Is the Mother’s Day showdown Rangers’ biggest game in 6 years?
Times, they are a changing. Despite some fans thinking that the season had been written off when Pedro was relieved of his duties in October last year, there is an undeniable and unified sense of a momentum shift at the top of the table.
Now, to clarify, I’m not suggesting Rangers are going to go on and win the League and the Cup. What I do know is that Rangers, since Murty took over, have won just a point less than Celtic over the same period. Considering we were ridiculously inconsistent at the end of 2017 it makes this statistic even more impressive.
We have scored three more goals than we did in the whole of last season and just nine points off our final tally with nine games still to play. More importantly, we finished last season one point short of forty behind Celtic, on Sunday we have the chance to go three points off the top albeit having played an extra game. As we know to our cost in 2008 though, games in hand don’t always equal three points. The gap has been closed, not completely but we can see the other side now.
The squad has been improved by tactical and personnel changes. Last season people would laugh at the suggestion that any Rangers player would make it into Celtic’s first XI, even earlier this season we heard repeatedly “which of the Rangers players make it into the Celtic team?” Ask the same question now. Ask it another way, how many Celtic players now get in the Rangers team? Look at how players already in the squad have improved with better players around them.
I wrote earlier in the season – sometimes you must look back and remember where you’ve come from to get perspective of where you are and where you are going (or words to that effect!). Would we have taken our current position at the start of the season? Maybe. Not the way it has panned out mind you but certainly the quality of football we have been playing, the chances we are creating, our position in the league and still in with a chance of winning the Scottish Cup.
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This has been one of the stranger seasons in my lifetime. More so than the Paul Le Guen debacle. Pedro’s tenure seems a lifetime ago with only the appearance of Eduardo Herrera’s name on the bench a regular reminder of what we were subjected to previously in the campaign.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Who knows if we’d appointed Graeme Murty when Mark Warburton left and Mark Allen earlier where we could have been this year? We might get to the end of the season and think “what if?”
But, as I said, we now have to look forward. We have half a team still missing through injury, which bizarrely should be seen as a positive. If we can close the gap with them all missing, who’s to say we can’t make the final jump when they are all fit and there is greater competition in the squad and an improved quality on the bench?
We have a manager who has never lost against Celtic, he has set up two different teams in two different formations with different tactics, he will be confident. This confidence will undoubtedly spread to the players. They want this game, they want to prove they are going to challenge and it is only a matter of time.
Is it Rangers’ biggest game in six years? The obvious answer would be the Cup Final from 2016, but, and I’m putting a caveat on this, I think it is Rangers’ biggest game. If we win. Momentum and confidence are huge in sport and a win would provide both. A loss would be put down as “we aren’t quite there, yet”. There is no pressure on Rangers to win this game other than the historical importance of second place being meaningless. A victory in this game, for me, genuinely changes everything.
One thing is for certain, it will be mayhem, it will be momentous and Mother’s Day will have to be put on hold for a couple of hours!