It’s yet another International week, and Rangers have a number of players involved at different levels. Lee Hodson and his Northern Ireland teammates have the big matches against Switzerland, but that’s at the weekend. Tomorrow, Scotland face Holland in a friendly, and on Friday the Under-21s play Latvia. For the main squad, the only Rangers player involved this time around is Ryan Jack, for his first call up. Robby and Ross McCrorie are joined by Ryan Hardie in the Under-21s.
The first thing that has to be discussed are the comments of Kris Boyd in recent days regarding the call-ups, and in particular his criticism of Ryan Jack. To suggest that Jack hasn’t been playing well for Rangers would certainly be an opinion that’s at odds with most who have watched us this season. There’s no doubt that Jack has the potential to become a better player, and has things to work on, but he’s been a very good signing and key to any good performances we’ve had.
But the bigger question is – just what does Boyd hope to achieve by being this negative? He seems to do it more often than not in his analysis of football, and certainly where Rangers are involved. I don’t ask for pundits to be all smiles or happy clappers, but at least have some sort of basis for your opinions. Boyd is also still playing, which puts him in a different position to every other pundit he’s next to. His opinion carries weight, and in this case he’s pretty much slaughtered a number of fellow professionals for their first call-ups for no good reason. If it was to see how they react, or to try and make them more determined, there’s other ways to do that. That guess at his motive is being very kind though.
Scotland are in a place of transition, with a new manager set to be hired for the next campaign. We have to find ways to engage the fans in this country so that the team gets the backing it needs, and a lack of call-ups for domestic players doesn’t do that. Players like Jack, McLean, Shinnie and Christie have all done well for a few seasons now at Aberdeen or elsewhere. They’re certainly considered good enough to make moves to a higher level. Why not get them in now and give them some experience of international football? There should be some excitement and positivity around this, if for no other reason than to get fans on board. Boyd’s comments help no one but himself, given the amount of attention seeking he’s displayed.
On the subject of managers, Malky Mackay leads the Scotland side for this one. He simply shouldn’t be in the position he is after past misdemeanours. I’m all for second chances, but he’s in no way earned his current status. However, both him and Kenny McLean have felt the need to come out and ask fans at Pittodrie not to single out Ryan Jack for abuse. We all know he’s going to get booed constantly. The Aberdeen fan hatred for all things Rangers is almost cute at times, in so much as they really overestimate their importance. There are wider implications to all of this, and again it does nothing to excite fans or get them going to games, but it should be both laughed at and condemned in equal measure. Ryan Jack certainly has nothing to worry about, given the advancement of his career.
On the game itself, both sides are in a low place after failing to make the playoffs for the World Cup qualifiers. Holland in particular were very disappointing given the level of talent they have at their disposal. International friendlies don’t tend to be great, especially around mid-season when players pull out to take a much-wanted rest. With so many being given their first taste of this level, and the Dutch needing also to prove themselves, I can’t see anything other than a Holland win. I would also expect Ryan Jack to play, but not to start the game.
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For the under-21s, it’s a qualifier against Latvia. The team won 2-0 away from home in their previous game. Looking at the squad, I suspect the only Rangers player who will start is Ross McCrorie. I think Hardie will be involved from the bench, but would be surprised if he’s ahead of the likes of McBurnie just now. Scotland currently sit 4 points behind England with a game in hand, so this is a must win match. With Holland also in the group, it’s a tough draw to make the playoffs.
We’ll review the Scotland game on Friday, and preview Northern Ireland with regards to Lee Hodson.
Will you be keeping an eye on any games this week? Tweet us @rangersnewsuk with your comments!