Missing in Midlothian - Hearts vs Rangers

By Tommy McIntyre
 March 1, 2020

Steven Gerrard must remain the Rangers manager. Mast, colours, pinned.

They say a week is a long time in politics. For Rangers, it’s an age. Wednesday to Saturday is long enough to go from bragging about Braga to being missing in Midlothian.

So, shall we look into episode two of Rangers’ series in ensuring the Stendel household continues to bank a wage from the Tynecastle outfit?  I’ve got a bottle of Laphroig handy, you should grab something similar.

The big talking point before a ball was even kicked was the omission of Alfredo Morelos due to ‘disciplinary issues’.  For that, read not getting back to the club quickly enough from Colombia.  His absence did nothing to calm the nerves that seem to be, understandably, an ever-present feature amongst the support since the team returned from Dubai.

For what it is worth I think the manager was right to drop him.  Discipline equals standards, Alfredo Morelos is not bigger than the club and, I reckon, he has used up a lot of the support’s goodwill toward him through a mixture of petulance, ill-discipline and loss of form.  I think we all know the chips will be cashed in come the summer.

The Scottish Cup was arguably our last real shot at silverware this season, so much was expected from the team as they went in against bottom-of-the-table Hearts. Right from the off though, every bad habit we seem to have picked up in Dubai was out in force; ponderous play, a lack of belief, slack passing, poor decision making, a lack of physicality and playing more in hope of something happening than engineering it. Oh, and all the so called ‘leaders’ (Tavernier, Davis, Goldson) disappearing faster than my hairline. Bottle, mentality, leadership, call it what you will but it is now self-evident that many of this squad are just not streetwise or tough enough to get us over the line. Combined with that was a real lack of ingenuity and guile from our so-called flair players (Aribo, Kent, Stewart I’m looking at you).

The game itself was scrappy and dominated by one dimensional play, mistakes and poor refereeing decisions. Rangers should have had a penalty and so should Hearts, there was also a clear second yellow card for Hearts’ Loic Damour for handball which referee Steven McLean bottled.

Hearts’ goal came from a series of mistakes epitomised by James Tavernier selling Allan McGregor down the river with a horrendous piece of defending. Tav has form and, whilst I do understand what he brings to the team, I am finally of the opinion he is a serial loser who will chuck in a fair amount of assists for the opposition every season. I’d take money for him were it offered in the summer.

Rangers looked bereft of ideas for most - no scrap that - all of the match.  Perhaps it was a lack of a focal-point up front with Greg Stewart being completely anonymous.  It also didn’t help when the industrious Scott Arfield limped off.  He was working hard at least which was more than most.

That change though meant Gerrard turned to Sheyi Ojo.  File him under F for Feyenoord, frustrating and fired back to Liverpool. How I long for Ovie Ejaria (I’m now on my second bottle of Laphroig).

Hearts had all the tempo with Steven Naismith delivering the type of performance we used to enjoy him turning in for Rangers.  Hard not to hate his snarling wee face however as he attempts to get every player booked whilst playing for a physical factory setting team.

Rangers showed a small level of interest in competing when both Hagi and Defoe entered the fray. George Edmundson also spurned two decent chances in the space of a minute, heading over from firstly a Borna Barasic corner and then a Tavernier cross.

Ultimately though it was all too little too late and Rangers, devoid of ideas and confidence, sluggishly played out the final minutes before Tynecastle went into raptures at the final whistle.  Stendel must wish he could play against us every single week.

Unusually for Gerrard he didn’t wait for the players but turned his back on the team in disgust and headed up the tunnel.  Tactics, systems and shape are all important ingredients in a successful team I grant you, but they are nothing next to desire and heart.  Unfortunately Rangers seem to have left theirs in Dubai: can someone check lost luggage please for cases full of bottle?

Post-match Gerrard, when asked about his future, spoke of “having to think” fuelling the rumour-mill about a resignation (firing isn’t on the cards as I believe he retains the full backing of the board).  He is right to have a think but ultimately, in my opinion, he will stay as he wants to make us successful and I remain steadfast in my belief that he is the right man.  Some players obviously aren’t on board and have played themselves out of the club with repeated no-shows in big or pressurised games.  Winning against the odds in Europe is a bonus, not something a Rangers player’s career is made on.  That’s trophies of the domestic kind.  Ross Wilson is going to have a busy summer but there is still a team in there I think.

So, Gerrard must stay: he is the only one capable of implementing the required standards.  Players will go.  In the meantime, we may have to face a quadruple treble.

I’m away to see if I’ve got a third bottle.

Rangers, Then, Now and Always.


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