Friday, May 02, 2008

Boring, boring Rangers or there's more than one way to cook an egg

Anti football has travelled all the way to the UEFA Cup Final. Or Walter Smith stroked his cutaway collar and cooked up a plan that would conquer the continent.

Great periods of Rangers' campaign (not just in Europe) have been undeniably dull. A solid defence. A solid defensive midfield. A solid defending striker. Simple game, football.

Goals might win games. But clean sheets don't lose games. Rangers have tended shop at the back (sometimes with luck but always with commitment) and reaped the benefits.

Is it football? Well, clearly, yes. They've not got to the UEFA Cup Final playing water polo after all. And being defensive is not against the rules. You might argue about the spirit of the game but it's all meaningless. Rangers have done a job with the players at their disposal. And many of those players were bought to do that very job.

At times it has been dull. The home leg against Sporting when David Weir actually managed to look at least twice his age was the nadir. But the fans who booed them that night (or so I'm told, I'd actually nipped round the corner to watch the cribbage final in my local. I'd guessed, correctly, that crib would be more fun) missed the point. Wattie, like head matron, was all about clean sheets.

I would say he who laughs last laughs loudest. But I've got a feeling that little Dick Advocaat might get the last snigger. Still Smith has done amazingly well. The plan would have looked stupid if a team had started scoring against them (not least because Plan B would seem to be a work in progress) but that didn't happen. Storm's were weathered, hatches battened and barriers manned. Somehow they have survived.

Don't confuse defensive for dull. There have been exciting moments: the goals in Lisbon, Alan MacGreggor taking on Werder Bremen single handed, wondering whether Davie Weir's heart would survive against Lisbon. Tense can be exciting, last ditch can be fun.

The thing about sport is it offers different ways to win. The English rugby team, Nick Faldo taking 18 straight pars at Muirfield. It might not please everyone but the sole object at the end of the contest is victory. Time and again, based on the most important criteria, Rangers have delivered.

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