Archive for November 2009
Gritted teeth, gnarled expressions on the faces, knuckles whitened wrapped around the royal blue jersey of the interlocular, fists clenched at the ready, threatening ominously to be unleashed in a flurry of blows. Words of venom and frozen breath are being spat at each other through sheets of Friday morning rain and cold, blustery, sheets of wind.
Two men stand toe to toe ready to take out an anger that must have been brewing with words of venom being spewed at one another. An Edinburgh lilt chews out words of distain to be met by the broken words of anger flowing in an anglo-gallic, French Algerian accent.
Both men willing yet pensive that the other will throw the first punch and the training ground set-too will spill over into a full on brawl on the watered, maintained grass of Murray Park.
Then it happened.
According to reports in the press and rumours circulating internet forums and messageboards the fight happened. More than verbal volleys were exchanged as a blur of arms and legs were tangled in a spurt of apoplectic rage. It was over as soon as it started and described as “handbags at 50 paces” by the manager – but can we read a little more into it?
Training ground clashes are what makes a team; yet of course it can also break a team. Walter Smith is particularly known for trying to encourage the players comprising his teams to train as hard as they play – something that was lost in the time of Paul LeGuen where contact at training was outlawed (just ask Phil Bardsley).
There is always flair ups in training at professional football clubs. Our manager in waiting Ally McCoist was an excellent proponent of this as his bright and breezy joker persona outside the club was a mask for a fiercely competitive and very hard trainer. Coisty revelled in tussles with Bomber Brown and Gough on a daily basis on makeshift training grounds which often continued onto the minibus on the way home. It’s a mark of respect that the players care that much.
Should the swirling rumours of the Scottish media and West of Scotland Chinese whispers that ensues everytime some Old firm gossip surfaces been reporting this story about any two other players then there is a chance that this tete-a-tete could be dismissed as two players who care so much about the club, the team and each other that their desire bleeds out onto their will to win training games; but it wasn’t.
It was Madjid Bougherra and Kenny Miller.
The fact that it was this pair is relevent as it was this pair that seemed to be having a throwaway “war of words” in the press last week. As we all know, Bougherra was late (again) in returning for duty with Rangers after Algeria’s success in getting to the World Cup in South Africa. Smith dealt with Bougherra in-house and then left him on the bench for Rangers’ European tie with Stuttgart. Meanwhile, Miller was pulled in after training as the rent-a-quote for the day in the media room at Murray Park.
Naturally, the media was going to ask the questions that the players didn’t really want to answer and the hot topic was of course the late return and potential dropping of arguably Rangers’ best player before a critical Champions League tie. Miller was probed on the issue and his comments were not really all that provocative;
“We want our best players out there,” Miller said. “Obviously I don’t know what’s gone on with Madjid not coming back but it’s something the manager will sort out I’m sure.“
Miller continued and was a little bit more specific, “I don’t see any reason why he would want to stay away. Obviously this week’s circumstances with qualification for the World Cup is maybe a little bit more understandable than other times but still no excuse.”
Those comments are hardly a call to arms and a slap in the face for Bougherra; who at least on the park seems to get offended if even the slightest thing goes wrong. Yet, as ever, the Scottish media sensationalised the story and churned out the usual vernacular such as “blasted” and tone of reporting that will serve demonise both Miller and Bougherra.
Is this what served as the impetus and trigger to the fight that has been splashed all across the newspaper back pages of the sports sections today?
One can only imagine what might have been said between the two and who it was that might have started it:
In the red corner, wearing the green and white shorts, weighing in at something or other pounds, hailing from parts unknown……..Madjid ” The Sandman” Bougherra. In the blue corner, also wearing the green and white shorts, hailing from the wrong side of Scotland……..”Kenny “The Perma-tan Punisher” Miller. The verbals begin the bout…
The Sandman – “What is zhis you err sayeeing about moi dans le newspapeyay monsoir Meeloor?”
The Perma-tan Punisher – “Nuthin Boogie eh”
The Sandman – “Yoo dizrespect me in le papeeyay monsoir”
The Perma-tan Punisher – “Ah just said that you wur late comin back fae doon in ‘efrica, didnta eh?”
The Sandman – “For thees dizrespect…..I keel you”
(Bougherra comes flashing in with punches and kicks like a catherine wheel that’s flown off its upright and Miller replys by trying to spray some tanning product into Madjids eyes)
This is more than likely not what happened (you can pop that jaw closed now at that revelation I know). Although I’d say that I’d imagine Bougherra had been told about the newspaper article(s) second hand and had decided to confront Miller on what had been said. Of course this is conjecture and there is every chance that it might have just been two players clashing over an agressive tackle too far – but I just can’t buy it.
Now there’s two reasons why.
Firstly, I think that its fairly obvious that there is simply not that kind of fight on the pitch anytime we have all watched Rangers, Miller and Bougherra this season. Bougherra is the unflappable centre half who has only made about three mistakes in his whole tenure with Rangers.
He’s more likely to look personally offended at a bad challenge or a sending off against him than to fly into an unstoppable rage. Miller for all his endeavour and tenacity (is ‘headlesschickenness’ a word?) is not known as a hot head either.
It’s rather uncharacteristic of both – so there must have been something pretty major to set both these players off against each other.
It has to be the newspaper stories. Differences in culture? Misrepresentation in the press? Issues with translation and players hearing things second hand? The second reason I think that I think there is more to it is that there has been further rumour of Bougherra clashing with another team mate at the Rangers christmas night out in Manchester over the weekend.
Again, that is purely conjecture and could perhaps be put down to weekend Chinese whispers and stories being changed as they are passed from one person to another. But if there is a more than a shread of truth in it then it does seem that Mr Bougherra has issue with a couple of players or the converse; some of the players have issue with Bougherra.
Since this is an in-house matter and it should remain so, we will not know the full truth. Walter has said his piece and brushed off any discussion of there being dressing room unrest. The coming weeks will perhaps tell it’s own tale of what happened. Will we see Bougherra back in the starting eleven sooner rather than later? I’d predict so. Even if he had shat in Millers’ shoe he’d still get a game at Rangers until at least the transfer window.
We can only hope that a dressing room bubble of discontent will be the making of this side.
I always like to try and remain positive about our club and our team. I want to believe Smith that this was nothing more than a short disagreement that was over before it started – but I just can’t get my head around it. There is too much of a back story and too much that can be read into it for it to just have been born out of over zealousness in training.
I sincerely hope that rather than this discontent and distaste in the dressing room continuing and potentially fracturing the side, that this fight can be the full stop over the issue that possibly exists or existed between the two. A clearing of the air and two men that now respect each other for standing up for what they believe in. We’ve had a divided dressing room before that was highly counterprodutive to our aspirations as a team. Lets all pray that this is not the case.
Hey, who knows? Maybe Miller was just jealous of the natural tan that Madjid sports?
So Nacho Novo is to be investigated for getting his erse out after Rangers’ loss to Aberdeen yesterday?
We love Nacho for how committed he is to the cause and for how well he has integrated with the fans. Whenever he comes off the bench he’s always pumping his fists to get the crowd motivated – more than a large percentage of the ‘first team’ ever do.
Anyway, during the closing stages of the game, Novo was being subjected to torrent of abuse/banter from the sheep shagging bastards calling him a gay. Fair do’s; in my opinion fans should be allowed to shout anything within reason at players with obvious exceptions. Hell, they’re earning enough that it should be water off a ducks back. They earn enough money that getting some verbals for 90 minutes a week should be a piece of piss.
So as Novo was leaving the pitch he drops his shorts a little to the Aberdeen fans in a get it up ye gesture (not literally) and then flips them a finger (again, not literally).
Cue the sheep getting their wool encrusted panties in a twist.
Novo has been reported to the Grampian peelers as ‘fans with children were offended’ at his ‘mooning’. Now, mooning. That involves actually getting your arse out. That involves actual crack being shown. Novo didn’t.
I’ll refer to the font of all wisdom – Urban Dictionary:
Mooning: The recreational act of baring one’s ass in public with the intention of it being seen by people who don’t want, or expect, to see it.
Technically, there was no ass seen by people. Only his fetching white undercrackers. Surely this is an open and shut case for the Gramps polis?
Although, in saying that, the whole Rangers team could be thrown in jail for public indecency after that performance…
So Walter Smith is back to being the worst manager in the world again after some of his strongest critics being somewhat quiet of late.
What’s changed? Is it a case of the voice shouting the loudest is often the only one that’s heard? When we have been playing well of late, no one seems to have been quite as vociferous in their support and praise of the manager. Is this because it is the minimum that we are Rangers supporters have came to expect?
Before I start this discourse on the current state of tenure of Walter Smith, I feel like I should make one thing clear. Last night against Stuttgart was not acceptable. Our European distraction this season has not been acceptable. The managers decisions were not up to scratch for me, however more importantly, the performance of the majority of the players was beyond reproach. We have crashed from Europe with nothing but a whimper – a team that has as much potency and commands as much respect in Europe as Herman van Rompuy.
But can all the blame simply be laid at the door of Walter Smith, Ally McCoist and Kenny McDowell?
Sadly, this time there is a very strong argument that Walter Smith has simply gotten it wrong in Europe this year. The defeats at home this season have been nothing short of embarrassing. An embarrassment we’ve not felt since some of the European forays Smith made towards the end of his first term at the helm of Rangers.
I wrote an blog yesterday saying that second guessing Walter Smith in Europe was as frivolous as trying to spell out words by poking a chopstick into a tin of alphabet spaghetti – something that was proven yet again as Smith deployed a very left-field formation (with Miller on “supporting wide” as I had predicted).
News of the tactical shape was leaked to the papers an hour or so prior to kick off with many dismissing it as tabloid rumour. However the rumours were true, Walter was going to shoehorn his squad into what sounded a very attacking 3-4-3 formation. On seeing it on the park though, it clearly wasn’t that.
In practice it was more like five at the back; quite possibly the most defensively that Walter has asked his troops to play since he came back to the club. Yes, much like the debate that 4-3-3/4-5-1 are actually the same thing – one is the shape when attacking, one when defending – the same is true for 3-4-3 and 5-3-2. Similar to the 4-3-3, the shape changed based on game-circumstance, where the wingers dropped into midfield, the two wide players from the four man midfield ended up dropping back into full back positions.
This drew pressure and allowed territory and space to Stuttgart too deep in our own half.
Our three man defence of Wilson, Weir and McCulloch was not up to the task of playing together in that formation. Despite the experience of Weir, he couldn’t help McCulloch through the ordeal and it seemed that Wilson was the most mature head at the back in many occasions. It was the kind of formation that Basile Boli would have revelled in.
We didn’t really challenge Stuttgart at all.
In all fairness they cruised it and had it not been for the inspired form of Allan McGregor we could have faced a much heftier deficit. McGregor, Wilson and Davis being the only players to come out from the debacle with pass marks. Boyd didn’t have as bad a game as many will have you believe. Yes, he missed that chance, but his all round game up front pretty much as a lone Ranger was passable. He didn’t set the heather on fire but he was not the worst player on the park. He would deserve to play against the Spaniards in the final game based on his performance in my opinion.
But I am talking about the players here. Not the manager. Who is to ‘blame’ for the European misadventure? Walter? The players?
If everything is considered with a sensible head then it’s a combination of both. Walter may have judged his tactics wrong last night, but the players didn’t show the fight and desire to win for Rangers that we have the right to demand from our players. We are not European no-marks like Gonnoreah Urziceni. Not one player pulled themselves and the players around him up over the precipice.
As much as the players all seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet within the squad, there is not the level of commitment that is required to play well and win in Europe. Maybe the players in our squad are simply not good enough to compete and perform at that level? However that is a path that leads back to the manager. It was him that signed them and it’s him and his assistants that train them to mould them into the players that they are now.
So I suppose for me there is no direct blame for our European failure, it is a collective failing and everyone associated with the club has recognised that.
Players and management have been quoted last night and today saying that it wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t, they recognise that and we recognise that. But for me, the doom and gloom merchants need to get a grip of reality. We may have slipped out of Europe, but two of the sides in our group are filled with magnificent players – some of the best of in the world, especially in the case of Sevilla. We are leading the league and are still on course for the other two domestic cups.
Look at it this way. The money in Europe is from the Champions League; we’ve played in the Champions League, we will receive the money. We are all disappointed to not be in the Champions League after the New Year but let’s face it, our squad is not good enough to be there. Apart from the last sixteen, the best we could have hoped for was a Europa Cup campaign which could have stretched our squad to it’s limits.
The league this year is our bread and butter. Simply, we have to win the league this year. Failure is not an option for the future of Rangers (without intervention from a new buyer). We must ensure Champions League football next season for our debt to be better managed. I know I sound like a bit of a drama queen here, but I genuinely believe that it is that important and I think that belief can be backed up when the figures from the latest financial reports are considered. It’s not the case that the club will cease to exist immediately or vanish like Gretna, but everything that we have came to expect and love could potentially begin to be stripped away.
Put quite plainly, if failure to reach the last sixteen of the Champions League or gain entry to the Europa cup means that our players are galvanised and we can go on to win the league then I’d very happily take that. Not every year, but this year I’d take it. Walter Smith knows that he won’t be the manager of Rangers for the next five years, he knows his time at the helm is coming to an end. Without a new owner there will be no fresh exciting young manager to come in. Who else would offer to work on without a contract as Walter has? He is what a lot of what Rangers should always be – proud, loyal, honest and a Trojan of a worker for the interests of the club. People should remember that before castigating him.
There wasn’t a bad word said in his name when he broke the news that the bank were severely influencing the club. He was lauded for protecting the clubs interests and for making the fans aware of a situation that we needed to know about. So let’s maybe cut him some slack.
Last night was a complete shambles, but we always need to look to the positives in life. This season is by no means over yet. We still have some of the most important months in Rangers history ahead of us. What the club, players and management need right now is us to be behind them in what they are doing. I may not like some of the decisions made by management and some of the performances and attitudes of the players, but I will continue to lend them my unwavering support – this season more importantly than most we need to be a collective unit, fighting for the same cause for the best of the institution that means more than anything to us all.
We might have whimpered out of the battle for Europe but the much more important and telling war is yet to be won.
The international break came at the perfect time for Rangers.
Just before the break began were starting to change around some of our stuttering form and coming out from the financial panic that ensued from the revelations instigated by our gaffer. After the break we found we had a rested and focussed squad (apart from Mjad Madjid of course) and it clearly showed against Kilmarnock at the weekend.
For the first time this season, the collective unit looked like a Rangers team.
During the first half we passed our way around Kilmarnock with relative ease; showing exactly the reason why we are the reigning Scottish champions. Goals from Miller, Boyd and Whittaker eased us to a three nil lead by the half and the game was dead – Kilmarnock had no chance of coming back. The players looked more confident and much more balanced across the pitch.
It was the perfect tonic ahead of Stuttgart tonight. The second half was at an eased pace and we continued to dominate proceedings, allowing our players much needed gametime at a lessened pace and with less pressure. Confidence will no doubt be soaring after the weekend too, something that will have been heightened on seeing Stuttgart’s continued struggle in the Bundesliga.
I’m confident of a victory tonight.
One of the main plus points from the weekend was the continued resurgance in form from our Mr Goals, Kris Boyd. Although that moniker will perhaps need to be reassesssed soon as Boyd’s game seems to be going through a bit of a metamorphosis. It’s almost like he’s finally realised that he has to work his posterior a bit more in games. Dare I say it, but it looks like he is becoming more of a rounded (that’s not a pun on his weight) striker. He scores with both feet with deadly accuracy – just look at his goal against Killie – and has a knack of scoring with his head; but it is his growing confidence and willingness to take the ball into his feet with his back to goal, challenge for the ball in the air and chase down shadows that is quite rightly earning him plaudits.
Call me a cynic, but isn’t Mr Boyd’s contract running out at the end of the season? Now there’s two ways to look at it, either he’s working himself into the shop window for a new club come January or the summer or he is trying his best to prove to the Ibrox hieracrchy that he is worthy of a new deal at Rangers. Of course, everyone hopes that he is fighting for a secured future at Rangers but circumstance may dictate otherwise.
Last eight month of contract super player pills seem to be ditched out to Boyd and it has happened over and over again at Rangers, with Lovenkrands and Burke being two prime examples. These are players that seemed to play to their full potential whenever it is their own career that is resting on it and sadly not when it is for the better of the team and the club. I believe that every player now on the books at Rangers is playing for the club and for the manager and importantly the squad seems to all be pulling in the same direction for the first time in years. I am not one to slag players though and I have faith in Boyd’s intentions. He’s worn his heart on his sleeve and dug his heels in for the betterment of his Rangers career before.
Is he worthy of his start tonight?
I think he’s long overdue a chance to prove his worth in the big games – he’s been working hard enough of late. The nature of the beast is that Rangers simply need to win. Smith has been berated for his tactics but even he must see that playing with only Miller furrowing alone up front is leaving too much to chance. That being said, second guessing what Walter Smith will do in a big game is like poking a chopstick into a tin of alphabet spaghetti in the hope of coming out with the letters K-U-Z-N-E-T-Z-O-V hanging off the end. I really wouldn’t be surprised to see Miller playing on the left hand side of a “three-pronged” attack and Bougherra coming on in the second half to play in midfield.
Tonight will see the continuing bond being developed between Wilson and Weir at the centre of defence. There has been a lot said about the youngster since he has came into the fold and quite rightly so. He is the most comfortable and composed defender we have on the ball and he can spot a pass and a run from midfield or up top, with elegance and ease. We all rightly so have big hopes for the young man, but we need to keep our heads and realise that he will need to drop out of the team, even for a few games to rest at some time. No doubt this will be further example to many supporters that Smith has no idea what he is doing. But I believe dropping Wilson sometime soon, after Bougherra has sweated a little, will be better for his career.
It is however starting to get fairly obvious that Bougherra is going to leave Glasgow Rangers Football Club.
When is the only matter. I believe we will most likely hang onto him in the January transfer window in order to capitalise on the inflated fee a good showing in the African Nations Cup could bring before the World Cup and the transfer merry go round that will doubtlessly ensue. If the bank are no longer (were the ever?) demanding money immediately to service our debts, then it is in the best interests of Rangers to hold onto him for longer than the next month or so. That requires a slightly longer-term outlook from the board and the bank though, so who knows that will happen there.
Yet one thing is for sure, Bougherra will leave. Weir will retire at the end of the season or at least head back down south. We seem to have a real talent in Wilson coming through, but who will be his partner? Will Papac slot into the centre leaving Smith or Wylde on the left? Will McCulloch drop into defence permenently? I’m growing more to the outlook that the player that could fit into the void is none other than Andy Webster.
Webster has struggled with Prodanitis since he signed from Hearts via Wigan. But what we have to remember is that Webster was an established Scotland international who had Premiership clubs interested in signing him at one point. I know that doesn’t necessarily mean anything – Stephen Crainey was a Scotland international once and Don Cowie is one now – but there is no doubt that he is a good footballer. It’s good to see him back playing for Dundee United and playing well. It could potentially prove to be a masterstroke of Smiths if Webster comes back from a full season of football with a good footballing side ready to slot into his plans at Ibrox.
Elsewhere, Rangers were tenuously linked with Aberdeen born USA internationalist Stuart Holden over the weekend. Holden’s contract is up in January and he seems keen to move to Europe if first team football can be guaranteed ahead of the World Cup in the summer. Word has it that Mo Johnston, the man that identified Maurice Edu as a signing target, alerted McCoist to the contractial situation of ten time capped Holden.
Rumour has it that Ewen Chester (our whole scouting network) has watched him on several occasions with a view to a potential signing in the transfer window. Holden has been interesting several clubs down south and Aberdeen are also keen to have themselves linked. Should this be true and a transfer sanctioned, Holden may be a very astute buy.
RangersMedia’s man in the know when it comes to the qualities of footballers, Muff, ran the rule over the player and intimated his knowledge of him;
“I remember Alex McLeish showed a bit of interest in him when with the national team, unfortunately for Scotland, he now plays for the US. Sunderland had high hopes for him when he was younger, but I think injury or something halted his progress?
One of the star players in the MLS, IMO – that might not seem much to some, but there are a number of cracking players in that league, and he’s proving on the international stage, that he can play football!
From what I have seen of him, he’s an attacking minded player. I have seen him play on the left, right, and center for both the US and Houston. Clever player, with a good bit of pace. I particularly like his ability to play with both feet, his range of passing and his impressive deliver of a ball. He can also strike a ball, which is something we miss from our midfielders, and he seems to like to ghost into the back post – for not being that tall, he’s quite good in the air, and with his head.
Could be the next Claudio Reyna, Clint Dempsey, Brad Friedel, Brian McBride….in a sense, that he could come over to Britain, and perform to a high standard on a consistant platform.
I hope there is something in this, because he’s the type of player we need at the club; out of contract, wages would not be a problem, exciting international player with a bit of quality….who could make us a good bit of money in the future.
So when do we hear that the likes of Hull, Bolton, Fulham….are interested in him”
The greatest Rangers goalkeeper of all time, the flying pig, the original tabloid lothario, the goalie; Andy Goram. My footballing idol.
It’s been 5 years since the goalie hung up his gloves for good after a long and medal laden career spanning different clubs that he had a special relationship with and reason for loving.
Oldham, his hometown team, where he first realised small town celebrity and dipped his toe into party excess. Hibernian, where his auld man Lewis had played as a keeper during his career before it was curtailed early with a broken leg. Rangers, his dad’s team and the place where he found a band of brothers, adulation and abhorration across Glasgow and beyond. Manchester United, the team he supported as a boy and Clyde, where a nine in a row brotherhood was solidified.
The Goalie is the first player in Scottish football history to have won all domestic honours available in the country. He completed this feat in 2002 when he won the Challenge Cup with Queen of the South – this is a statistic that can never be taken away from my hero, although I’m sure he would exchange them all just to be back playing with his nine in a row brothers and maybe to have been in Jim Leightons gloves in France, against Brazil.
Forty three Scotland caps in a thirteen year period with the national team is decidedly low for a man with the talent and legendary status that Goram has. This is a man that Alan Hodgkinson lauded as the best technical goalkeeper he has ever worked with – and that is from a man who has worked with some of the most famous and celebrated goalkeepers in history.
But of course it was between the sticks of the mighty Rangers that Goram made his name.
The first time I saw Goram play was in a season review video that I had from the 1988/89 season when he was still playing for Hibs. It was a game against Rangers and he was simply unstoppable. He’d have stopped mulitple footballs being rapped at him from all angles that day. I can’t remember the score or much else about the game other than the highlights of the game basically consisted of Goram saving everything that was thrown at him. Until this point, I had been in awe of Chris Woods, he had ignited a fire in my belly to become a goalkeeper, but Andy Goram, even when at Hibs had poured petrol onto it to make the fire burn bright.
During his tenure at Rangers there wasn’t much in the game of football that he didn’t achieve. From reading his book, there are obvious regrets about his career and things he could have approached differently, but Goram never seemed to be a man that would dwell on his mistakes. He always came across to me as a man who had the courage of his convictions and strength of character to stand by every decision and action he made. And of course he did make some bad decisions; the press got out their social highlighter and marked Goram’s failings for the nation to see.
But we have the memories of him making the kind of saves that really shouldn’t have been possible for a man of his stature. I asked him just how he was always there to make saves that he really just shouldn’t have been getting to and he reverted back to heaping praise onto his goalkeeping svengali, the man he still calls his guru, Alan Hodgkinson.
Apparently Hodgie had always showed Goram angles that wouldn’t have worked for other goalkeepers. Instead of trying to minimise the areas available for the striker to score when they were lining up, Goram was taught to position himself so as there was only one possible position of the goal that he wouldn’t be able to reach and if the player scored then it was bully to them for finding it.
I’ve just finished reading his book and I’ve now had the honour of spending time with my idol to interview him and I can honestly say that the man is in fact an absolute gentleman off the park too. He speaks so intelligently about football and so passionately about what is his after all, his second club, Rangers.
My one hope for Goram is that in the future he’ll not only be a go-to for a quote every time Rangers look to sign or sell a goalkeeper or every time a player steps out of line and into the front pages of the Scottish media. I hope he fulfils what I’m sure is the burning desire inside him, to pass on his knowledge to other young goalkeepers just as his dad and his guru did for him.
We all used to hear the song “two Andy Gorams” being sung by thousands in Ibrox and beyond, but for me, there will always only be one Andy Goram.
I didn’t write the following, bu it is a great idea, so I thought I’d share…
Over the years we have looked at the possibility of emulating the Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid by having a B side play in a lower league. As much as we would all love to see this happen with Rangers I can’t see it being accepted by the lower league clubs or the powers that be.
What I am suggesting is that we create a team in the lower levels of Scottish football that takes 2 youth players from each SPL side. All players would be Scottish and would be under 21 years old. The team would be managed by a Scottish coach and would be placed in the 3rd division with the ability to gain promotion up the the 1st division. The team would be allowed to enter in all cup competitions and should they play an SPL team they would not field that teams players.
Any teams who did not wish to participate would have there places offered up to the other SPL sides. These places could also be filled by Scottish youth players playing in England.
The benefits of it would be that we could have our top young players playing alongside each other in a competitive environment where they would have the ability to express themselves. They would be made to play fast attacking football instead of rotting away in youth games or bounce matches. Each manager would have the ability to watch how there players cope with senior football and could help them improve as a player.
During the season there would be the ability to change the players due to injury or simply down to a player having a poor attitude. The SPL teams would continue to pay the wages of these players to keep costs down and up and coming coaches and managers would be given the chance to work with the young players to gain valuable coaching experience themselves.
The team would ground share with another Scottish team and would play there games on a Sunday to allow fans of all SPL clubs to watch there team on a Saturday while still being able to watch there future stars play. Ticket prices would be kept low and kids would get in free with an adult to help encourage more fans back into football.
In Scotland we seem to be scared to use young players to the point that they loose there hunger for the game. We keep young players on the bench purely so we have enough players under the age of 21 in the squad. Far too often players think they have made it before they have shown there true worth. We have good under 19 and 21 teams yet we rarely see these players making a name for themselves and I believe our current league structure has something to do with this.
Rory Loy for example is a regular in the Scotland under 21 team and yet struggled at Dunfermline on loan. Loy had shown great promise as a youngster and was rated very highly by Kilmarnock yet the years of playing reserve football seem to have wasted him as a player. Had he been given a chance at the age of 17 or 18 to play on a regular basis then perhaps we would be seeing a lot more from this once great prospect.
If this team was to play against Rangers or Celtic in a cup competition it would be of real interest to all Scottish fans and would give these young players the sort of experience that you simply cant find in a reserve game. Its time to make use of our national pride and bring more casual fans into football by giving them a true Scottish team to support every week.
I know that there is very little chance of this happening, however I believe that it would be a very exciting idea that would help youth development and would keep the lower leagues fresh and exciting for fans. If the idea was to work then there is a possibility that we could see a Rangers B and Celtic B fighting it out in the lower leagues.
Comments and suggestions are welcome
What do Kirk Broadfoot, Steve Davis, Steven Naismith, Lee McCulloch, John Fleck and Kyle Lafferty all have in common?
This isn’t the makings of a joke, although sadly many of our own support look on some of these players as being just that.
Granted they all play for Rangers. But that’s not what I’m thinking about. You could pour over their stats, looking for something in common about the percentage of missed passes they make, how long they’ve been out injured in the last season or two, their previous clubs or some other tenuous linkage between them all, but the one thing that is true about them all is that they are good footballers – and they suffer, both at the hands of our support and in their own careers because of it.
Now that last statement shouldn’t make any sense, but stick with me on this.
It happens all across football and has done from the time when a bunch of burly lads who were all rowers decided to throw a team together. Football players that have some solid footballing talent are “shoe-horned” into positions and asked to “do a job”. This is rather than playing in their natural positions that they have played a lot of their formative footballing years in; the positions that they are most comfortable and at ease playing in. This is a product of the fact that they are just naturally good footballers; players that a manager would rather have in the team even if it is in their “wrong” position.
In some essence I suppose I am advocating that some players are just too good to not be used when there is a position within the team needing filled.
Football is littered with examples of this. Sometimes it can be a product of a manager with a strong will to change the use the player has for the team. Like Wenger developing a niche for Thierry Henry after his poor spell on the left wing for Juventus or sometimes, it can be like Sandro Salvioni, who played then striker, Patrice Evra, at left back as a stop gap measure before inadvertently realising his awesome potential in the position.
Obviously, not every player that is played out of position is going to be a revelation like an Evra or even a Papac, who has been a good conversion by Smith. It’s this second usage of players by managers that seem to end up with both the manager and the player on the receiving end of (in my opinion) unfair stick.
It’s certainly a contentious view to take, as Walter Smith has been vociferously accused of stuffing square pegs in round holes for as long as I’ve been conscious of football and Rangers. When I was eleven years old I can remember Dave McPherson getting a torrent of abuse for doing a job for Rangers at right back when he was always a centre half. That was in a Rangers team that got within a newts bullock-hair away from the (inaugural) Champions League Final.
McPherson was never an elegant, continental footballer, but he was a very good professional with enough talent for him to have two spells with Rangers – the second of which being part of one of the best Rangers sides ever, in the early ’90s. He was not given the praise for the job he did there that he deserved.
The current team is littered with players that seem to suffer with the fans purely because they are good enough to play in more than one position. Steven Naismith is never a wide midfielder, Lafferty is never a left midfielder and Broadfoot is never a marauding modern full back, but the fact that they are capable footballers means that he can play there for Rangers and do the job asked of them without questioning the manager.
The same goes for big Lee in my opinion. He’s never going to be a long term solution to Rangers’ defensive problems, but he is a big lad, who can win the ball in the air, can make a pass, can tackle and will give his all in the royal blue of Rangers.
What more can we ask for?
Walter Smith, Kenny McDowell and Ally McCoist see the players every day for training – we don’t. Even if many of us did then I’m afraid we need to bow to the fact that between them, that trio have more days experience of professional football than the majority of the support have had cans of Tennants.
There will no doubt be supporters that use an argument of the emergence of Danny Wilson for a reason to castigate Walter and Lee for his playing in defence – saying that if we don’t play him then we’ll never know. Well sadly I come from the school of thought that if the management thought he was ready, then they would play him. He might very well be ready now though, so in my eyes Wilson has been handled impeccably so far – the same is true for Fleck in my opinion.
I know many of you will be thinking that I’m being overly optimistic and trusting of the manager, something that is somewhat thin on the ground these days. Nevertheless, the one thing that I will say against the manager with regard to this is that it was him who went out and bought the players to assemble the squad. For every success, like a Davis on the right hand side, there has been a frustration, like a Lafferty on the left hand side.
The squad that he has put together since he came back has been stretched to its limits. From the numerous games and travelling that comes with playing in Europe and domestically, combined with our ongoing financial woes, we will need to force square pegs into round holes in the coming months. I just hope that the supporters are more understanding that the players want to play wherever they are asked and that the manager just wants to have good players playing in every position.
Why can’t it just be that simple?
This is the third and final part of RangersMedia’s exclusive interview with Rangers Legend Andy Goram that we undertook last weekend at the fabulous Wee Rangers Club. This bumper final part of the interview covers a multitude of topics as Andy answered a whole range of different questions that the members of RangersMedia put to him.
Topics like Allan McGregor, the thought of Rangers playing in England, and who he thinks the next great Scottish goalkeeper will be were covered – and you might be surprised…
McGregor and Alexander, obviously both have attributes that are better than the other, but who do you think is the better keeper? And was it right for McGregor to step straight back into the team last year?
Well McGregor, he’s had a few years now where he’s hardly made any mistakes and no one can pin him for one real howler. Every game he makes saves to keep us in it. Obviously Alexander came in when he had to and you can’t fault him for anything. But I think that given McGregor’s record before, he was right to put him back in. The way the gaffer handled him is why we’re seeing the form he’s in now. I do feel sorry for Neil, but at the end of the day, he will know the situation as well
Everybody knows what I think about McGregor as a goalkeeper. He doesn’t make mistakes, he’s great physically and is really strong now.
Whenever you were playing for Rangers Andy, you often found yourself being quiet for large parts of the game before being called into action often to make unbelievable saves. How did you handle that mentally and be able to keep your concentration?
Well if you ask me, you can’t teach that. It’s something that’s in you. With the likes of Allan in the Hibs game, he’s made about nine saves that has kept us in the match. It’s not just the one, which is sometimes what happened when we played.
The difference was that we were just that good. He is under much more pressure and is getting man of the matches. However, if McGregor does end up leaving the club, then there’s no problem with Alexander stepping in.
How would you compare McGregor to yourself when you were his age? Is he as good as you were at that age?
I think that he’s done just as much as me, obviously performance wise. I mean, I played with Richard Gough and John Brown and he’s, with no disrespect to the current guys, playing with players that were in my opinion maybe not as good as us.
I think we’re exactly the same to be honest. I mean, he’s twenty six or twenty seven and I don’t think that I played my best football until the four years between twenty eight and thirty two, so he can still get better.
What are your thoughts about Rangers maybe playing their football in England?
You’d have to give Rangers and Celtic £200 million just to catch up – the standard down there is just that far advanced. If you put the two teams into the English Second Division now then they might struggle.
But yet, because of who we are, we could of course go down there and beat a lot of the teams in the Premiership. If you look at the standard of even the bottom teams in the league, they’re hard teams to beat.
You see they’re physically stronger down there, the players are big and are more like runners, it’s just a totally different game completely.
Euro 96 and Gazza’s goal – Was that the best goal scored past you? Do you think you could of saved it?
No, no, that’s the one. I don’t mind that being the best goal scored against me though, as he’s the only player that could have done that. I just kept shouting at Colin Hendry to stand up, I mean, we’d just missed a penalty 30 seconds before that. I’d have rather that Gazza scored than any other English player, that’s for sure.
What would you say is your most special moment when playing for Rangers?
To be honest it has to be the Celtic games, just being involved in them is fantastic. Every game against them, especially when you win is something special. Other than that I would maybe say the Leeds games – but nothing will compare to the Old Firm games, especially against the Tommy Burns teams.
If there was one result that you could have changed or a game you could have re-played differently, what would it be?
That’s simple, it would have been Marseille, the semi-final. We’d done everything, we’d won the league, the League Cup, the Scottish cup and to have our chance at the big cup would definitely be what I’d choose.
Would you have ever considered moving away from Rangers when you were at the peak of your career? Is taking the chance to move abroad , say with Brescia, something that you wish you’d done?
Yes, I did have the chance to go to Brescia, but I was quite happy at Rangers and didn’t want to go anywhere else. I was on decent money at the time, winning all the time, we were getting bonuses, we were winning trophies, playing in the champions league – so there was no point. You see players that go away to other countries and time and time again they just end up sitting on the bench. I was very happy at the big club.
When Bill McMurdo told you that Celtic were interested in you, how many seconds did it take for you to turn them down?
Well he only told me two years ago. So at the time, he didn’t even ask me, he kept it to himself. As for how long it would have taken me? I think you know the answer to that…
You have a great support from the Rangers fans, could you tell us about your thoughts about them?
How can you fault the Rangers fans? Especially after the 9 in a row celebrations. We gave them so many memories, but see when I go away in Europe with them, they give us loads of memories too. I suppose the thing is that we can’t remember them all (as Andy slugs from a glass of expensive red wine).
But they are great, it’s different times now though. Back then we drank with the fans, we even played dominoes with them. Me, McCoist, Durrant, McCall we were fans too, but we were just lucky enough to have played for the club too.
Do you think it’s a shame that the players can’t really do that now?
Well its changed times now, just totally changed. The difference is that we were winning every year. I think Walter won 14 trophies in 7 years, so when the team isn’t winning like that, then it’s the players that are going to hear the shite. It was easy for us when we were playing.
How would you compare Walter to Sir Alex?
I would say that they are so similar. Is it all about the mind games? I don’t think so, I think that its all about their man management – but more importantly they are fantastic coaches. You can’t do what Walter has done and what Sir Alex has done without having a real talent for coaching.
Would you ever fancy getting back into coaching or management yourself?
No, I wouldn’t say so. Not unless it was with the big club. Rangers. But I can’t say that now though, however if it ever came up and I had the chance to, I’d take it in an instant.
What about if McCoist and Durrant were to take over whenever Walter decides to call it a day?
Aye, well, if you’d said it to me when we were playing then I really wouldn’t have said that they would have a chance. But since they’ve mautred since then. Whenever you see Walter now he has Durranty beside him. If they want to be a manager, then they have the best teacher, that’s for sure.
Apart from any of the current Rangers keepers, who would you say is the next up and coming keeper in the country?
If we’re talking young Scots then I’d have to say young David Hutton. I was at Clyde with Hutts and I just think the world of him. I see so much of him in me and so much of me in him – just the way he goes about things. I had a great few months with him at Clyde and he was only 22. At his age, he is the best I think I’ve ever seen.
Will he be good enough to be a Rangers keeper? He’s certainly got what it takes. I’m sure of that.
Your dinner to celebrate the launch of your book , The Goalie: My Story, is this Sunday (15th November) and will be a great chance for you to see some old faces you played with. Who do you know is coming?
Well, all in there is probably about 25 players coming. Lads from my time with the club and also some guys that are currently playing. Walter’s coming, Bain and about 8-10 current first team players. There’ll be a table for some of the lads from my time with the likes of Laudrup and Albertz. I can’t wait, it should be a great night.
Just to kind of end things now Andy, could you tell us about what you think of the Ex-Players Fund charity which RangersMedia are actively involved in raising money for?
Well, I don’t see anybody else helping the ex-players, especially the older players that didn’t make the money that a lot of the other players are making.
A lot of these players need operations, surgery, for injuries that they sustained playing for the big club. No one can decry the ex-players the money after what they have done for us. I mean they gave a lot physically as well as mentally and it’s a great way for the fans to show their support for some of these guys and to thank them.
This is the second part of our exclusive interview with Rangers legend Andy Goram conducted at the fantastic Wee Rangers Club last Saturday.
This part of the interview deals with Andy’s love for cricket, the 1992/93 Champions League, some revelations about Marseille before starting to talk about the current team and his admiration for Walter Smith.
There’s more to come after this article also…
You’ve represented Scotland both at football and at cricket, how proud of that achievement are you?
Well football I played every day and it was my job and I loved it. But the cricket for me was like a hobby. So I’m actually more proud of getting there since it’s harder work than achieving things at a club like Rangers or Hibs when you’re surrounded by great players than at club cricket level when you sometimes have to do things for yourself even though you still have the boys round about you.
Do you still get a chance to go and watch the cricket or even get a game yourself?
I don’t get much chance to watch it, but I played three games in a week last year and couldn’t walk for three weeks after it. So that’s your body saying no, time to forget it.
Back to the football now! Was the Rangers team of 1992/93 good enough to win the Champions League?
Aye. I think that if we’d got to the final then we’d have won. But McCoist and Hateley never played together for the whole Champions League, so that causes a problem for Rangers.
We had a right good side at the time but we were just lacking that wee bit of magic that you get from a Davie Cooper, a Jim Baxter, a Paul Gascoigne or a Brian Laudrup. Don’t get me wrong, we were a very hard working side and I’m not saying that the other players couldn’t and it’s no disrespect to the players we had. But we just lacked that little bit of extra world class that one of those guys would have brought. Guys that could create something from nothing.
That was the year that Bernard Tapie the Marseille chairman got himself and his club into bother with match fixing and eventually got their title stripped. Do you think that had any influence on the way things turned out for Rangers that year?
Well, Mark Hateley got a phone call the day before the Brugge game from a Frenchman who offered him a lot of money to miss the Marseille game. Mark obviously said no and then during the Brugge game there was that nothing incident where the boy went down and the referee stood over him with the red card. It was then that Mark realised that the they had got to the referee and he would miss the Marseille game due to suspension.
It was a real shame that the one year that Rangers came close it was an outside influence that affected the way things turned out and not necessarily what happened on the pitch.
Milan were knackered having played a lot of games and carrying a few injuries and it showed, they were there to be beaten. If we’d have got to that final then we would have beat them. I really believe that.
What was your relationship like with the other goalkeepers at the club, is it sometimes a strange relationship you have since only one can play?
Well with the other goalkeepers my relationship was never any question, it was great and there’s never any bad blood between us. Even if one is playing and the other is not. I’ve never known a situation where there’s any bitterness or that was ever in doubt – there’s just no bad blood at all at any club I’ve ever played at with any keeper.
What about the outfield players at the club? Sometimes relationships can be strained on the park can they not?
Me and Nigel Spackman had a little set too at half time against Aberdeen once. But that happens, you don’t go through your career at Rangers without arguments or a wee bust up – it shows that you care. Not necessarily arguments, but we had discussions every week. If we didn’t do that then we wouldn’t have won what we won.
Do you sometimes think that is maybe lacking in this current side? Do you think there’s the same passion that you all had for the club now?
I think that they have the passion, but they don’t have the same characters as we had. Having said that, to have been seven points behind last season and then to come back and win it by four shows a massive lot of courage in there and bottle to do it.
Just look at our team in the 90’s, if we’d been seven points behind Tommy Burns’ team then we’d have found it hard to come back from. So I tip my hat to what they did last season. Yes, it wasn’t pretty football, we all know that, but we haven’t got the Gascoignes and the Laudrups or anybody else. So for them to get the points back and for the gaffer to keep everyone going at that point is a great achievement.
What do you think about the way that Walter set up the team last season? There was a lot of talk about it being a negative set-up, but do you think it was just a product of being behind and just doing anything for a win?
Don’t get beat. That’s the only real thing. When Walter came back, we were twenty one points behind Celtic. He’s won us four trophies and took us to a European Cup Final. In the state we were in when he came back, if you’d asked any fan, anyone, would you take that? No matter what kind of football we played, no matter how we were struggling, you’d take that in two fucking seconds.
Yes it’s frustrating that we can’t play great football and we’re not seeing the same great talented players, but you can’t support anyone else. You’ve just got to bite the bullet.
What about the players with everything that is going on in the background at the club at the minute? Do you think it will galvanise the players and maybe help them to raise their game?
Well, it’s impossible for a player to just raise your game in that way. You can’t just decide, ‘I’m going to play well today’ you have to get out there and just do it. But the gaffer has a lot to do with it, to keep you focussed.
The game the other week there and other ones, the first game against Unirea for example, the gaffer just put his hands up and took the blame for the result and just deflected all the shite off all the players.
He took it just to protect the players. That’s just the way that he is. But when we win and we do well, he lets all the players take all the credit. It’s the same with Alex Ferguson, like the other week when he blamed the referee for not being fit. It was just the same, to deflect the shite away from the players. It’s man management, it keeps your players protected and that’s what they are both good at.
This is the first part of a serialised exclusive interview with Rangers Legend Andy Goram which he very kindly gave to the site at the weekend.
This first part discusses Andy’s early career, hearing of the interest from Rangers, how he scored twice in a season and some other very interesting facts including his great admiration for Alan Hodgkinson and also how Souness had a word in his ear about joining Rangers…
1) Your dad, Lewis, was a Scottish footballer and you’re named after him, what position did he play, how good was he and what kind of influence did he have on your decision to make football your career?
He was at Hibs from 1940 to 1950 at the same time as Tommy Younger, then he went down to Bury for about £8,000. He moved the family down to Blackpool and had about 7 years at Bury then he broke his leg in a game against Hull and that finished him.
Well you want to do what your dad does and he was a goalie as well. I used to play centre forward on a Saturday for a young team and then would play as a keeper on a Sunday. Goalkeepers are all frustrated centre forwards!
2) When you were growing up, who did you aspire to be like? Who was your hero or your idol?
Well I didn’t really have one, but I was Bryan Robsons apprentice at West Brom when I was a 14 or 15 year old and I just thought he was a fantastic player. Goalkeeping wise, it was probably Shilton. I thought he was exceptional and Ray Clemence as well.
My dad always said, don’t try and be like someone else, pick things up of other people. It’s like a jigsaw, you can’t be anyone else; although they do say there’s two Andy Gorams.
3) How did you first hear of Rangers’ interest in you when you were at Hibs? How did it feel and what were you thinking when they contacted you?
Well the club signed me in 1991. I met Souness at a charity do, it was a Question of Sport thing with every player at a table. Everyone was having a good drink and a carry on and Souness came up to me and said ‘so you’re going to be the next Rangers goalkeeper?’ and then walked away. I’m sitting there thinking, ‘wait, come back and tell me!”.
But at the time they tried to buy me then, Hibs made it public that Rangers were interested, to try and make it into an auction. Oldham were interested and wanted to take me back down there, but because Hibs had made it an auction like that I didn’t go anywhere. So I had to wait another season at Hibs, knowing that I’d be at Ibrox the next year.
4) I think I can remember reading once that you scored when you were playing for Hibs?
I actually scored two. The first one we were playing against Morton who had already been relegated. The gaffer said the if we don’t score three goals today then we aren’t getting our bonus. So we went one nil down and then we scored. I was kicking them all over the place, out the park and everything. So then I got told to just fucking boot it and I just caught this one and it’s flown downhill, downwind and the goalie, Davie Wylie just came out and it bounced right over the top of him.
The other was in a League Cup game against Clydebank and Jim Gallagher was in goal. The game went to extra time and penalties and I was the captain that day. So I took the responsibility and scored the winning penalty. I scored two that season, so I got the golden boot that year – ha ha.
5) Alan Hodgkinson has been with you right since the start of your career as both a coach and a mentor. How highly do you rate him as a coach and how important was he to your career?
Hodgie has been my Svengali since I was about 21 year old at Oldham. I mean, my dad was a big influence but he had to stop playing in the 50’s – Hodgie he played 8 times for England and had 22 years with Sheffield United and is only 5 foot 9; so he understands the rough and tumble of the game and he was absolutely brilliant.
The gaffer had seen that I had a bad side and he said that he can’t help me, that he didn’t know what was going on what could the club do to help me, and I said could you bring Hodgie up.
So at first he would come up twice a week and then club saw the benefit of it and eventually Rangers brought him on full time and then he ended up with the Scotland job too. When my dad died it was hard to deal with and Hodgie has been with me ever since – without him I’d be knackered.
Andy was talking to us at a signing of his new biography, “The Goalie: My Story” that he has written with Iain King – the man who wrote Durrant and Bazza’s books.
However, if you want a chance to mingle with Goram, members of the 9 in a row team, some of the current first team, Martin Bain and Walter Smith then you still can!
To celebrate the new book, a spectacular dinner has been arranged at the Thistle Hotel in Glasgow this Sunday (15th November). Tickets are close to a sell out, but we have managed to get you all the chance to some of the last few.
If you are interested in coming along to this piece of Rangers history then you can contact Scott on 07939303486