Fear And Loathing Of Brendan: The Wizard Of Dross And The Penalty That Never Was.

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And so it ends; the great Unbeaten Run. Another in the line of Ibrox bosses who were feted and lauded and adored by the media and who put together a run which had the press corps eating out of his hand and hailing him a genius. Until they didn’t. Until they weren’t. Until these pretenders ran into Celtic and then everything started to crumble.

Sometimes it goes fast. Sometimes it takes a while and several reversals. Yet the one constant in recent years is that it comes. Always, it comes.

Brendan Rodgers has a number of Ibrox managerial heads on his mantelpiece already, and whilst it might be early to order the full cast, it would be remiss of those who make these magnificent trophies not to start chiselling out the mount for it, in anticipation of the time to come when he can place the order.

To say that it was another Rodgers Master Class puts us in danger of overusing the metaphor. Yet this time I use it to remind our own fans of what we’ve got rather to rub the faces of the opposition in it, and they are thoroughly sick of the sight of this guy and they are terrified of him because in these games, when the chips are down, he performs at the elite level, he shows us why he’s paid the big bucks, he sets straight the doubters and critics and gets it done.

His decision making has been questioned in recent months by people who have an idea of him in their heads that they just won’t shift. If Rodgers looked frustrated, well wouldn’t you be? He’s come in to a job to do it his way and he’s been handed another man’s team and yet another man’s signings and he hasn’t had the chance to put his imprint, his mark, on any of it … and every manager wants to do that and is entitled to, and a guy with his record more than most.

How many times will this man have to prove himself when it matters? We have lost several games, but let’s be honest, this is a league campaign so it’s a marathon not a sprint and at no time since we got in front have we been behind.

Today we’ve gone eight clear; even if they win their games in hand, which isn’t a lock, we have that cushion and that edge. Momentum is a fickle thing; we found that out. But there are different kinds of momentum and one sort is the false sort created by mistakes elsewhere that have nothing to do with how well you’ve done your job.

There is a moment in Season 3 of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom when the members of Will McAvoy’s team are celebrating when a rival network is forced into a humiliating retreat after running an incorrect story; the ACN leader Charlie silences his workers with a stern rebuke; they didn’t just become better, or bigger, or smarter because their rivals screwed up. Indeed, they are still scrambling to recover from an even bigger embarrassment, the storyline which had dominated the previous season. And that’s this thing right here; our dip in form did not make them better than they are. It made it look like they’d surged forward.

Actually we had gone backwards and that is what distorted the picture. They never closed the gap; had our form not fallen off the cliff that gap would be bigger than it was when Clement took over, a fact the media would rather not confront, yet still a fact.

Nothing that happened today surprised me in the least, not even the number of absurd bookings that went to Celtic players, not the squealing, bitter and loud and absolutely pitiful, from those who think the Ibrox club should have had a penalty at the end of the first half.

Earlier in the season, I called the correctly chopped off one by Dessers “the goal that never was.” It was my sister who suggested that be applied to that decision today. And I did so without the least hesitation because its an equally stupid debate.

She downloaded the SPFL regulations on hand-ball at half time, and actually looked at what’s in there and although I am all too aware that there is an “Ibrox Version” kicking about amongst the officials I am not convinced that the wording would have been terribly different than what was in there.

And guess what? It’s not a penalty.

Even if they don’t later “clarify” it as an offside, it would have embarrassed even this association to give something as preposterous as that as a deliberate handball, not when Goldson can audition on the pitch for the UK men’s Netball team and still not be penalised for it. There is no interpretation of those rules which would have justified a spot-kick and everyone calling for one should be mortified when they gain some perspective and actually apply brain cells to the task.

But it does what these things always do; it allows a section of the media and the Ibrox fan base to effectively deny reality and the implications of today and what it means for this title race. We are back in the drivers seat and the myth of their club being in any way as good as ours has been put to the sword and my only regret is that it wasn’t more brutal.

Rodgers and the players have done their job today, it is now up to others at Celtic Park to do theirs and woe betide them if they make a mess of it.

But it’s a profoundly bad day for the club across the city and its delusions of grandeur and those who think they’ve hired some guru and not just another guy who talks a good game but whose team is dire to watch and who only got away with it this long thanks to help from the Brotherhood of VAR and the way other sides in this country get “blinded by the pinstripes” as the great Christopher Walken put it with his fantastic analogy about the New York Yankees in Catch Me If You Can.

It is that speech, that story about how a uniform can disorient people and send them into cringe mode, which, ironically, inspires his son, Frank Abagnale, to become one of the great con artists of all time, and I’ve never forgotten that lesson any more than the man himself did.

Once clubs look past that and the media hype about how “this” version of the NewCo will finally assume the mantle of Rangers, which itself was nothing but a good illusion, they find the holes in the system and suddenly the club itself is exposed for its glass jaw.

It doesn’t seem that long since Clement sat in front of the media and told them that he was no “Harry Potter” but then proceeded to paint himself as a magician regardless, and the press loved that and were swift to leap on it. What a joke. They forget that a good magician is just another type of con-artist, like Abagnale was, and that it all relies on smoke and mirrors. Managers of substance don’t make their own legends, they earn them.

In Unforgiven, a writer named WW Beauchamp, entranced by the stories of the “Old West” follows around a legendry gunfighter named English Bob whose stories of daring and bravado are exposed as a fraud by a ruthless sheriff who beats Bob to a pulp and fills Beauchamp in on the truth about Bob and other men like him whose lives have become so mythologised that they believe their own press.

Yet Little Bill, the sheriff, has allowed himself to believe some of his own bullshit, which lasts only as it long as it takes for Eastwood’s William Munney to finally emerge from the shadows, the fully-fledged “stone cold killer” whose darkest confrontation was with his own past and which brought him to the awed realisation of what a monster he is capable of being … and Little Bill Daggett’s own pretensions evaporate as he looks up from a saloon floor littered with dead and says “I don’t deserve this.”

Tonight the Ibrox club are doubtless mouthing that same pitiful, meaningless empty platitude and the reason they’ll resort to that with such conviction is that they don’t understand the final lesson Little Bill learns as he looks up at Munney’s loaded shotgun and hears this relentless killer utter the immortal words “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.”

You’re either the Real Thing or you’re some pasty faced illusion, and you get away with that only for so long as The Man doesn’t come calling to collect what you owe. Not for anything you’ve done or not done, but because of the lies you told yourself about yourself. Ibrox may learn that one day, but I hope it’s not for a long, long time.

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  • Johnny Green says:

    Where’s all the conspiracy theorists who have been on all week predicting “a penalty for Rangers” and cheating officials to help fk us up. That didn’t happen did it?

    A well deserved and hard fought victory was the outcome, we got no favours from the men in black but it could have been so much worse.

    The league title is back in out hands and as Brendan said. we will get stronger.

  • Peterbrady says:

    Natural order restored back in your hole sevco zombies .big yin I hope you and Pamela are estactic in the keys and dancing with the rebels on hail! hail! Glasgows green and white happy new year.

  • John says:

    Interesting James, what the rule is on handball

  • brian cavanagh says:


    your pen was waxing lyrical today as well it might. Catch me if you can – is a brilliant allegory about Rangers – it added to my joy today. I watched a piece of the sky commentary about the handball- I know that I should know better but it is depressing that former players dont know the rules about handball, dont care know, and dont even have a copy in the studio to refer to. Anyway an infringement had already been committed, so the handball ‘situation’ is irrelevant. Thanks for your content today an enjoyable read

  • John S says:

    I thought Nawrocki performed rather well and I’m wondering why Celtic spend good money on a player we’ve hardly seen before now ? European clubs are not afraid to ‘bed in’ youngsters, they’re the ‘experience’ for the future.

  • JimBhoy says:

    Like you said James head of recruitment should be close to bringing in 2 or 3 first team players. Phillips back to Liverpool and hopefully Bernardo in if the price is right, he has potential.

    Nawrocki looked good today coming in from the cold, seems to have the mental attribute to play for the hoops. Who would have expected Scales to step up as he has, big guy is a warrior.

    Great end to the year for the Jungle Jim’s, HH.

  • SSMPM says:

    Press, media, hun propaganda and lies are all over the place last night and today. How convenient it is for them diverting and cry their little heads off about the decisions the rankers didn’t get (even though the Ali Johnstone alleged penalty would ultimately and clearly been deemed offside). They are blind to the actual facts of the matter.
    Also the Bernardo and Goldson tackle is being touted as a 2nd yellow when actually they fail to see that it’s Goldson that clearly goes over the ball raking his studs down Bernardo’s shin as Goldson pretends to be injured.
    There’s no mention of the Tav push on Turnbull in the box yesterday when he’s was onside, quickly given as offside with no VAR check. Nor the onside Kyogo one on one with Buckland. Funny that they’re so quickly ruled offside by officials and disregarded from the conversation unchecked.
    Celtic should write to the SFA for an explanation. Loving it. HH

  • Martin says:

    A good, necessary, victory. Let’s not get carried away. This was an important win, but hardly a turning point. We still need to upgrade GK and LB as a matter of urgency. Kyogo scoring peaches again is good, but he’s probably away for weeks after the new year. January remains a huge month for us. Get recruitment right (no laughing at the back) and teach our players how to pass to each other and we will be OK.

    But my worry is that recruitment will be far from right.

  • Tony Hand says:

    Watched the match in Murray’s, on O’Connell Street yesterday. A classic from start to finish and a wonderful advertisement worldwide of Celtic’s amazing supporters. The puss on BFKB (El Tonto Grande) was a sight to behold at half-time.
    The war drums have been beating in earnest, since the final whistle, over at Ibrox: “Agent Lawwell remain at your post and await further instructions from your father on how to fuck-up Celtic’s transfer window.”
    All joking aside I’d settle for a top-class striker joining the club in January. We have a must-win match on Tuesday evening otherwise yesterday’s wonderful result will have been in vain.
    Have a Hoopy New Year everyone.

  • Jack says:

    Unlike recent games against Hearts, Aberdeen and others, we saw yesterday what happens when there is no “penalty to rangers”…. they lose.

  • Mark B says:

    It was a penalty all day long given the recent interpretations. The referee and VAR made a mistake. It happens. The offside nullifies it in the game thankfully. But it does not take away the officials error and fear that surrounds our game for refs scared to make decisions. In recent derbies we have had benefit of a few close calls. Our rivals get the benefit of 70+ games without a pen against them. The refereeing in Scotland is in a bad place. This latest confusion doesn’t help. Ps we thoroughly deserved to win.

  • Johnny Green says:

    Champions League….here we come

  • Ronnie MacDougall says:

    Good, well written article. I’ve always loved The Unforgiven, and the point is well made.
    The longer Rangers keep blaming and whinging, the bigger the gap will be between the two clubs.

  • Ronnie says:

    Good, well written article. I’ve always loved The Unforgiven, and the point is well made.
    The longer Rangers keep blaming and whinging, the bigger the gap will be between the two clubs.

  • JB says:

    Let’s wait until after Love Street.

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