GARY KEOWN: Rangers supporters want actions, not just words. Players such as Dessers and Diomande should concentrate on achieving success rather than making bold statements.


OVER recent times, those inside Celtic have made a habit of turning the words of their rivals at Rangers against them.

Who could forget their old manager Ange Postecoglou banging on and on and on last season about his opposite number Michael Beale stating he was ‘a lucky man’ because of the levels of transfer funding that were available at Parkhead?

God, he never stopped. Every chance he got, he brought it up. Like the batty Great Aunt who mentions, every time she visits, that you never get as many Quality Street in a box as you used to. And that’s before we even get to doing away with the foil wrappers.

The great irony, of course, is that, in the thunderous list of gibberish that emanated from Beale, that remark didn’t even make the top 100. Wasn’t remotely close. It’s just that Postecoglou pounced on it. Used it. Weaponised it. Rubbed it in his face like a mouldy old jockstrap.

It felt vaguely cruel at the end. Beale was clearly a busted flush by that point, even though the Ibrox board, in their infinite wisdom, would keep him on and give him carte blanche over the summer to spend £21million on the likes of Sam Lammers and Jose Cifuentes. It was like Postecoglou was kicking a wounded puppy.

Cyriel Dessers and Mohamed Diomande have had a lot to say about Rangers' chances of late

Cyriel Dessers and Mohamed Diomande have had a lot to say about Rangers’ chances of late

Brendan Rodgers has adopted a siege mentality at times this season

Brendan Rodgers has adopted a siege mentality at times this season

Things felt different a couple of months ago, mind you, when his successor, Brendan Rodgers, started taking a leaf out of the Aussie’s book. Rather than being the dominant party squashing rivals under the jackboot, the Northern Irishman, devoid of the beautiful smiles of old, was more reminiscent of someone living in reduced circumstances, standing on Argyle Street, swinging punches at the world and missing before realising the tin of superlager in his pocket was running down his inside leg and on to the pavement.

Parkhead was a tinderbox. Punters were furious over the standard of football. Rodgers was blaming everyone outside the tent for criticising his team, doing everything in his power to foster a siege mentality, often the last refuge of the scoundrel. Rangers, meanwhile, were motoring under new boss Philippe Clement.

Then, at the end of February, following a stoppage-time win at Motherwell, Rodgers dropped his big gambit. ‘The story is already written about the season and how it is going to finish, but we will write our own story,’ he stated post-match.

It all got a little bit lost in the wake of Rodgers calling a BBC reporter a ‘good girl’ when she’d asked what he was wittering on about, but it was clear to some eyes.

Clement had been talking for months about his players writing stories. Using fresh pages. He used the analogy all the time. This was, clearly, Rodgers attempting to turn it against him and crank up the heat in one last effort to change the momentum of the campaign.

He’d already had a little nibble at the turn of the year when stating that he’d been up against five Ibrox managers and been told ‘Rangers are coming’ every single time. This was more personal, though, and would quickly be followed by branding referees ‘incompetent’.

Former Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou took perceived snubs from Michael Beale to heart

Former Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou took perceived snubs from Michael Beale to heart

Dessers didn't have quite as much to say following Rangers costly 0-0 draw in Dundee

Dessers didn’t have quite as much to say following Rangers costly 0-0 draw in Dundee

And do you know what? Transparent as it all seemed at the time, it appears to have worked. Celtic, currently looking like the least awful outfit in a league desperately short on quality, are now three points clear with five games to go and Rangers, in terms of the title, are in meltdown with one win in five ahead of today’s trip to St Mirren.

What’s more, remarks made over this past week by Cyriel Dessers and Mohamed Diomande only added fuel to the fire. If Rodgers wants more material to keep the pot boiling, these guys have played right into his hands.

Fresh from remembering what those big white sticks at either end of the park are for in the Scottish Cup semi-final win over Hearts, Dessers voiced his opinion that Rangers, providing they get their rhythm back, are the best team in the league.

Diomande followed that up by stating: ‘The performance against Hearts, that’s our level. We know when we play like that, nobody can compete.’

Rangers were a bit better against the Tynecastle outfit at Hampden. Started strongly, lost their way a wee bit the middle section and got it together again towards the end. It was hardly a display to conjure up memories of Di Stefano and Puskas at the national stadium against Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1960 European Cup final, though.

Rangers have been all over the shop of late. They lost to Motherwell and Ross County. Couldn’t score in Dundee. Failed to turn up for the first half of the 3-3 draw with Celtic at Ibrox, the game that had the potential to define their entire campaign.

A dismal defeat to Ross County in Dingwall placed a severe dent in Rangers' title chances

A dismal defeat to Ross County in Dingwall placed a severe dent in Rangers’ title chances

The last Old Firm derby was a fractious affair as tempers rose with so much on the line

The last Old Firm derby was a fractious affair as tempers rose with so much on the line

Clement, meanwhile, has dropped penning concise stories on crisp, white paper for scribbling all over the wall with a crayon — claiming his team were ‘moral winners’ in the Old Firm derby, branding Dundee ‘lucky’ and stating his side should have beaten Motherwell 6-1 when losing two goals and three points early last month.

If ever there was a time for Rangers to just circle the wagons, dial down the volume and recalibrate, it’s now. Celtic have an established tactic of taking the words that come out of their camp and using them as ammunition.

You can bet that stuff from Dessers and Diomande hasn’t been missed. And might well resurface, dressed in green-and-white ribbons, before long.

Those two guys haven’t been around the place long, but Rangers fans are tired of big talk and very few trophies at their club.

Respective boards and directors have fed them some amount of rubbish over the years when they should have built a system that can sell players for profit and wash its own face. Time and again, the promises of jam tomorrow from everyone inside the club have failed to materialise.

Philippe Clement has been talking in riddles as his side has threatened to come off the rails

Philippe Clement has been talking in riddles as his side has threatened to come off the rails

Right now, the core of the team looks like it is sliding back into its default position. Failing to turn up, letting the bottle crash, being consumed by tension and fear, when the games that really, really matter come around.

If Dessers and Diomande believe that Rangers are the best side around and that no one can live with them, that’s fine. But when you can’t string two wins together in the worst Scottish top flight in years, you really ought to focus more on doing rather than saying.

‘Step Up And Play’, words taken from club anthem Penny Arcade, has become something of a rallying cry at Ibrox. At the moment, Shut Up And Play feels much more apposite.

REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE…BUT WHO CAN OUTDO BENJI? 

SCANNING social media for Scottish football personalities appearing in the most unpredictable places stepped up a gear this week with forgotten Celtic goalkeeper Benji Siegrist popping up, a propos of nothing, across the dinner table from film star Rebel Wilson in Edinburgh.

As a colleague pointed out, it’s right up there with tennis player Heather Watson revealing she was knocking about with former St Johnstone wing-back Shaun Rooney.

Hollywood star Rebel Wilson was snapped eating out with Celtic goalkeeper Benjamin Siegrist

Hollywood star Rebel Wilson was snapped eating out with Celtic goalkeeper Benjamin Siegrist

Lord knows what unexpected surprises will come next. Todd Cantwell playing the glockenspiel in the Dresden Staatskapelle’s summer performance of Wagner’s Ring Cycle? Adama Sidibeh leading the next meeting of the Bilderberg Group?

Siegrist breaking bread with Wilson at The Ivy (above) was explained by the fact his girlfriend is a pal of the Australian actress, now on The Green Brigade’s official ‘wans wurth the watching’ list as a result of allegedly being invited to orgies by a member of the Royal Family.

It still sets the bar high in this peculiar little field, though. And topping it should be regarded as a challenge for the great and good of the SPFL as they prepare to head off on their holidays next month. We shall watch their Instagrams with interest.

 

OFFICIALS’ SNUB FOR EUROS TELLS ITS OWN STORY 

CAN anyone really say they were surprised when the list of referees, assistants, VAR operators and match support officials for Euro 2024 was released midweek — and there wasn’t a single Scottish name on it?

Sorry to bang on about this, but what clearer evidence could you require that the system here simply isn’t functioning well?

Scotland's referees have endured a torrid season... with the Euros snub just the latest blow

Scotland’s referees have endured a torrid season… with the Euros snub just the latest blow

It’s not as if all the officials who will be going to Germany are operating in the top leagues where all the money is. There will be individuals from Slovakia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Switzerland, Romania, Ukraine and Poland involved in Germany.

Scotland didn’t have a referee at the last two men’s World Cups, Euro 2020 or the last women’s World Cup — with Lorraine Watson attending the women’s Euros as a fourth official the exception — and that simply isn’t good enough.

Getting officials back to major international competitions has got to become a key mid-term performance indicator for the individual who replaces the outgoing Crawford Allan as the SFA’s head of refereeing.

Most Scottish fans have long since made their minds up about the overall standard of officiating here. UEFA and FIFA are corroborating it.



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