Ibrox Noise recently saw a claim online that Philippe Clement is the best Rangers manager since Walter Smith.
That’s a big claim to make – bear in mind even Michael Beale had statistically as good a start as Clement did, but he became undone by Celtic. Just like Clement arguably has.
So while we’ve secured last 16 and a League Cup trophy, we’re still very cautious about the manager given he failed at Pittodrie and he has failed at Parkhead.
But there’s something more – that Walter Smith analogy.
Of course he’s not Walter, no one is, but a lot of fans are seeing comparisons in psyche and style between the two. It’s hard to disagree with that. A steely determination, a disdain for the press and an icy exterior.
But there’s one big difference.
In 2007, and Walter’s return to Ibrox in January saw his first clash with Celtic at Parkhead happen that March, and he went there with the following XI:
McGregor, Hutton, Weir, Ehiogu, Murray, Hemdani, Thomson, Ferguson, Adam, Sebo, Novo
It’s not exactly great is it? The remnants of Paul Le Guen’s 2006 shambles plus a few January signings in there – and it was still miles behind Celtic’s colossal lead in the league.
A whole host of weak spots in that too; Murray, Hemdani, Adam, Sebo, arguably even Thomson and Novo.
And yet that team pulled off a gigantic win to hurt Celtic’s-then big lead in the table.
Clement’s Rangers today was nowhere close to the win, and that’s a big difference between Clement and Walter – Walter is, unfairly perhaps, the barometer all Rangers managers will be judged on.
How can he not be, he was the Grand Master.
But he knew succeeding in the SPL was all about beating Celtic, and boy could he do it.
Clement and every single manager since Walter just cannot do that, aside Steven Gerrard who needed years at it, and Giovanni van Bronckhorst in the cup.
Clement may well indeed be the best we’ve had since Walter, that is a subjective view, but just like Walter he’s faced Celtic on their patch 3 months after taking over a terrible Rangers squad built by a hopeless predecessor. Unlike Walter he couldn’t drag that to a win at Parkhead.
We wish Clement well, and for a good January transfer window, but we just don’t think anyone will ever come close to Walter.