Following the disappointing League Cup defeat to St. Johnstone, normal service was resumed in the league at the weekend.
A comprehensive 4-0 win at Cappielow saw Mark Warburton’s side extend their 100% league record at the expense of Morton. Martyn Waghorn scored an excellent hat-trick to take his tally to 14 goals in 13 games this season, while James Tavernier also continued his rich vein of form with his eighth goal so far from right-back.
Despite the scoreline, there continues to be questions over the central-defensive pairing of Rob Kiernan and Danny Wilson. Kiernan looks more than comfortable dealing with aerial balls, however both the former Wigan man and Wilson both look vulnerable when they have to turn back and chase down a ball over the top. This isn’t reason enough to make a change and drop either one yet though. Davie Weir was never the quickest as a central defender and by the time he came to Ibrox, any pace he did have was long gone. Instead, Weir made use of his vast experience and read the game incredibly well, allowing him to snuff out opposition threats to great effect, and not allow his lack of pace to cause issues. Wilson has a lot of experience for someone of his age and, hopefully, he is regularly picking the brain of one of the best defenders to have pulled on a blue jersey in years.
The ongoing John Eustace transfer saga could also help the central defence when the ex-Derby man does finally ink a deal with the club. Andy Halliday, for all he tries, doesn’t offer enough cover as a midfield anchor. With Tavernier and Lee Wallace constantly bombing forward, Halliday must remain focused on his defensive duties and provide protection to the centre-backs. Both full-backs regularly find themselves in very attacking positions, although this can leave us prone to quick counters down either flank. If Halliday has also joined the attack this often leaves just Wilson and Kiernan to deal with the threat, and that has led to them being exposed a few times so far this season.
Eustace is much more disciplined in this role. He will also be well placed to give advice to many of the younger players making their way at the club. An 18-month deal would suit all parties with Eustace getting some security as his career winds down, and Rangers able to take advantage of a career spent in the top two tiers of English football. It’s also got to the point where there’s a few guys on twitter now debating whether John Eustace actually exists.
I was recently joined at the Raith Rovers game by two guests from Chicago who were visiting Scotland for the first time, and it got me thinking about the first time I ever attended Ibrox. I’ve been lucky enough to visit some of the best grounds on the planet (and a few of the worst) and, even trying to take away my own personal attachment, I just can’t think of many grounds that are quite like it. Ok, there are bigger stadiums and there are newer stadiums but there aren’t many which impose themselves like Ibrox. The place just takes your breath away. I’ve been going to games now for 20-plus years and I still get excited at the sight of it. There’s something about it that sets it apart from other grounds. Their place can have a great atmosphere at times (normally when their season ticket holders take up the ongoing offer of an additional two free tickets), Hampden has lots of history, the Camp Nou is huge, Mestalla is utterly terrifying and the Amsterdam Arena was fuzzy, but none of them were quite as impressive. That’s not saying they aren’t brilliant, but they don’t quite come match up to Ibrox
Imagine, as an opposition player, turning off the M8 and rolling onto Edmiston Drive for the first time. The red brick facade of the 86-year-old Bill Struth Main Stand looms over you like an old fortress which has stood through many, many battles. The glass-framed staircases which lead up to the Club Deck only serve to make the stand look twice as long. Even the cantilever roof, which was added at the same time as the staircases on either side of the building, only make it look bigger, better and altogether more intimidating.
The throng of people meandering in front of the stadium, casually killing time until kick-off or hoping for a glimpse of a former player making his way inside the main doors. Hundreds of windows pepper the brickwork, from dressing room to Blue room and up to the Club Deck, all with different views south from Govan. It’s a genuinely magnificent sight. My friend and his wife couldn’t speak highly enough of the place and people. I might be totally wrong here and there is loads of grounds which have an intangible something that makes them special, and Ibrox is just one, but for the life of me I can’t think of many.