The Arabs may have lost their messiah in Craig Levien to the national side but his replacement Peter Houston has carried on CL’s good work and recent results have shown Houston has his own brand of impresive tactics and football philosophy. Arab heads may have dropped after going 2 – 1 and 3 – 1 down especially after going a goal up against the run of play thanks to Andis Shala's opening strike on 24 minutes but Peter Houston’s men showed great sprit and tenacity in sealing a draw at Ibrox yesterday.
Mihael Kovacevic nods Dundee United's 80th minute equaliser at Ibrox.
Let’s not forget only a few short months ago Rangers drubbed pretty much the same United side 7 – 1 at Ibrox so as the replay switches to Tannadice a week on Wednesday this could prove to be a trickier affair given United’s recent league and cup form. Dundee Utd now sit third in the SPL Table after some good performances and results in the league including a 2 – 1 away win at St Mirren, losing narrowly to Celtic 1 – 0 at Parkhead which was followed by two home wins against Falkirk (3 – 0) and Hearts (1 – 0).
Will either Dundee Utd or Motherwell who both are on 48 points a piece just six behind Celtic finally separate the Old Firm? Hibs are also still in with a shout sitting on 47 points. It would be one hell of an achievement and boost if any one of these provincial could indeed split the Old Firm. Only time will tell if any if these clubs have the resources and resilience to do so this season…I for one hope its happens as it would be a welcome change for the SPL vista although the way things are marching on this season I don’t think my counterpart Sean Graham would want to see that happen!
Sadly Lee McCulloch picked up his 12th booking of the season with just minutes remaining on the clock in yesterdays 3 – 3 draw with Dundee Utd, his second yellow card in the Scottish Cup now means he will miss the reply at Tannadice. McCulloch’s been in great form for much of the season and after a barren spell in front of goal last season the midfielder has now added goals to his repertoire, including these two strikes (Carey & McCulloch’s Goals 1st Half and McCulloch's 2nd Goal) in the 3 – 1 home win against St Mirren in league at the beginning of the month.
Lee McCulloch (l) grabs his second goal of the match as Rangers beat St Mirren 3-1.
It’s not only McCulloch who has added goals to his party piece this season; Steven Whittaker and Kenny Miller’s second half strikes ensured another three SPL league points were picked up in the away fixture at Kilmarnock last week.
Kenny Miller celebrates his goal for Rangers.
That’s now an incredible 11 goals this season for Whittaker not bad for a full back eh? Kenny Miller sits on 16 goals so far for this season already beating his tally for last term. I’m putting my money on him bagging 20 or so for this campaign which would be very impressive considering the amount of groundwork he puts in creating for his Rangers team-mates.
In amongst the football there has been off field distractions to mull over of late and thankfully it’s not about referees for once!
I am of course referring to last weeks breaking news that Rangers have confirmed that principal shareholder Murray International Holdings has begun discussions with London-based property developer Andrew Ellis about a possible takeover of the Glasgow club.
Andrew Ellis is no stranger to football and takeovers albeit attempted ones.
This is potentially great news for the Ibrox club after much paper talk of doom and gloom this season regarding the clubs financial future. So this approach from Andrew Ellis et al could help chip away the club debt and hopefully bring in much needed investment so things can evolve both on and off the park as well give Rangers a new direction to rid the uncertainty that has surrounded the club this past year or so.
There have been some bright sparks amongst it all; only last month Rangers announced a surprise jump in profits of just over £13million in interim results for the six months up to the end of 2009 which was thanks largely to this years Champions League run, some of which I assume will go towards servicing the debt which is reported to stand at £31mil but positive takeover talk is being welcomed by both Manager Walter Smith & Captain Davie Weir and much of the Ibrox faithful no doubt.
Still at the early stages never mind a bid being accepted then there’s the process of due diligence etc So lets just wait and see how it and IF it all plays out.
Meantime congratulations to Davie Weir who was named as the Clydesdale Bank SPL Player of the Month for February. Much has been said about the Captains age, it’s just a number after all! Weir has been excellent this season but will he stay beyond his current deal which runs out in the summer?
A lot may well depend if Madjid Bougherra has a good World Cup which could see a tempting bid come in for the Algerian which Rangers may find hard to resist and of course there’s Andy Webster who has been in impressive form at Dundee Utd, the Scotland defender is due back at Ibrox in the summer once his loan spell is up at the Tannadice club.
Again only time will tell, I hope Weir will stay on as he’s proved he’s still ‘got it’ both domestically and internationally (he was recalled to the national team to help Bungling Burley out at the tail end of World Cup qualifying campaign). So not only can he continue to lead the Rangers charge for next season but he’ll continue to help bring on players like Danny Wilson and experience counts for a lot and some – after all this is a man that can say he’s played at a World Cup Finals, how many other Scottish Players can say that?
Belated congratulations to Craig Levein too, the new Scotland manager got off to a winning start against the Czech Republic thanks to Scott Browns second half goal in the friendly match that took place at Hampden earlier this month.
Craig Levein congratulates goalscorer Scott Brown.
The match also saw the return of Rangers striker Kris Boyd to the international fold as a second half substitute for his Rangers striking partner Kenny Miller. A masterstroke by Levein putting Boyd on just after Brown’s goal while the Tartan Army were cock a hoop celebrating thus avoiding any potential “boo’s”.
Once again we have a man with intelligence on all levels leading our beloved Nation.
All roads and attention focuses towards Hampden next Sunday for the Co-operative Insurance Cup Final where Rangers will face St Mirren. Tickets are on sale for the final via the club web site and ticket hotline (public sale for non season ticket holders too).
Enjoy your day out if your heading to Hampden for the Cup final, it could very well be part one of the Treble…
Meantime take care folks and enjoy your ‘fitbaw’.
Dated 15th March 2010.
Keep up to date with the Blue Half of Glasgow via ESPN’s Soccernet Rangers Homepage and Club Blog.
Sunday, 21 March 2010
Co-operative Insurance Cup Final
St Mirren v Rangers, Kick-off 15:00 at Hampden Park
Wednesday, 24 March 2010
Active Nation Scottish Cup
Dundee Utd v Rangers, QF Replay, Kick-off 19:45
Saturday, 27 March 2010
Clydesdale Bank Premier League
Hearts v Rangers, Kick-off 12:30
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ESPN Soccernet North of the Border SPL Blog
Don’t forget to check out ESPN’s Soccernet North of the Border SPL Blog where ESPN’s Derek Rae and Darrell Currie give us their insight and expertise on the current state of play in Scotland’s top flight.
SPL Team of the Week - March 7 2010
Neil McDougall picks out the top performers from the weekend's action in Scotland.