Rangers have a chance to put the league to bed at Celtic Park, but will skipper James Tavernier be fit and ready in time to play?
One of the best benefits of wrapping up the title early is that the rest of the season kind of becomes like a victory lap of honor – in the event of a remarkably early finish, say in March, then you get to enjoy the benefits of almost half a year non-stop bantering. Such a shame social distancing prevents that from happening in more natural environs, such as the workplace, but hey, there’s always Twitter.
Rangers’ weekend was such that I’m not sure it really gets any better. Sure, Celtic officially conceded the title long ago and the more intelligent members of their fanbase, all three of them, saw the direction they were heading from the start. In fact, the Gers gaining another three more points over their rivals did little but hasten the inevitable.
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Nonetheless, what it does do is tee up the kind of conclusion that most Bears have spent the better part of this last decade dreaming of – winning the title at Celtic Park. Rangers thumping 4-1 win over Dundee United left us all thinking 10 points, four wins essentially, were needed until immortality but then the mighty Ross County completed their double over the hapless Hoops and lowered that to 7.
Two wins then a draw is all that’s needed. That game with the potential draw? Celtic Park, Sunday March 21st (you may want to book some time off) in the first midday match I’ve ever been legitimately excited for.
Now, of course, this is all a bit presumptuous. It assumes that Rangers put down both Livingston and St Mirren, two teams not unknown for clogging and “holding on for the point”. The luxury of course is that the Gers can afford to draw one of those encounters and win at the swamp, I don’t think anyone really planned to do it with any less than the dominating form we’ve displayed all season. It also, let’s be honest, assumes Celtic actually win their games in between too – hardly a gimme.
One unknown is skipper James Tavernier, still injured after the brutal first leg game in Antwerp last week. Absolutely he deserves to be on the pitch to lift the trophy and, even if he’s injured he should still come out and be the man to do it, but all the better if he’s there to lead us to victory too. Ibrox legend Brian Laudrup agrees and had this to say, as quoted by the Scottish Sun;
"“If anyone deserves to be on the pitch when Rangers win the title, then it’s the captain.He has been essential to this whole campaign. When the club needed it most, he has come up with the best season of his entire career.It would be a real disappointment, just terrible luck, if he wasn’t fit enough to help get the result that started the celebrations whenever that might be.A lot of scrutiny and criticism has been sent his way over previous seasons.Now just look his stats 17 goals and 15 assists. Even for an actual attacking player, that would be phenomenal output.For a full-back, admittedly one who is very offensive in the way he plays, it’s just sensational.”"
I honestly couldn’t agree more. It’s essential for Tav to be involved because no player has been more involved in Rangers overall success than him. The stats don’t lie, he’s absolutely the best player in Scotland and has consistently been so, shining amongst a squad of other candidates for the top.
That said, if he’s not ready then the issue shouldn’t be forced, Rangers have (at least at time of writing) Europe progression to consider and the hush hush business of an invincibles year looming. While the latter may only be bragging rights, the former is a very real and valuable endeavor that will doubtless take centre-stage once the title is won.
Come what may, this has been an unbelievable campaign for the light blues. No matter the progress, nobody would dared have dreamed the scenario, with many awarding Celtic their ten in a row before a ball had even been kicked. To turn that scenario on it’s head and finish the job there, at their place, is absolutely the best scenario imaginable – let’s hope our captain fantastic is there to make it all fall into place.