There is a school of thought – although there’s not much thought nor evidence that those who had it ever went to school – that says that the “fantastic run” being experienced by our so-called rivals in European football is some sort of good reflection on our club.
We, after all, on course to finish ahead of a European semi-finalist.
All I can say in response to that is several variants of the word “wow.”
Ibrox’s run does not – as some feverish minds will claim – make them one of the top clubs on the continent. That idea is ridiculous. Nobody should be entertaining it for two seconds. You can make an argument that says that they have done well to get this far – that’s valid, at least because it is factual and grounded in reality – but let’s not get ridiculous or over the score. Try to keep a sense of persepctive here.
The nature of a knock-out cup competition is that sometimes you get teams going on odd runs. You even get teams which develop a reputation for “giant killing” and for “giving a good account of themselves.” And yes, once in a blue moon you get one that does something amazing like going on to win the competition in question.
But nobody kids themselves that such a one-off piece of shooting the moon makes a team credible in the bigger picture. No lower league English team that reached an FA Cup semi-final gets lauded as a giant of the game because we know that the idea is just plain daft. If Wrexham reach a cup semi-final does every club that finished ahead of them in the league suddenlly assume that mantle? If Charlton finished ahead of them would we say that they should be amongst the FA Cup favourites next year?
It is wholly ridiculous. Football doesnt work that way.
The hype machine will be in overdrive now after last night. They aren’t through, not by any manner of means, but they aren’t dead and buried either. In fact, they have a reasonable chance in that football most often comes down to who performs best over 90 minutes and with this tie so evenly balanced 90 minutes are what they have left to navigate.
I understand why some of their fans want to promote this idea. I get it.
They want us to state, for the record, that they have done something exceptional here. But have they? Have they really? It looks exceptional, just as Wycombe getting to an FA Cup Final would look exceptional if you did not look at all the teams they beat along the way and only found one club amongst them from a higher division.
That’s cup football. At least part of it is the luck of the draw.
Beating Dortmund over two legs is an impressive feat. It doesn’t seem that long ago, to me, that we were knocking out Barcelona. Beating Lazio home and away is of even more recent vintage and whilst I don’t want to low-ball those performances, results and achievements you have to acknoweldge that sometimes they happen.
It’s the nature of the business. It’s why we love football.
But sometimes a result can overshadow what we know about the game.
Take Tony Watt’s goal against Barcelona in the famous match at Celtic Park … as my mate keeps on reminding me, they created chance after chance after chance that night. He once told me that we could play that game 100 times and 99 times Barcelona would win.
So it happens, and the rest is just the luck of the draw.
And let’s not kid each other on here; what luck, what ridiculous luck, they have had in those very same draws. Red Star? Braga? This is who they’ve got to a semi-final on the back of after qualifiying from the group with less points than we went out with. We were knocked out of the lesser competition by Bodo. Does anyone think Braga or Belgrade would have been tougher opponents? Would either have beaten us?
When there were so many quality teams left in those draws, who can actually say that they’ve had it hard? That they’ve had it tough? I would have expected us to win against both of those clubs with room to spare. As it is, I can only repeat the statistic so many times; 17 games now in this competition this season. Six wins. If they draw or lose the one at Ibrox they will have gotten to the brink of the final with one win every three matches.
That’s not something I just made up. That’s a statistical fact.
So why, exactly, should we consider that a positive reflection on us? As I said earlier, I can totally understand their fans promoting this idea … i cannot understand why ours would. We don’t need their reflected light to shine, we are doing just fine on our own. We don’t need to bask in their false glory, it’s glory enough for this team to have come back from such a difficult place tp stand on the brink of being champions.
The thing is, the myth is sufficiently ridiculous without us lending it credibility. This is a reasonably effective Ibrox team, a team which has grossly overspent and which has developed a playing style which is oddly suited to Europe … no more than that.
They are effective in the same way, and on the same sort of stage, as it happens, that Bodo/Glimt were when they beat us not that long ago.
Go and ask the Ibrox fans what they thought of the team that came with 90 minutes of being in the Conference League semi.
They scorned that side and us for losing to them, and they have used it to justify their belief that we are a lesser club than theirs is.
And the result of that is what?
That we are a better team and one that will soon be league champions.
Does that make us one of the best teams in Europe?
Cause that’s the logic of the posititon; if we finished ahead of a European semi-finalist doesn’t that mean we’re at least a contender?
No, of course not and only a fool would argue that it does.
Turns out, though, that they think that’s what they are … and that we only beat them by luck.
I know where I think the luck lies here and friends, it sure as Hell isn’t with us.