Rangers found themselves generating headlines for all the wrong reasons again this week. This time, however, it wasn’t claims of financial doping, tax irregularities or shady investors that were the talk of the steamie. No, it was the heinous crime committed by on-loan debutant Nathan Oduwa that had people across the UK talking about Rangers.
What exactly was his crime I hear you ask? He attempted a rainbow flick over Alloa defender Colin Hamilton’s head. That he actually lost possession seems to matter not a jot. He tried to entertain and we all know that entertainment is strictly forbidden in the joyless backwater that Scottish football is fast becoming.
Football struggles to attract supporters as it used to in Scotland, with clubs in the Premiership rarely racking up five-figure attendances and Championship sides struggling to hit 3,000, so should we really be complaining about players trying to bring something different? Would we see the same complaints if Ikechi Anya attempted a rainbow flick over the England left-back’s head in the upcoming World Cup qualifying campaign?
The game’s history is littered with great entertainers. From the great Real Madrid team of the early 60s to the Galacticos of the early years of this century. Best, Law and Charlton to Beckham, Giggs and Cantona. Then there’s the great Scots (I know Denis Law is Scottish). Morton, Baxter, Dalglish, Johnstone, Cooper, Strachan, McFadden and more. Lots more. You can’t talk about these players without also mentioning the imports who left their indelible mark on Scottish football too. Laudrup and Gascoigne in their pomp. Their ‘Three Amigos’ of the 90s, Russell Latapy at grounds (and nightclubs) across the country, Jose Quitongo, Chris Waddle, ‘The Famous Five’ and of course, Ted McMinn. And just when you think I’ve laboured this point enough. I’m just going to add Messi and Ronaldo. These guys somehow played the game wrong?
Rangers fans who made the trip to the Indodrill Stadium paid £18 for the pleasure (more than any other fans in the division except Hibs) and added to all the other costs of a day at the football it’s not a cheap day out. The cheapest available ticket at the Nou Camp to see FC Barcelona in the league costs €29 (£20). Alloa vs. Dumbarton will set you back £16. I’ll admit there doesn’t seem to be that many cheap tickets at the Nou Camp but they exist. I know. I’ve sat there before. You can’t tell me that’s right though? With the greatest respect to Alloa and Dumbarton. For the sake of a fiver, and a slightly higher vantage point, I’d rather watch Messi & co. rather than Hetherington & co.
Ultimately, and I hate acknowledging it, football is now just another form of entertainment. The cost is such now that it competes with the cinema, live music, other sports and even things like computer games for people’s hard-earned money. At a time when clubs should be doing everything possible to be bringing paying fans in, players shouldn’t be in the media complaining about opposition players trying to have some fun to send fans home happy. If it gets to the point that it’s like watching the Harlem Globetrotters play then we might have a problem but a kid trying a rainbow flick in the Scottish Championship is disrespectful? The idea that fans want to shell out to watch two teams bore their way through every game hail, rain or shine is disrespectful.
Away from the utterly ridiculous goings on at Alloa we have the utterly ridiculous goings on with Allan. The summer’s big transfer saga finally reached a conclusion when Hibs finally relented and sold Scott Allan. The only problem was he wasn’t heading to Ibrox. Instead, he signed for Them. I’m not going to criticise the boy for chasing the money and selling his soul to the Devil. All I will say is he should have deleted his tweets BEFORE he agreed claims of his support of Rangers were “exaggerated”.
If reports are correct, and Gedion Zelalem is to sign on loan then I’m far happier than if we had signed Allan. The young Arsenal midfielder is rumoured to be close to signing a season-long loan deal and will further bolster a midfield not short on options. The American is very highly thought of and the US Soccer Federation faced a fairly protracted battle to allow the German-born, ethnic Ethiopian and naturalised American citizen to represent the US. His club manager, Arsene Wenger, also holds him in very high regard, having been quoted as saying he “has the talent to become a great player” for Arsenal. The midfield has been arguably the most consistent part of the team so far this season with Law, Holt and Halliday all making impressive contributions so far. With Zelalem, Dominic Ball and John Eustace (the summer’s REAL never-ending saga) all to come in and provide competition for places, the players won’t be allowed to get themselves into any kind of comfort zone.
This IS fun again though, isn’t it? 17 goals in four games, spells of free-flowing football, Nicky Law remains visible, goals from set-pieces, and a general feeling of positivity amongst fans. There’s still a few problems to iron out in defence but we’re a vastly improved side from last year. Mark Warburton and Davie Weir deserve a huge amount of credit for their signings and the style of football so far. It might not last forever but after the last few years I just want to enjoy it for a wee while.