Rangers deserve Europa League best wishes so board must ask themselves why they’re in short supply – Keith Jackson – Keith Jackson

Believe it or not some of us will be keeping our fingers crossed for Rangers on Thursday night.

The men in charge of running the club’s affairs may be hell bent on making themselves hard to like – even among their own supporters – but, regardless, it’s been impossible not to admire this spectacular blue surge across the continent.

At times what they have produced throughout this run has been quite spellbinding and now that they are within 90 minutes of a Europa League semi-final, they will carry with them the best wishes of those of us who are not twisted by bigotry or warped by hatred.

They have most certainly beaten better teams than Braga to get this close and even though Giovanni van Bronckhorst has come through a traumatic recent period, it is to be hoped that Sunday’s trouncing of St Mirren is a sign that his side is ready to regroup at a crucial moment

People who care deeply about this game of ours could imagine few things more satisfying than the sight of a Scottish club making it all the way to a final showpiece and dumbfounding the Swiss-based cartel bosses who have tried so hard to make such an unlikely feat a virtual impossibility.

The truth of the matter is Scottish football ought to be genuinely grateful for the stellar work that was started by Steven Gerrard and which Van Bronckhorst has continued since taking over from the Englishman in the Ibrox dugout.

At a time when Steve Clarke has our national side in splendid resurgence, Rangers have also carried the flag for this country with such a distinction that they have forced a path for Scottish clubs back into the billionaires’ playground of the Champions League.

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Even despite UEFA’s best efforts to keep the riff-raff at arm’s length.

That a rampant Celtic now look set to collect the enormous financial rewards from all of this tireless trailblazing is, of course, the bitter irony where Rangers and their supporters are concerned.

It’s also a source of some schadenfreude for a great deal of others who find it hard to have much in the way of sympathy at all for the men currently in charge of Glasgow’s blue half. And perhaps the time has come for those in the Ibrox boardroom to ask themselves exactly why this should be.

Yes, it’s a given that the vast majority, if not the entirety, of Celtic’s supporters will be wishing them nothing but ill. That’s what any football rivalry worth its salt is all about.

And that’s why Rangers were guilty of repulsing their own fans by producing ‘Old Firm’ flags and building a special centerpiece for the mouth of their own tunnel for Celtic’s players to run out ahead of last Sunday’s derby.

The whole thing was so horribly misjudged and spectacularly botched that it made Rangers look like a needy ex-boyfriend.

But if they are turning their own fans against them, is it any wonder that those who exist way outside of this bubble are also shaking their heads in dismay?

As a matter of fact, it’s becoming more and more difficult for the broad collective to keep a sense of balance and perspective where Rangers are concerned given that the men in charge seem so determined to isolate themselves from the rest and pick fights for no obvious reason .

From threatening to torpedo a £9m league sponsorship deal with cinch and hitting 41 other SPFL clubs in the pocket on their own doorstep to facing a potential £5m lawsuit for breaching a contract on the other side of the planet, they are causing serious damage to their own reputation.

By sanctioning this ‘no-one-likes-us-we-don’t-care’ approach to going about their business, invisible chairman Douglas Park and his increasingly beleaguered board have turned their club into some sort of pariah.

Their snarling faced diplomacy has turned Rangers into the paranoid schizophrenic of Scottish football, seemingly convinced that the world is out to get them.

It’s an unwanted, unhelpful legacy of what the club has come through over the last decade or so. Perhaps understandably, Rangers have been riddled with trust issues ever since they were turned over and taken to the brink.

The fans can’t be blamed for that. But those inside the boardroom ought to be smart enough to realize that this constant railing against anyone and everyone is doing their business a great deal more harm than good.

They should be leading from the front as ambassadors for the Scottish game.

They should also have the wherewith all to understand that they have been dancing to someone else’s tune for far too long and for all the wrong reasons.

These fault lines can be traced directly back to the worst of times, when Charles Green’s PR strategy was to erect a big blue wall in order for him and his cohorts to go about their business out of plain sight.

This, in turn, opened the door to a new chapter of distrust and bad blood. In fact, hostility and suspicion were actively being encouraged.

Even though the cast of characters has changed over the years, the depressing narrative remains in place.

That’s a great pity especially now that Rangers have so much in front of them still to enjoy.

Yes, their domestic title may be about to change hands but Thursday night offers the chance for a spectacular redemption on the European stage.

If Van Bronckhorst can find a way of getting the best out of his team, even without Alfredo Morelos leading the attack, then Rangers ought to be more than capable of overturning a one goal deficit from last week’s first leg in Portugal.

Opportunities like this one don’t come round these parts very often. Scottish football should hope Rangers to grab it with both hands.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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