A Chance for Redemption.

Saturday 17th September 2011

Rangers 4 – 2 Celtic
Goal scorers – Naismith (2), Lafferty, Jelavic

The last time Rangers defeated Celtic in the league was 2011/12, winning both games that season at Ibrox. The first of those was almost six years ago to the day when a 4-2 success took Rangers four points clear at the top of the league. It genuinely seems a lifetime ago. Sometimes to understand where you are, you must look at where you have been.

If truth be told when you look at the two teams on the day Rangers were man-for-man the better team. I’m confident enough to say that not one of the Celtic starting eleven would have made it into the Rangers team. Was Fraser Forster better than Alan McGregor, Glen Loovens better than Carlos Bocanegra, Scott Brown better that Steven Davis or Gary Hooper better than Nikica Jelavic? No, they weren’t and those were their best players in the spine of the team. Victor Wanyama, Beram Kayal and Sung-Yeung Ki moved onto better things but at the time wouldn’t have displaced Davis or Maurice Edu. We would beat them because we were better than them.

This will bring me eventually to my point. Which Rangers players, honestly, get into the Celtic team?

*Grabs tin hat*.

I reckon you could put Wes Foderingham and Bruno Alves into the Celtic defence and it wouldn’t be any weaker. Graham Dorrans and Ryan Jack could easily replicate the job that Scott Brown does given how much time he has and the options he has available to receive the ball. Finally, is James Forrest a better player than Daniel Candeias or is he playing in a better more settled team and would Alfredo Morelos get 40+ goals playing in a team as dominant as Celtic? I need to caveat this because I’m not saying all these Rangers players are miles better than their Celtic counterparts but there certainly isn’t much between them. It is also just my opinion!

When I said, you must remember where you have been to appreciate where you are sometimes, have a think back to last season if it isn’t too painful and won’t cause a reoccurrence of nightmares. How many Rangers players from last season get into the Celtic team? Big Wes and that would be it. We were a shambles. Unfortunately, that was never going to change over-night. The quicker Rangers fans realise this the more objective you can be when watching the team play. We are starting from scratch this year, that’s a fact because of the poor recruitment over the previous regime.

My point (told you I’d get there) is we are improving, we have better players than last season, but they need time together. Alves and Fabio Cardoso will be a good pairing, remember they haven’t even played 10 games together yet. We are stronger and more creative in midfield and scoring more goals than last season. Candeias is an upgrade on Barrie McKay, his work rate alone gives him the nod but I’m not going to compare Morelos to last season’s shower, there’s just no point! I’ve seen enough from Eduardo Herrera and Carlos Pena to suggest they are better than Joe Garner, Martyn Waghorn and Kenny Miller. What they have done with the little game time they have had, added to the small flashes of flair and technical ability has given me this belief. The goals they have scored have not been easy chances and yet they made them look easy.

Every Rangers fan can see what our weaknesses are, so I’m pretty sure most managers will be able to see the same things. Pedro is in a no-win situation. If he doubles up with two fullbacks on one side it is negative. If he doesn’t, it is reckless. In fairness, he can’t compare this team to the one that played v Celtic last year such are the changes in personnel. So, does he make tactical changes that the players are not used to or set the team up as they have been playing and give them the confidence to compete? Let’s not forget, St Johnstone got a draw at Parkhead and Partick Thistle should’ve drawn with them too. Do they have better players than Rangers?

Last season we weren’t creating enough chances, scoring enough goals, we weren’t solid defensively or controlling games with any real authority. By my maths, we are now in a position where it is just the defence that needs work and time to get the understanding right. That’s an incredible turnaround for any coach or manager. I remember Craig Moore and Lorenzo Amoruso being a nightmare to start off with but eventually became one of our most dependable pairings in recent years.

It might not and probably won’t be this season but with continuity, stability and with another 2-3 signings of genuine quality Rangers can compete with Celtic. We have a Director of Football with international connections and knowledge of Europe’s best youth prospects whereas previously we were shopping in League 1 and League 2 in England. Pedro Caixinha has already stated he wants a core of Scottish and preferably Rangers supporting players added to a few, quality foreigners. Walter Smith employed the same tactic post Paul Le Guen and that turned out ok didn’t it?

Six years is a long time without beating your closest rivals in the league, it will take concentration, luck and every player to be at their best but this squad is capable of decent football throughout the team. To be truly successful the Rangers players must remember where the club has been, where they are now, who they play for and what they play for to get a glimpse of what it means to the 50,000 that will be roaring them on to succeed at 12:00pm on Saturday.