It should be a great time for a football fan. Loads of games, a number of the world’s best players on show. Your national side attempting to qualify for the tournament you’ll enjoy watching in the summer. Supporters coming together to lament the disappointment of yet another Scotland campaign. With domestic football becoming more and more unbalanced, the prospect of watching national teams who are a bit more even in terms of ability overall should be welcomed.
And yet, the overriding feeling in Scotland seems to be best described as apathetic. International breaks are met with all the enthusiasm of a Monday morning in the job that’s slowly but surely pushing you towards utter cynicism and hatred for all things adult. Despite our domestic football being awful, the international games aren’t looked forward to.
For Rangers fans of late, this feeling is even more pronounced. When some Scotland fans are boring enough to bring banners to games trying to wind up Rangers fans, it’s not surprising many have little regard for the national team. With very few players involved in international games from our squad as well, there’s little to engage the interest.
Of our current players, only two were involved in any way over the past few days. Lee Hodson was an unused substitute for Northern Ireland, and Bruno Alves played in the second of the Portugal games after missing the first through illness. If we’re honest, the main reason Rangers fans looked out for this was to ensure Alves wouldn’t be missing from the next league game. Portugal kept a clean sheet and Alves looked comfortable against Hungary. Even Sam Matterface messaged our esteemed writer Gavin Kelly in praise of how easy he found the game!
One of the biggest reasons Rangers fans are losing interest is in response to the way we’ve been treated by the SFA and the hatred shown towards the club and its fans by Scottish football in general. The problem is, though, that our apathy is only feeding this rather than changing it. By just accepting what’s happening, and not being engaged, it only gets worse. If you never plan on watching Scotland play again, that’s ok, but many Rangers fans still enjoy the national team experience, and many suggest they’d go back to that in different circumstances. Given that we’re not wanted, or that’s certainly the feeling, being absent isn’t going to see us welcomed back anytime soon.
Scotland played well on Friday night. I know it’s not easy to watch a team that’s essentially filled with Celtic players, but it was a good performance. In fact, I can’t remember a better one away from home by Scotland in a long time. Strachan’s record has been pretty poor in all honesty, but maybe the England game and Friday night were signs that we’re reaping the benefits of patience. I still believe he doesn’t pick some players who should absolutely be in the squad, but there weren’t many on Friday you could make a strong case for as not being good enough to be involved as things stand.
Of the Scottish players in the Rangers squad, only Wallace and Dorrans could be deemed good enough, and neither would start most likely. Ryan Jack has a chance in the near future, but he’s not there yet. In time, we’ll have more players involved, as we have a number in the youth teams. Right now, we’re seeing the effects of years of not being able to compete for the best Scottish players.
Over the long term, the whole “f*ck the SFA” approach isn’t one I think works best for Rangers. We tend to be stronger when Scottish football overall is stronger. I can understand the anger and sentiment, I just can’t see where it leads us. In a similar vein, I think we miss a trick when we dismiss international qualifiers so easily. Most of us want football to be more even, to see good players spread out rather than stocked up by a limited number of clubs. Whilst there’s been consistently strong national teams over the years, it’s far closer to the utopian footballing ideal than the domestic game will ever be now.