Rangers are red hot right now, after breaking a Premiership record with 7 consecutive shut out games, but should be wary of the competition that lies ahead…
Is there anything as cathartic as football? 2020 may not, in the grand scale of history, be anything close to the most horrifying year ever, but in recent history terms it hasn’t been wonderful. Yet football comes back and suddenly everything’s all OK again. Rangers are top of the table and haven’t conceded a goal in 7 games. Celtic got dumped out of Champions League by some unpronounceable team from Hungary. I’m happy.
That famous Bill Shankly quote about football being much more important than a life or death issue, while doubtless a bit tongue-in-cheek, rings true in a fashion. Even if you’re on the losing end of things, football dominates life and focus in a way that few other things really, genuinely can. When I was a kid, a loss on Saturday would put a tangible hue of depression over the house, lasting at least until Tuesday. The wins though, we still talk about those to this day.
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With Rangers doing so well right now, however, it’s easy to get a bit ahead of ourselves. We haven’t played Hibs or Celtic yet, the two teams who look set to provide the biggest challenge, but will have done both within the next month. On top of that, next up is the Europa League on Thursday and it would be wrong to think it’s a competition in which the Gers can so easily maintain such a high level of dominance.
Ok, so, it’s the Lincoln Red Imps we’re playing. Rangers are the favorites, and by no small measure. That said, we talked before, and I’m happy to talk about as many times as possible, how the Red Imps welcomed Celtic only a few years ago in the Champions League and sent them back with their tails tucked between their legs. Had it then been a single round elimination contest, as it is now, the Hoops would have been out. Alas.
Gers star Ryan Kent echoed these thoughts and more, sending out a warning to himself and his teammates against complacency, as quoted in the Daily Record;
"“In a sense this could be the most difficult part of the competition. You can get caught out being complacent against teams where you think you should definitely be winning.But we’re looking to kick on each season and improve so we’ll definitely be looking to better our run from last season.The gaffer has instilled confidence in the players that we can achieve something in this competition.It’s exciting for the players to be a part of it. We know it’s a difficult task but, on the back of last season, there’s no reason why we can’t progress further.But we won’t overlook any team that we face, especially at this stage. All the players are aware of what it means to the club and the fans to qualify for the Europa League group stage.”"
This message can’t be hammered home enough. Do not take any team, least of all the Lincoln Red Imps, lightly. Football’s a funny old game, in 90 minutes anything can happen – just ask fans of that unpronounceable Hungarian team. Lincoln, as we’ve discussed before, play on their home turf week-in, week-out, this is their stronghold and you can bet they’ll be up for this game.
It’s not just winning games, but the fact we could be winning them by so much more.
Certainly, it has all the hallmarks of a banana skin game. A slip up here could shatter confidence in the League, leading to spiralling results and missed opportunities in all competitions. We can only hope Kent was being genuine in his message of not overlooking any team.
Nonetheless, it’s Rangers’ match to lose and the team have looked pretty unbeatable of late. There’s a real vibe this season, it’s something different, something special. Not just winning games, but the fact we could be winning them by so much more. We’re averaging a league-leading 65.3% possession and manage to average over 22 shots on goal per game too, also the most in the Premiership. In fact, by any metric Rangers are absolutely the best team in Scotland right now. Long may that continue, as it’s exactly what 2020/21 needs.