They say that a week is a long time in Politics, and the same can be said about football. Early last week we were worried that Rangers would fail in Denmark and that in losing Barry Ferguson the squad would struggle to cope with the rigours of domestic and European football. However, the team put those worries behind them with a very professional performance in Denmark that ensured that we would be feasting from the Champions League table this year. The entire team deserve immense credit for their performance that showed a determination and togetherness that outweighed any negatives that could be drawn from the game.
Michael Ball, Zurab, Henning Berg, Mikel Arteta and Shota deserve special praise as they were outstanding. The management team also deserve enormous credit for continuing the progress of the club on the pitch. After Copenhagen, came the inevitable sale of Barry Ferguson for 7. 5 million (rising to 9 million) to Blackburn Rangers, sorry Rovers. To compensate for Barry's departure, Rangers signed Emerson on a two year deal (free transfer). Kevin Muscat also left (to Millwall) and Egil Ostenstad arrived on another free transfer.
AM has done remarkably well in the transfer market securing the services of Zurab, Nuno, Berg, Emerson & Egil for less than 1 million pounds. All these players arrive with great pedigree and a shed load of experience both domestically and internationally. These players will add much needed depth to our squad as we face up to (hopefully) a long and successful season. The Champions League draw which we were all looking forward to through us up against Manure, Stuttgart and Parathonikis.
Undoubtedly this is a hard group and we will do well to finish 3rd in the group which will get us into the UEFA Cup. If we have a huge slice of luck and results go or way, we could finish 2nd, but 3rd place is far more realistic and wouldn't be the end of the world. Obviously, the Manure ties will grab the nations attention, but it is the other games that will decide our CL fate as the "Battle of Britain" games will take care of themselves. We must get off to a good start and have Stuttgart at home first up and if we are to progress, a win is essential.
Then it was onwards to Dundee for the SPL meeting with United. This was top v bottom and most people expected a walk in the park. This appeared to be the correct assumption when Rangers overran their hosts in the opening half of the game but only had a solitary Nuno Capucho goal to show for their superiority. The second half saw Rangers tire after Wednesday's exertions and United sensed that Rangers were on the ropes and went for the jugular. The inevitable happened when Billy Dodds equalised late on for United and it was a deserved goal.
However, Rangers once agains showed their fighting spirit and Shota repeated Wednesday's heroics by scoring a carbon copy volley. Arteta sealed the victory with a penalty in the final minute to round off a fantastic week for Rangers Football Club. Gong into the international break, we have a 100% domestic record, sit top of the SPL and have navigated a way into the CL. I would have taken that at the start of the season given all the negativity that seems to have attached itself to the impartial Scottish media and more worringly, sections of the Rangers support.
OUR DEBT With the AGM just around the corner, the press and rival fans are going into overdrive trying to predict the true extent of our debt. The figures will cover last season and may well show an increase in debt as we had no European revenue and the Mikel Arteta transfer will be taken into account. None of the cost cutting measures put in place this close-season (the sale of Fergie, Amo and McCann and the release of CC, Numan, Bertie and Muscat) will show until next year.
This is the main reason why all money generated recently (player sales, wage cuts, season ticket money and merchandise sales) will go straight to our friend Howard at the H-BoS. We must be seen to service the debt and if my calculations are correct, we have given H-BoS close to 30 million pounds since the end of last season. Another 3-5 years of being prudent and qualifying for the CL should see us back to a steady financial footing and able to control our in-comings and out-goings.
Until this happens, AM will be forced to trawl around the basement bargains for players and going on this seasons evidence, he is able to pull out a few good players. This, and developing our undoubted young talent (Hughes, Ross, Burke, Thompson, McLean etc) is the way forward for Rangers and I for one have total confidence in AM's ability to guide us through this sticky patch. This is why it is imperative that The Mint gets his finger out and gets AM signed up on a long term contract.
The futures bright, the futures Rangers. HUGH KEEVINS EXCLUSIVE Apparently, the bold Shug (I had 100 priests at my daughters wedding) was trying to get back into Timmy's good books at the weekend. Allegedly (as I didn't hear it), Shug was the reporter that leaked the story that Rivaldo was about to be signed by C****C. Hugh went as far as to say that C****C had constructed crash-barriers in the (infamous) Car Park to hold back the expected throngs of unemployable hordes who were going to welcome Rivaldo to Glasgow.
Instead of getting back in the good books, it looks like Shug will face the wrath of Timmy, not to mention Big Finbar The Bairds Bar Bouncer as Rivaldo turned out to be none other than Sunderland's Michael Gray who fancied a 4 month loan period at C****C. Thanks Shug, you certainly brightened up my day. INTERNATIONAL WEEK As it is "international" week, Id like to wish Scotland and the rest of the home nations all the best. I would extend the good wishes to any international team that has a Rangers player in it!