Groundhog Day, Alternate Ending, With Russ Abbott!

By Tommy McIntyre
 February 21, 2020

Excuse any typos in this article, I’m writing it on the ceiling where I’ve been since the final whistle blew at the end of a barnstorming, breathless and bonkers game at Ibrox.

Supporting Rangers is a lifelong commitment, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health and this match resembled a particularly rollercoaster-like marriage in microcosm. At kick off, I had concerns that they weren’t in itfor the long haul, at half-time I was convinced the relationship was in serious trouble and at full-time I was on the way back from the renewal of vows ceremony convinced I’d give the club my kidneys if they asked.  

Just a normal 90 minutes then.

Let’s get something straight from the off.  Braga are a very good outfit, although no better or worse than Porto on balance.  Perhaps slicker going forward but ropier at the back in my opinion.  

In the first half we seemed to want to give their players lots of space, time and direction in how to best open us up.  If they had taken one (or both) of those early chances Ibrox could have become a very subdued place (fantastic Union Bears Tifo aside).  This article would have also contained more expletives and possibly be written in my own tears.  

That said, we did create chances of our own.  Unfortunately Morelos’ bad luck continues, although much like Tav earlier in the season I suspect he will be played until he comes through this less-than-purple patch (stupid suspension aside).  Next week may see the introduction of Kamberi from the start although his lack of pace and Braga’s high line may necessitate an Ojo or Kent through the middle (two things Mr Gerrard has done this season).

You have to feel for Glen Kamara who had a shocker and looked every inch a £50 player never mind £50k.  I suspect I wasn’t the only one shocked to see him emerge for the second half without a jacket and ankle restraints on.  The only less stellar performance all night came from the section of the support that booed the team off at half time. That is not helpful in the slightest.

So, playing poorly, crowd anxious and then we go 2 down. A scene-for-scene remake you could have plucked from the match reports of our games against Hearts or Kilmarnock and definitely something we have recently seen before (see, Groundhog Day! How the hell am I going to fit Russ Abbott into this?).

However, this Groundhog Day remake didn’t follow the script; the players found reserves and resolve many had thought non-existent to write an alternate ending. Yes, the injury to Barasic was a catalyst as Aribo was shifted to left-back.  But Mr Gerrard also went for it with the introductions of Kamberi and Stewart.  How refreshing to see us go for the jugular from the side-lines.

The 23 minutes that followed were what football is about (ignore the snide sniping of supposed ‘neutral’ Scottish football commentators).   Two down at home; guile, guts and three goals later and Braga couldn’t believe what had happened.  Be under no illusion, from the moment the mercurial Hagi’s first hit the net (and his reaction asking for the crowd to get behind the team) Braga wilted.  

Ibrox baby.

Joe Aribo also deserves special mention.  There is obviously a bucket load of talent in there, even if his running at opponents and ability to barrel through reminds me so much of Bo Andersen. 

Spare a thought for poor Lee Bowyer, still convinced the Europa League and 50k fans can be outdone by 19th place in the Championship.  

So, to Russ Abbott.  Well, he ‘loved a party with a happy atmosphere’ didn’t he?  I know, I know, but I’m sticking with it.

Ibrox can be a daunting place, for visiting teams no doubt, but also for our own players.  Nerves were in abundance at kick-off.  The moans and groans out in full force and the booing at half-time both counter-productive and unhelpful.  But once that first goal went in the team gave us fans something to get behind then became a process of mutual game-raising.  The team went for it, we went for it and we spurred each other on to greater heights.  Those last 8 minutes were ticketed bedlamwith a cracking soundtrack.

We have a very difficult task in North-West Portugal next week but go with a result and belief that was out-of-thought as late as the 67th minute last night.

To those fans travelling, take Russ’ party atmosphere with you when representing the club.  The Tartan Army clichés can have the ‘see you Jimmy’ hats.

Rangers, now, then and always.

@tommynglasgow

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