We’ve all had our fun.
Twitter last night was awash with Banter Year continuations and slightly ludicrous suggestions that the game in Scotland is now dead in the wake of Rangers’ exit in the Europa League preliminary stages at the hands of Progres Niederkorn. Scotland still has another three sides in Europe – we’ll find out soon how St Johnstone will recover from their early upset – and just because the early signs are that we’ll again have a once-horse in the Scottish Premiership this season (let’s be honest, what sensible person didn’t already think that?), it does not mean there’s nothing to look forward to in the next nine months.
We’ve had a one-horse race in Scotland for the last five years – effectively a one- or two-horse race for the last quarter-century.
Regardless, the split, for all its ills, and the more recent introduction of the play-offs have ensured that we have very few dead-rubbers in the Premiership season. And that’s not to mention our barmy lower leagues, that provide more underrated entertainment than the first two seasons of Sense8 and Fargo combined.
Now on to last night’s result. It’s embarrassing, for Rangers and for Scottish football, no doubt. Suggestions of the worst ever result over two legs for a Scottish club is no exaggeration. However, it would be smart to remember that Brendan Rodgers suffered a similar shock in the first leg versus Lincoln Red Imps around 12 months ago. Sure, they salvaged it with relative ease in the second leg, but looking at the two away legs in isolation, there’s not much between them.
You could argue that Red Imps won their division and Progres Niederkorn finished fourth, but the difference is minimal. And, as we all know, Rodgers went on to have a fine season with Celtic.
Gordon Strachan is another who suffered an embarrassing start to the season – his first ever competitive game in charge of Celtic. They managed to win the second leg 4-0 against Artmedia Bratislava but exited Europe due to their horrendous showing during a 5-0 reverse in Slovakia. He subsequently had a decorated career as a manager in Scotland, which included some excellent nights on his way to the last 16 of the Champions League.
Pedro Caixinha’s Rangers, like the aforementioned Celtic sides, were effectively in preseason when they took to the field against the minnows from Luxembourg. While that isn’t an excuse it at least goes some way to explaining these horrendous results. Sure, the opposition may have been too, but we all know that preseason results are far from an exact indicator of how a team’s season will pan out.
That isn’t to suggest necessarily that the Portuguese will rescue this early setback and go on to have a successful season. Neither does it mean that Rangers, and specifically Caixinha, should be immune from criticism. Far from it. For a start, this does the country’s co-efficient no good whatsoever.
The signing of Dalcio to replace McKay, then selling the latter at a reduced rate, is perplexing. Dalcio may come good but we all know how difficult it can be to recover from bad first impressions. McKay, while not perfect, was playing pretty well in a relatively poor Rangers side last season before he was marginalised (check out this video from @SPFLRadar to see the amount of chances he was creating that weren’t being finished).
And the hubris shown by Dave King, which Caixinha did little to dispel, is galling given what just happened to the club over the last year. Going For 55… look how that ended. Yet still we have a chairman who comes out and proclaims that Celtic have won fewer titles in a row than the record books would suggest and that Rangers were still more likely to make it to 10. Seriously?!
Now no-one would expect King to articulate the inverse of that statement but how about just not bringing it up in the first place?
Finally, Paddy Power has paid out on Celtic to win the league which they likely won’t lose any money over. Still though, it is a publicity stunt that they have pulled in the past. The turf accountants paid out on Stoke to be relegated in 2008 and the side remain in the Premier League to this day. Paddy Power also lost money less than a year later when paying out on Tiger Woods to win the US PGA Championship.
It would appear both those tournaments survived.
Written by Craig Cairns (@craigcairns001)