As Celtic lifted the Premier Sports Cup at Hampden, the Rangers squad are counting the cost of yet another failure in domestic cup competition.
Gers fans had gotten used to the cries of ‘the only trophy that matters’ as the club built its way back from the brink but after securing 55, comments like these don’t really wash.
Rangers are a club built on cup successes – the Gers’ 29 League Cups leaving Celtic’s record of 20 in their wake – and failure on the domestic cup front is not something we’re accustomed to, but rather swallowed reluctantly with more important matters at hand.
But now Rangers are a squad and club under increasing pressure to deliver on multiple fronts and over the next six or so months fans will be expecting this Rangers team to show their bottle.
Scottish Premiership remains focus for Rangers but cup form must improve
League success remains the focus; if you ask any Rangers or Celtic fan if they’d trade both cups for a title and the £40m that comes with it, the honest ones would jump at it.
But this was yet another opportunity lost on the road to Rangers dominating the game in Scottish football.
Earlier in the season Connor Goldson talked up a squad hungry to “dominate” but too often this campaign the Gers have come up short.
Hibs was a capitulation that stank of a lack of leadership post-Gerrard and whilst the Aston Villa manager shoulders some of the blame, the majority of it lies squarely at the feet of the squad.
When it comes to the domestic cup competitions this Rangers team have been perennial failures, the record of one cup final from 10 since 2018 a running joke outside of Ibrox.
Celtic – a squad restructured and reinvigorated under Ange Postecoglou – got a free hit at this trophy because Rangers succumbed to the pressure at Hampden.
Rangers must feel like we are the only team truly equipped to halt Celtic in any competition – and likewise them to us – and by crumbling v Hibs we handed them the chance to build momentum.
Celtic Premier Sports Cup win must serve as Rangers warning with Ibrox side holding title advantage
Whilst it’s something we more closely associate with cup duty the Gers have also missed huge opportunities in the Scottish Premiership this season.
Celtic stumbled in early season and Rangers – sleepwalking under Gerrard – failed to take full advantage with Ibrox draws against Motherwell, Hearts and Aberdeen sticking in the craw.
Our Old Firm rivals have now got their hands on the League Cup and this – they hope – will act as a building block amid their enthusiastic embracing of Postecoglou.
But for Rangers it must serve as a significant warning ahead of the festive run and the second half of the season with a seven-point league advantage currently at Ibrox.
If we continue to sleep on our own watch, then we risk counting a much higher cost than the League Cup come May.
Whilst Celtic lifted the trophy, some awful officiating took centre-stage and Ibrox supporters called out the irony of desperate Parkhead conspiracy talk.