Two trophies in a week isn’t a bad return, is it? With the Championship title and Petrofac Cup in the bag, attention now moves to Sunday’s Old Firm clash.
A win for Mark Warburton’s side will be a huge boost to the players’ confidence and will provide the support with the bragging rights until the resumption of league hostilities later in the year.
Despite being in a lower division than our opponents, there is absolutely nothing to fear from them. They have consistently made heavy work of a one-horse race in the Premiership over the last four years and have arguably their weakest team in decades. From back to front there’s not a single position where they have players who you would instantly want in your side, and they look like a team going through the motions.
Rangers have not been at their best in recent weeks however, and will need to be on top form if they are to take anything from the game and secure a place in the Scottish Cup final. Recent defensive frailties have been exaggerated and despite conceding nine goals in three games, very few were down to defensive lapses.
Barring any injuries, the same XI which started at Hampden against Peterhead should likely be the one which takes to the field this weekend and hopefully the hastily relaid pitch will allow Rangers to play their usual free-flowing, passing game. The size of the pitch at Hampden could also play to our advantage with lots of space for players like Barrie McKay, Harry Forrester, Lee Wallace and James Tavernier to cause havoc in the final third. The back five picks itself and Dom Ball, Andy Halliday and Jason Holt will most likely make up the midfield. That leaves Kenny Miller to lead the line, and the 36-year-old will be hoping to put his old club to the sword as he continues to defy critics and put in regularly impressive performances. There were a few unhappy fans when he was given a new contract earlier in the season, but he has repaid Warburton’s faith in him already.
Sunday’s game also has big implications for next season. A win puts us one step closer to returning to continental football, as well as giving an idea of where we may need reinforcing over the summer. It could also have the benefit of making us more attractive to any potential summer signings or loanees, as well as giving players who might not have seen quite how passionate an Old Firm game can be, never mind an Old Firm at Hampden, and will give a little insight into just what getting one over on our arch-rivals means.
Anyone who watched Sunday’s Petrofac Cup final won’t have missed Halliday putting himself about and getting involved in almost everything. The midfielder, who was born a stone’s throw from Ibrox, had the look of a man who was desperate to lift the trophy and he must have felt 1,000 feet tall when he scored from the penalty spot. For any Rangers fan, scoring for the club is the thing of dreams. To score in a cup final with 47,000 Rangers fans there singing your name must be one of the greatest feelings any man has ever had.
Finally, there’s been some discussion on where Rangers should “expect” to finish in the Premiership next season. There’s been suggestions that a top four finish would be something fans should be happy with but this is absolute garbage. ANYTHING short of targeting a title challenge is unacceptable for us. With all respect to the other Premiership clubs, a top four finish would represent failure for us. Quite simply, we are better than that. There is no-one in the top flight, and I include Them in this, who are miles ahead of us. The right additions over the summer will make us a title-challenging side and hopefully Davie Weir has made Warburton aware that being second best in Glasgow isn’t something that will be accepted.
As was said earlier, They are arguably fielding their worst team in a long time. Winning 55 at the earliest opportunity would be up there with anything in the club’s long, history.