Let me start with an apology. Somehow, I managed to get the dates of the Northern Ireland games completely mixed up in my preview piece. I was sure they were Saturday and Tuesday, but obviously I was wrong! Let’s discuss the talking points from the games involving Rangers players last night.
Ryan Jack made his debut for Scotland, starting the game at right back. Whilst he played that position early in his career, it’s been years since he played there in a meaningful game. With the focus on him from some of the fans at the game, with early jeers and later applause, it was easy to over-analyse his performance. Some will say he did well given everything, others think he was poor. Overall, he did ok. The game wasn’t played at a hectic pace and Scotland were very reserved in their approach. It’s clear his style of play now suits the midfield role far more than full back. Hopefully, he’ll get more chances at this level. Rangers need their players developing against top players to improve.
There’s obviously a bit of focus on the abuse Jack received from some fans. Like Lee Wallace and Ian Black in recent years, he’s just another Rangers player playing in front of the Scotland crowd that was booed. Seems to be our lot at the moment. Many of those doing it are mindless sheep following the crowd, some are a bit more vociferous. When said fans try to justify the behaviour, they show themselves up for the idiots that they are. If I’m honest, I’d prefer not to give them any more focus than they deserve.
Scotland Under 21s play today, and thankfully Rangers players at that level are backed by the fans. Hopefully, both the McCrorie brothers and Ryan Hardie will be involved in the game and play well.
Lee Hodson was an unused substitute for Northern Ireland in their 1-0 defeat at home to Switzerland. The defeat in the first leg of the playoff leaves them in a very difficult position going into the return fixture. Switzerland were clearly the better side, but their goal came from a joke of a penalty decision. Had Northern Ireland held out for 0-0, they’d have a chance, so yet again a wrong call from a referee has huge implications. It’s difficult to call how Northern Ireland will approach the second game – Hodson could yet find himself involved if they decide to keep it tight and try to snatch a goal or two unexpectedly. Whilst that may not seem the best approach when you need to score, it is what Northern Ireland are strongest at, so it may be how they decide to play.
For Rangers, the focus is now mainly on the next manager and our build-up towards next weekend. There were a number of players involved in a closed doors friendly with Manchester United U23s yesterday, so hopefully that will have given them a bit more sharpness and confidence. As we await updates on who is taking charge next, we’ll need every player at their best.
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