This evening’s game is a real opportunity for this team to test itself against a good side, at a time when the media is talking nonsense about the “bubble” having been burst. They wish. Some are coming out the woodwork to talk about how a longer run in Europe might help Sevco’s title chances; to buy that you have to assume those chances exist.
Celtic are not playing well, but the fact we’re still comfortably ahead in the league should give these muppets pause. You only have to read the garbage coming out of Ibrox and elsewhere to know they have learned exactly nothing.
They talk about “closing the gap” as though they had actually done it. They assume that if Celtic drop something at Pittodrie that this would automatically do it, as though their own games were already won. The arrogance of it is astonishing.
The truth is, for all the talk of some kind of revival over there and for all the media hype, they would give everything to be where we are now. We’re riding high. These are the great days. A place in the Europa League Quarter Finals, with a League Cup already won and such a good lead in the SPL, would be the cap on Phase One of Brendan’s revolution.
Sevco fans in the media have made much of Rangers 2008 season when, if you believe their nonsensical narrative, they had a league stolen from them by football authorities who didn’t care and didn’t do anything to help them. If we go through tonight expect no help from them or from anyone else; the end of our season could make the one they had look easy, because the winter break has made the possibility of a fixture pile-up worse.
It’s the tenth anniversary of that season, but it’s not why they are making all this noise. They are making it because they do see an opportunity in our continued success. They are hoping for a fixture list that makes our title win harder than it has to be, and perhaps even allows them to snatch it from our grasp. Their hopes are forlorn.
For one thing, I suspect the quarters are as far as we’ll get in the Europa League; it’s a big ask for us to go further than that with the quality of the teams. This season feels too early, and especially with us not being on top form.
But say we do it. Say we get to the quarters and have to face a further two matches; our league lead of nine points, and our superior goal difference, with eleven games to go means that we would have to lose three and draw another; I can’t see that happening and nor can I see their club taking advantage even if we do.
They claim to have put together a temporary run of form; it’s nonsense, of course. Murty has dropped seventeen points since taking over there, during the time he has allegedly “steadied the ship.”
Sevco is on this “great run of form” if you believe the press. The stats don’t bear it out. We’re on a bad run of form, but only by our own standards.
Over the last six games we’ve won eleven points; that puts us a poor fourth on the “form table” … Sevco are, indeed, top. But they are only two points better off than we are and Hibs and Killie have the same number of points as them.
If we match our form in that time over the next six games and they match theirs the gap will be seven points with only the post-split fixtures left. If we win the opening game it’s seven points with four games, in which we can afford to lose two. Win the second post-split fixture and we need one win from the remaining three games to be champions.
That assumes, of course, that none of the first two post-split games are against Sevco themselves. Win that and it’s all over.
And that’s if their form is perfect going into the game.
Give me a break. It’s not going to happen. What’s much more likely is that we will be even further clear going into the split, and that will put title seven in the bank even if we do have to play a large number of games in a very short space of time.
The important thing now is to try and take maximum points from the six post-split games, and that’s where Sunday is perhaps more important than what happens tonight. I’ll take a draw this evening, a scrappy hard grafting draw. Get that and we can look forward to the quarter finals. But Sunday is a must-win game either way.
In the event we go through though, do not look for favours from elsewhere. I expect our club to get on with it without even troubling the SPFL for an extension or anything else. Get to the semi-finals and it might be a different story, but unless the title is already as good as secure do not expect that to bear fruit. We’ll be whistling in the wind.
After tonight, our next three league games are Aberdeen away, Dundee at home and Sevco away. Take nine points out of nine and all this is academic. Remember, we’ve not won four games in the SPL on the bounce all season; it is inconceivable that we’ll not break that at some point in the next campaign. How wonderful it would be to do it in the next four.
Tonight is huge for us, but we’re a club on the verge of a domestic treble as well and those games are also massive. But this team is capable of securing another two European ties and finishing the job here at home.
As usual, we’ll have to do it the hard way … but then it was ever thus with us. For all the bleating of the last week, don’t forget that Beachball Sunday came three days after we’d exhausted ourselves battling Boavista to reach Seville. We played the last league game after coming back from the final itself, away at Kilmarnock.
We got no favours then … I expect us to get none now.
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