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|Valdas Ivanauskas||<-auth||Fat Eck||auth->||Iain Brines|
|[K Boyd 36] ;[K Boyd 74]|
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Beautiful Bears and fond farewells
(Alex McLeish’s GERS … 2 Jambos … 0)
Published by Fat Eck May 7th, 2006 in News
How fitting that the last Rangers player to touch the ball under the Ibrox stewardship of Alex McLeish was Lee Robinson.
Promising, talented, red-headed but young and untested at the highest level - no-one expected him to be considered for the bench, far less actually get a game. But he came in and he did damned well … though some would say only because the opposition let him off easy.
Now, is that not Alex McLeish’s reign in a wanner!
The young Rangers reserve keeper wasn’t the only one to do well today: 40,000+ Bears and Bearettes did themselves, the club and the outgoing manager proud. I had to choke back the auld tears as it became apparent the vast majority of the crowd was staying put for the final whistle - and these punters obviously weren’t waiting to boo.
I was dreading today - not looking forward to it in the least.
All week I’d feared a back-lash to our third-place finish, an audible anti-McLeish sentiment or - even worse - an anti-climactic, non-acknowledgement of the departing manager.
I remember only too well the night Dick Advocaat stood down from the hottest seat in town: A draw with Hibs, with Alex McLeish in the stand, and Dick gave only the briefest wave to a crowd which wasn’t even looking before he almost darted down that big blue tunnel into the bowls of the finest stand in Britain.
Problems we had at that time, yes, but I’m always troubled by a failure to give credit for what’s gone right: Dick gave us a Treble, a Double and three or four seasons of European credibility - he left us with a post-christmas place in the Uefa Cup. He didn’t get a lap of honour. He didn’t get any applause. There was zero affection.
Okay, he was moving upstairs - strictly speaking he wasn’t leaving the club at that point - but, despite all the money he was piad and all the cash he spent, it was actually the fans who looked careless that night, allowing a historic manager is allowed to slip out the memory so brutally quickly, so coldly, with no goodbye.
And then the stuff that’s gone on this season - the protests outside the ground, the boos from inside the ground - on-field adversity leading to internecine squabbling and, worst of all, Bluenoses telling other Bluenoses how to be Bluenoses: We’ve all been at it. It’s not been nice. It’s been fucking heart-breaking and it had me dreading what would happen at the final whistle today.
I should have known better.
What did actually happen at the final whistle, and my consequent overwhelming sense of relief, made me realise just to what extent his last bad domestic season has effected me and, therefore, all Bluenoses. All the web-site stuff can sometime skewer your judgement of your fellow fan. There’s guys on this site every week who I consider mates - cyber mates - and they make it all worth while - you know yer not the only one thinking in a certain way about The Teds. And there’s damned fine Bluenoses and fans of other teams who come on the threads on Gers@OpenFootie and disagree with me but explain why. Often they’ve made a great point and this expands my narrow horizons, educates me - they’re not slagging, they’re just explaining. There’s plenty folk on this site who can’t stand McLeish’s tactics and his results (often that includes me) but the regulars who are bitter about Eck also justify their position and back up what they’re saying.
But my pessimisnm took over in the last few days, exacerbated by the fact we’ve finished so low in the table and played so poorly at parkhead two weeks ago. I only thought about the countless ARSEHOLES we get on this site, and on phone-ins and on letters pages and stood next to you at an away game, sat beside you in Bratislava airport and heard shouting from another part of The Palace - paying their wee flying visits to the kingdom of Ted and telling us that McLeish should be hung, drawn and quartered - that the only way to be aTrue Blue is to hate yer own., to look for scapegoats and vilify at all times. I worried that these nutters - all of whom are usually trying to prove something in a school-playground-style and so are ALWAYS loud and aggressive - would come to the fore at the end of today’s game. I worried they’d take over or antagonise.
Like I say, I should have known better.
Shame on me for doubting the overwhelming decency of The Rangers support. … No. No - change that. I know we’re overwhelmingly decent - I know we’re one of the closest, like-minded honourable families in the game. I’ve always known that - I extoll it on this site regularly. No, the shame is on me for doubting that we’d LET the loudmouths take over today.
I forgot one of my maxims - that the majority remain silent because they don’t think in extremes. Empty vessels make the most aggressive noise, the most fractious sounds. But the main body of The Rangers support stood and applauded Alex McLeish today. I was allowed to cheer the man, shout his name and raise my hands high as I applauded my appreciation. It was a weight off that this was the norm.
Fuck, it was painful to watch him at the final whistle, for those few seconds where he wandered about shaking hands and edging between the tunnel and the pitch. He didn’t want to take a centre-stage bow if no-one wanted him to. Even at this final stage of his Rangers career he didn’t know how he was regarded. He knows he’s not great in the sense of winning successive titles or a European trophy. He knows he’s lost too many derbies and lost the league by too many points too many times to be an indenti-kit “hero”. But he also knows within himself that he’s worked something of a fucking miracle considering how little experience he had when he came from Hibs, how little resoureces he had and the opposition he faced from Martin O’Neill. He knows better than anyone how much he did to hold our history together in a time when most of our present support was fattened up on the succeses of nine-in-a-row and Advocaat’s first two years.
Alex’s only worry was how many of the Rangers fans actually knew this too:
The rest were probably just relieved to get the season finished and focussing on Le Guen. But even if they didn’t think Eck did and admirable job - they had the manners and the decency to give a warm send-off to a man who was always, ALWAYS the very epitome of a Rangers manager in his decorum and resolve.
Eck wandered onto the pitch with the clutch of opposing players. Hand-shakes all round between Rangers and Hearts. Eventually the visiting players left the pitch. Then The Rangers players, many of who wont ever play for us again, left the pitch. No laps of honour because we don’t do that when we’ve won nothing. But nice applause. Nice waves back and forth. And then Eck was left out there on his own.
Again no lap of honour. He just told each stand he wasn’t worthy - and then each stand told him he was. And I found myself getting all stupidly sentimental round about the throat and tear-ducts. I was extra embarrassed by my slobbering reaction, not because I have a problem with shedding the odd tear, but because in all the pre-match interviews and specualtions on BBC Radio Scotland I’d heard Chick bloody Young alomost pleading with McLeish himself to “have a bit of a greet” so the tabloid-minded wouldn’t be forced to interpret anything other than the fucking obvious. The hacks were demanding a dot-to-dot depiction of emotion which could tell a story they have neither the skill nor inclination to write themselves. But it was there - four-and-a-half years of having to defend Eck was over and it was finisihing in a nice way. Somehow that just meant so much. I got choked as I clapped Eck. It was relief - relief that we can now move onto a new era, relief that the undoubtedly poor domestic performances over the last few years could now be at an end but, most of all, relief that The Gers support showed Eck that they didn’t blame him entirely for this and that they thanked him most genuinely for his genuine graft and his exciting successes.
Ironically, it helped that the final damage to this season was done on Wednesday - the final tin-lid was put on 2005/2006 during the week and we’d all been expecting it long before then anyway. And so today was all about considering the last four-and-a-half years. We considered them adequate in the circumstances and we thanked Alex McLeish for giving it his all to ensure they were.
The game itself was a sideshow - even more of a side-show than Grame Dott’s appearance at half-time with our only trophy of the season: Rangers FC - world snooker champions 2006.
We needed snookers on the black ball to catch Hearts and the travelling jambos, hilariously reminding Graeme there was “only one Stephen Hendry”, were desperate to make it clear they didn’t care about today’s result, to such an extent that they even jumped about in mock celebration of Kris Boyd’s 36th minute opener. Or maybe they were confused by the fact their team were wearing all white, had nine regulars rested for next week’s cup final and were shooting towards the Broomloan Road Stand in the FIRST half. Whatever. I can’t remember what they did when Kris scored his second because by that point, the 75th minute, I was just so damned relieved (my theme emotion for the day) for McLeish that the victory was ours.
Ronald Waterreus pulled off two world class and two exceptional saves. Dado Prso was involved in a wrestling match with some Jambo, the Hearts fans pretended they were reading their newspapers rather than watch Rangers and they did a conga up and down the steps of the away-corner. That’s all I really seem to remember about this day outside the fond farewell to Alex McLeish.
It HAS been a long four-and-a-half years. Mainly because we never convinced. Even when we won something, it was exciting because it was so close - so touch-and-go. Yet it’s been a four-and-a-half years in which Eck covered all the bases: Treble, another title, a few more cups, and European history. Not bad for a man who won’t really be appreciated for a deacde or so. But then that’s why the Rangers job is the toughest one you can have - the best jobs always are the most demanding.
As demanding as it was - Alex McLeish showed he was proud to have it and cherished every moment of being a part of Rangers FC.
No matter where he goes next, he’ll be a part of us for the rest of his life and he’ll be part of ours, of Rangers.
I finished reading DH Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers this weekend.
2 am Saturday morning to be precise. Then I spent a lot of Saturday reading various essays and critiques on the same novel - I found myself needing to know if I’d missed something or if I’d read too much into any one part of the book. I wanted to know what “the experts” thought.
I started reading it at least a month back - though it feels as if I’ve been picking it up at bed-time FOREVER. All in all, It was a fucking long, hard, read.
Doing this site, doing a lot of drinking, following Rangers, having a full-time job, going to the cinema, doing more drinking, eating a lot, drinking and playing five-a-sides: It took me fekin ages to finish it and, to be honest, I just read it because, ye know, I felt I had to. I felt I should. I’d never read any Lawrence - then they showed Ken Russel’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover on the telly a few months back and I got interested - had a look through the old bookshelves and there was only one bit of DHL in my posession. Not the volume I’d wanted but a volume of his work nevertheless.
It started well - gripped my attention surprisingly vigorously. For the first half I couldn’t put it down - took me just a few nights to get through the earlier chapters. This was what I’d expected of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I was pleasantly surprised. Then it started slowing donw - in a bad way. there were patches of purple prose which, over-sentimetal and silly as they were, raised just enough over-emotion to make it worthwhile cdontinuing but I found I’d be dipping in and out of other stuff all the time.
It was getting tired - a bit repetative. But I knew I’d hate myself if I didn’t see it through: I couldn’t really go into any other book, any other classic, with the same degree of confidence if I didn’t see this one out and give it it’s place. The story picked up a bit towards the end but the prose remained the same - Generally flattering to deceive. The last chapter was stupefyingly depressing but the very last couple of sentences tagged on some last-minute but much needed optimism. Now I can move onto a new book with renewed zest. I’m looking forward to something which is just as famous, just as quality, but which I don’t have to justify to myself on a constant basis. Maybe some Balzac - maybe some Zola. Something French anyway.
Eck’s not dead - long live Le Guen!
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