Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The cup is half empty

Many of us predicted a Rangers win in the Co-operative Insurance Cup final. We got that. The tale ended as we suspected it might but few of us could have dreamt up the narrative.

We didn't expect St Mirren to dominate. We couldn't have predicted that Rangers would have finished the game with nine men. And we wouldn't have expected that Kenny Miller would grab the winner with, in this observer's eyes at least, one of the finest finishes of his career.

A cup final with drama and incident when we expected so little.

So why, now the dust has settled, has it left me feeling so depressed.

It's not the repetitive drone of Rangers winning another trophy. You expect that. It's a cause of lingering irritation, resentment even, but not depression. Rather it was the nature of the game itself.

I think, and I'm probably not alone, that Rangers delivered the first leg of a treble at Hampden. And they did it while being outplayed. This is a team cantering to the league title yet they are capable of playing as badly as this. What does that say about the SPL?

Rangers were so poor that yesterday that I thought it was going to be difficult to single out one player as the sinner-in-chief. But that is to under estimate Kevin Thomson's ability to make a total erse of himself.

Sent off for stupid tackle that he made because he lost his temper. At 25 Thomson should be over these bouts of petulance. It says much for his inflated sense of his own importance that he's always likely to explode when he doesn't get his own way. 25 years old. No longer a kid, but apparently without a single sign of any maturity. And the red card merely provided the final act of an entirely anonymous display. Thomson's career is passing him by and he seems powerless to stop it.

And what of St Mirren. Brave St Mirren. Written off before the game but united in a belief and a desire that almost saw them through. Bollocks to that. Yes they dominated for long spells. But, amazingly, football is still about scoring goals. And they couldn't get close.

Even if their performance in the first hour had something admirable about it we've got to look at the simple facts. They dominated but couldn't score against 11 men and then imploded when they enjoyed a numerical advantage.

It's not even that they took time to adapt to Rangers' handicap. They actually got caught shorthanded in defence for the goal. Against nine men. Hard not to escape the conclusion that St Mirren are exactly where they deserve to be in our threadbare league.

St Mirren withdrew Billy Mehmet, who'd worked tirelessly while all the while looking like he'd still struggle to score if Cynthia Payne took him in as a lodger, and replaced him with Craig Dargo. Who hasn't scored in 19 games.

When the camera cut to the a young St Mirren fan in the crowd, tears streaming down his face, it was hard to escape the conclusion that this is a team undeserving of any such emotional attachment.

And, yes, I am aware that I could stand accused of kicking St Mirren when they are down. Guilty and it's easy to hurl abuse, sitting here with nothing more than a laptop and head full of opinions. But I'd say that losing a cup final that you've dominated to nine men is unprofessional, a whopping insult to those fans and, sorry Gus, an indication of a team that is crying out for better leadership.

Sunday then was a poor game lifted by a few moments of real drama, only one of which had anything to do with quality football. So, after everything, we probably got the final that this season has deserved.