness, and has proven quickly that he’s up to the task of wearing the shirt. Beale would be an absolute fool to dump him now.
9: This fixture desperately needs the away fans back. It is diabolical that the last two have been home only, and it insults the Old Firm’s value only having one set of fans. We will have a separate article on this later.
10: We still don’t trust Beale either – harking back to 7 & 8, Beale strikes us as deeply stubborn as his old mentor Stevie was, and the kind to pick his pals no matter who is actually good enough. We do tentatively trust him on signing players, Cantwell and Raskin have been utterly great and no one can disagree with that, but do we trust him to always pick the best players we have and to use the best system? No, past history dissuades us from doing that.
And there may be one or two more, but that’s the lot for now.