I have occasionally criticised Andrew Smith of The Scotsman on here, but I’ve also given this guy a lot of praise over the years as well.
He is one of the more consistent commentators on the appalling tunes from the Ibrox fan-base. He’s also been a persistent critic of that small number of our fans who let this club down.
He seems to be a smart guy and very often shows himself to be a good writer … today’s remarkable article from him is one of his best.
Smith does not mess about when he’s dealing in facts.
He simply lays them out there for us which I think is the perfect job for a good journalist.
Too many of them think the job is steering the reader towards an interpretation … that’s not what good journalism does.
I don’t think much of the Scotsman’s political readership and a paper which employs Joel Sked ought not to be an award winner … Smith however doesn’t dumb down. He trusts his readers to have intelligence and that’s why today’s article is so good.
Headlined “How Rangers have racked up a second recent remarkable run without conceding a league penalty”, it is a eye-popping recitation of some pretty incredible facts.
How about the one he opens with? That the run we’ve all talked about, the 21 games without conceding a league penalty kick, is actually longer than that and now extends to 38 games in the top flight without a single spot kick being given against them? That, as Smith points out, is an entire league campaign. But it’s not the only one.
In the past three years, this pattern actually repeated on an even larger scale; they went 44 league games without conceding a penalty between January 2020 and April 2021.
That means in the last four seasons (2019-20, 2020-21, 21-22, 22-23) they’ve had both a 44 game spell and now a 38 game spell in which the Gods of Officiating have smiled on them to a staggering degree.
Smith does not attempt to spell out what this means. He doesn’t have to.
What he does is tackle the first and most obvious argument; that they are some kind of super-disciplined defensive unit. As he points out though, we’ve been league champions three times out of the four campaigns that these timeframes cover. Yet we have no such corresponding luck. In that interval, they’ve had a mere four spot kicks awarded against them. We’ve had thirteen against us.
Indeed, we have, as Smith points out, been on the receiving end of some extremely bad penalty decisions in that time, including – as he says in the piece – two in a single month last year, in November, after the introduction of VAR.
Here’s the killer fact at the end; although four penalties have been given against them in the course of those league campaigns, in the last ten months whilst playing European football – i.e. without Scottish refs taking charge of their matches – they have conceded no fewer than six penalty kicks.
As any good lawyer would say, these are the facts of the case and they are undisputed.
At that point he’s done his job, and is happy for the jury to do its.
Smith makes no claims of bias, pushes no big conspiracy theory, he merely says “this is what happened, so interpret that as you will.”