With yesterday’s 2-0 victory over Kilmarnock, Rangers finally equalled their record for consecutive games with a clean sheet. Next the record outright?
They say that records are meant to be broken and nowhere does this hold truer than in sport. Of course, there are some exceptions. Take Cy Young, the Boston Red Sox pitcher still holds the records for number of games pitched, number of wins and number of losses, despite not playing since 1911. In theory it’s entirely possible for this record to be broken, but seeing as baseball has evolved into using 5 person pitcher rotations, it’s extremely unlikely unless time machines finally exist outside science fiction.
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Another record many, myself included, thought was going to need time travel to ever challenge was the Rangers club record for consecutive clean sheet games. Here’s a whopper of a record set at 5 back in the 1929/30 season. What this essentially tells us is that through all the years, decades even, of Rangers dominance – including the 9 in a row – we were never able to string together a similar number of games without leaking a goal or two on the trot.
If we couldn’t do it in the 90s, there’s no way we’d be able to do it now, right? Yeah, about that, here we are on the cusp of rewriting the club record books after Rangers matched the previous record by quietly picking up their 5th clean sheet in 5 in yesterday’s 2-0 win over Kilmarnock. I say quietly, cause at first we were all just relieved that the team actually remembered how to score goals.
At least Steven Gerrard had it in his head, giving praise to his squad after the result, as quoted by BBC Sport;
"“I’m very pleased with the clean sheet and the players deserve a lot of credit for the record.We are doing the dirty stuff behind the ball really well. The players have applied themselves ever so well and they are getting their rewards for it.”"
Ignoring the potential double entendre in the second paragraph there, it’s nice to see Stevie is giving praise but not going overboard just yet. We’ve only equalled the record, after all. And further, setting records is nice but stopping Celtic getting a record of their own, no matter how hollow it would be, is even better. The end game is less individual honor and more success for Rangers.
Nonetheless, it’s a fantastic sign for the club going forward. As Sir Alex Ferguson famously said, strikers win you games but defenders win you titles. He would know, having won 13 of them. The best offense is a good defense, and all that.
So while we’re all flapping on about how toothless Rangers have looked this year, spare a thought for how Gerrard has tightened the ship at the back.
Isn’t this feeling so strange? It feels like for all the good things you could say about Rangers, being tight at the back was hardly one of them. Under Caixinha and Murty (both times) we were left with massive holes, big enough for Boli Bolingoli to fly through during lockdown, in our defence affording teams all the space they needed. The stats don’t lie – in over two years under Gerrard we’ve conceded less than in just one year under both.
Ultimately, it’s best to just focus on winning and let the records break themselves along the way. There’s a bunch of others, after all, we’ll want to claim. Celtic hold the overall consecutive clean sheet games record, after all, at 7 from back in 2000/2001. Notable from that season was the investment Rangers put into their attack, signing Tore Andre Flo for £12million, remarkably still a transfer fee record to this day, but with complete disregard to their backline. Celtic ended up putting 6 past us in the first Old Firm Derby. Yep. That year.
So while we’re all flapping on about how toothless Rangers have looked this year, despite the overwhelming dominance in possession, spare a thought for how Gerrard has tightened the ship at the back. Defences may not win you games, but they can win you titles and even break a few records on the way. We may need to wait for that time machine to take on Cy Young, but at least consecutive clean sheets aren’t looking so impossible anymore.