Rangers: Three players who surprised us by how good they were
Today’s 5-1 thrashing of Motherwell was a fantastic team performance, but a few Rangers stars surprised us unexpectedly…
We’ve all had that moment where, one hour before kickoff, after feverishly spamming F-5 to somehow make it arrive sooner, the Rangers team sheet comes in. We glance down the list, ignoring the players who could lose limbs and still be selected, straight to the moneyshot, who’s going to be banging them in for us today? Along the way though, names are appearing where they shouldn’t – no, no, this is all wrong, what is Steven Gerrard smoking?
That sense of dread lingers in the mind, awaiting a poor result which the brain automatically associates with personal victory – I knew it, I was right, it was so obvious. The comments come every single game, but not many so far this season would be as inspirational as the Gers starting XI today.
Borna Barisic, probably our best player not named Ryan Kent this season, on the bench for Calvin Bassey? A first start in a year for Jordan Jones? The latter, I suppose, was not so surprising as we recently discussed a potential renaissance for Jones at Rangers. Nonetheless, the court of Twitter was unimpressed and weren’t content with that disdain for the manager’s choice being aired quietly.
I think, in retrospect, we can all say it didn’t turn out too badly after all. Look, I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I didn’t have those same feelings and even thoughts. Stevie G took a gamble, a risky one at that, but it ended up paying out big time for us.
Bassey looked strong, fearless, capable and dangerous on the break. Motherwell came out with the mind to bully him, thinking his relative inexperience, at least compared to the rest of the squad, might make him a weak touch. He was the opposite. Shrugging off opposition attempts to win possession, Bassey was confident and assured on the ball, like he’d been our left-back for months instead of just minutes.
Jones scored a worldie, an absolute cracker of a goal, making a good case for Gerrard giving him future playtime. He was subbed off on 75 mins for Jermain Defoe, but looked sharper and more dangerous than his replacement – now that’s saying something.
The good decisions didn’t end there, with 22 minutes to go, Gerrard threw on Cedric Itten. We’ve talked a bit before about Itten, our latest striking acquisition and how he has a history of playing much to form. Today shows he may be hitting a stride that ensures he joins that elite “auto-selected list,” with two goals – one an absolute bomb and the other a practical striker’s goal – in just three attempts to start and continue his Rangers account all at once.
I could talk all day about how amazing James Tavernier was, but let’s face it, Tav is always incredible and I expected no less. Scott Arfield bagged two assists and made more successful passes than every Motherwell player, that wasn’t a defender, put together – but he’s been so shockingly good since fighting back into the squad last year that well, it’s not quite so shocking any more.
No, today I was surprised by Bassey, Jones and Itten, or, rather, by how they were played. The manager trusted them and they rewarded that and moreso, I’m not sure even Stevie could have predicted it would work out so well.
And here’s the rub, we had a lot of our first team players out injured and still had the luxury of resting Barisic while we pumped 5 goals past Motherwell. The last minute loss of the clean sheet is regrettable, even if amusing that we scored that one too, but it does little to take away from just how dominant Rangers were today. It was absolutely men against boys and Gerrard deserves praise for making the tough, and indeed, unpopular, calls and getting it bang on.
With the derby looming, I think Gerrard has earned some benefit of the doubt on his team selections. It may not ease that awful feeling we all share on reading that list for the first time each week, but sometimes it feels good to be proven wrong. Today is one of those days, I’ll gladly take more on the road to 55.