Rangers missed the chance of history and it was no lottery .. instead it was careless – Hugh Keevins – Hugh Keevins

What if Jock Stein, Willie Waddell and Alex Ferguson are legends standing on consecrated ground that’s not meant to be disturbed?

What if Billy McNeill, John Greig and Willer Miller are meant to be a timeless trinity enshrined in the history of our game as the captains who conquered Europe for Celtic, Rangers and Aberdeen?

And destiny has decreed there’s no more room on their pedestal.

I have reached a stage in life where I’m not inclined to use the expression: “There’s always next year.”

At the age of 72 I’m more given to hedging my bets on that score and simply hoping for the best.

It’s my mortality and I can poke fun at it if I like it.

But I was reminded of the saying “there’s always next year” when the final whistle sounded at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan late on Wednesday night.

Mainly because I don’t believe it to be true.

This time next year will mark the 40th anniversary of Aberdeen’s European Cup Winners’ Cup win over Real Madrid in Gothenburg.

The last time a Scottish club won a European trophy.

Aberdeen remain the last Scottish club to win a European trophy

Rangers’ penalty shootout failure against Eintracht Frankfurt prompted the thought that Aberdeen’s success in Sweden four decades ago will indeed be the last time a Scottish club claims that distinction.


Rangers were a force of nature in this season’s Europe League.

Until it mattered most.

They were a large part of a season filled with things that nobody saw coming.

Like Ange Postecoglou turning base metal into gold at Celtic Park and reclaiming a league title at the end of his first season as manager.

Like St Johnstone going from the most successful, trophy-laden season of their existence to the one where they will this week need to compete with Inverness Caley Thistle for survival in the Premiership.

Like Aberdeen and Hibs turning into a bottom-six pile of rubbish in front of your disbelieving eyes.

Rangers in Seville had, by the sweat of their own brow, constructed a dream scenario of European glory so unexpected in the grand scheme of things it was surreal.

Until reality hit.

It was no accident they got there in the first place but it was careless the way they ultimately took second place.

Poor defending from Connor Goldson led to the equalizing goal conceded to the Germans in regulation time.

Unsatisfactory finishing from Ryan Kent denied them a winning goal in the last seconds of extra-time.

And a pathetically weak penalty from Aaron Ramsey – a player supposedly wired to be a difference-maker at the highest level of the game – cost them the shootout that determined the winner. Penalty shootouts aren’t a lottery. They are a modern science for players. Ramsey put the ball down the middle of the goal and hoped.

That cost the game.

It’s not a cruel outcome if you had means of prevention in your hands.

I suspect there will never be a better chance for a Scottish side to win a European trophy than Rangers had in Andalusia.

There have been 24 finalists since the inception of the Europa League in 2009-10.

Only eight of them have come from out with the European superpowers of Spain, Germany, Italy, France and England. And just one of them, Porto, managed to win the tournament outright for Portugal in 2011.

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The record books could have been rewritten by Rangers in more ways than one on Wednesday night.

But the circumstances under which they fell at the final hurdle look suspiciously like a missed opportunity that will never pass this way again.

The Champions League is a pipedream for Celtic and Rangers from next season onwards. Celtic not having won a knockout tie in that competition for the last 18 years might be the giveaway clue where they’re concerned.

Their prize is the money that accompanies qualify for the group stage before they go out to a team with an outlandish budget compared to theirs.

If Rangers had won the Europa League it would have made a mockery of the saying that you only get what you pay for.

The likes of John Lundtsram, Scott Arfield, Ryan Jack, Fashion Sakala and Steven Davis arrived at Ibrox on free transfers. James Tavernier cost £200,000 and Glen Kamara around half of that from Dundee.

But, in the end, Ramsey proved that a stellar reputation and a fanfare of trumpets to greet your arrival do not guarantee success.

Perhaps it’s a measure of how far Rangers have come in a decade that there is such a deep disappointment over not winning a European final.

But you can’t help form the impression the chance to create history was missed in Seville.

The past is a bygone era. The future has the look of a foregone conclusion.

It’ll be noisy, lucrative and hope will always spring eternal.

But Wednesday night’s chance for Rangers to register on the Richter Scale?

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That was the one. And it’s gone.


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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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