"Philippe Clement's Trust in Lundstram Falters as Costly Red Card Adds to Derby Disaster"


PHILIPPE CLEMENT hung his hat on John Lundstram quite some time back. Named him one of his on-field leaders, a guy who could coach others through the game, knew what to do with the ball and without it.

Now that the midfielder has shown that his view of what to do without the ball when your team has just got back into a title- deciding Old Firm derby from nowhere is to lunge into a needless, brainless, ridiculous tackle on Alistair Johnston and get yourself sent off, it just leaves the increasingly under-pressure Clement with yet another question to answer in what is a long, long — and ever-growing — list of them.

This was a really bad day for the Rangers manager. It was a bad one for Lundstram, too, but at least it looks like he’s off to pastures new shortly and can forget about it all.

Rangers started winning when he came. He was the serious, sensible bloke who wouldn’t be suckered into providing cheap headlines at press conferences. He put the hysterical element of the board back in its place when they demanded that yesterday’s referee Willie Collum should never be allowed to take charge of their matches again.

John Lundstram makes his ill-fated decision to go in hard on Celtic defender Alistair Johnston

John Lundstram makes his ill-fated decision to go in hard on Celtic defender Alistair Johnston

The pain on the Canadian internationalist's face is all too evident as Lundstram wipes him out

The pain on the Canadian internationalist’s face is all too evident as Lundstram wipes him out

The realisation of his actions begins to sink in as Lundstram awaits his fate after a VAR check

The realisation of his actions begins to sink in as Lundstram awaits his fate after a VAR check

Now? Rangers have stopped winning, Clement is chomping down on the bait dangled out there by Brendan ‘Bit Of Fun’ Rodgers like Jaws on Robert Shaw’s torso and still trying to escape from the nonsense that his side were ‘moral winners’ when they drew 3-3 at home to Celtic last month and handed back the advantage in the league after forgetting to turn up for the first half.

You see, forgetting to turn up is becoming a bit of a habit for Rangers under Clement in Glasgow derbies. It happened first time round at Parkhead when they lost. It happened at Ibrox when Rabbi Matondo rescued a point at the death. And it happened again yesterday.

Over and over again, his team fail to dominate the centre of the park against their biggest rivals. And he doesn’t seem to do much to fix it.

So much of the talk among Ibrox fans ahead of this clash was that he needed to solidify things there, play three proper central midfielders. Get Dujon Sterling in the middle for some legs and guts. Maybe even Nico Raskin.

But nah. Tom Lawrence started. It looked like he was being asked to take care of Callum McGregor, but he’s not really that kind of player, is he? He gave McGregor just that little too much space at Celtic’s opener — the Parkhead captain providing the cutback for Matt O’Riley’s strike — and was pretty anonymous before going off on the hour.

Rangers lost the midfield battle again yesterday, letting McGregor run the show like so many times before, and, naturally, lost the war. O’Riley and McGregor and Reo Hatate had acres of space even before Lundstram was sent packing right at the end of the first half. They were firing shots in from everywhere.

Lundstram's day had got off to a bad start as he inadvertently doubled Celtic's advantage

Lundstram’s day had got off to a bad start as he inadvertently doubled Celtic’s advantage

Midfielder Matt O'Riley had shot Celtic into the lead only minutes before Lundstram's own goal

Midfielder Matt O’Riley had shot Celtic into the lead only minutes before Lundstram’s own goal

In O’Riley’s case, it was just a case of finding his range before fizzing one in on 35 minutes. Three minutes later, a Lundstram own goal made it 2-0. And after Cyriel Dessers had got Clement’s side back into it, the roof then came down on them. Yanked off the rafters by the rank stupidity of Lundstram.

You knew what was coming the moment he started charging towards Johnston like a freight train. He was always going to leave one on him. And didn’t he just? Right above the ankle.

The only surprise in the aftermath was that Collum flashed a yellow and had to be directed pitchside for a review by VAR Steven McLean.

Lundstram wrapped up the title in green-and-white ribbons there and then. And he should never play for Rangers again. All that is left for him to do is to join the ranks of Alfredo Morelos and Ryan Kent and countless others in walking out the door for nothing at the end of his contract. Getting zilch for once-important assets is becoming one of Rangers’ most notable traditions.

Lundstram, of course, can go hand-in-hand with Borna Barisic. Barisic hadn’t started an Old Firm game in over a year before this one. He has had so many nightmares at Celtic Park in the past and, although he did provide the cross that led to Dessers’ goal, he was caught sleeping at O’Riley’s opener here.

Lord knows why he got the nod ahead of Ridvan Yilmaz, who was lively and direct after replacing the Croatian on 61 minutes. It’s just a problem for Clement. Placing too much trust in guys who fail repeatedly in matches possessing the importance of this one.

Rangers manager Philippe Clement was left to ponder defeat AND a necessary Ibrox rebuild

Rangers manager Philippe Clement was left to ponder defeat AND a necessary Ibrox rebuild

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers had promised to have fun and he was true to his word

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers had promised to have fun and he was true to his word

Rangers full-back Borna Barisic had another Old Firm game to forget and is now set to move on

Rangers full-back Borna Barisic had another Old Firm game to forget and is now set to move on

The Belgian took over a club whose use of the transfer market — and management of talent — has been an utter disgrace for years. He hasn’t been helped by injuries either. He deserves a shot at forming a team and a club in his own image.

However, he is now under the microscope big-time with the heat and light of the public gaze passing through its lens harbouring the potential to send him up in flames quickly.

Make no mistake, Rangers let Celtic away with murder this season. Rodgers was an unpopular appointment, no matter the orchestrated happy-clapping, and has looked out of sorts and unhappy for a large part of it. Some of the football has been awful. The use of the transfer market an absolute joke.

When it comes to investing in solid assets and building for a bright and prosperous future, Celtic and Rangers are up there with Enron and Bernie Madoff. Rodgers — or Peter Lawwell’s long-departed son, or whoever it was — signed 12 players between last summer and the January window.

Not one of them made the starting line-up yesterday. Only six made the bench. That Celtic, title or no title, need a huge reset this summer is clear.

As for Rangers? Where do you start? Who do you keep? Jack Butland is a given, although a return south must appeal. Sterling, just a real solid individual, deserves his chance. And Mohamed Diomande, despite being poor yesterday, looks good on the ball and should improve. Yilmaz can remain, too.

Todd Cantwell couldn't even get off the bench, suggesting he is not trusted in big matches

Todd Cantwell couldn’t even get off the bench, suggesting he is not trusted in big matches

Lundstram heads for the tunnel and ensured he will always be remembered for this derby loss

Lundstram heads for the tunnel and ensured he will always be remembered for this derby loss

As for the rest? They can all go. Seriously. If there is Saudi money for James Tavernier, take it. Connor Goldson is done. Todd Cantwell clearly isn’t trusted. Dessers? No, thanks. Fabio Silva can go back to Wolves, too.

‘I don’t like to focus on goals and assists because the things in my life happen naturally,’ warbled the Portuguese striker in January. That explains, then, why he misses Old Firm sitters from point-blank range at 0-0. Focusing on goals is good if you’re a forward.

Rangers this term did what bottle merchants do when the heat comes on. Flunked it. At Ross County and Dundee. They’ve won three out of their last eight in the Scottish Premiership.

Clement has what looks like an impossible task — stripping out a rotten squad and trying to build a side to overcome Celtic, who have £70m in the bank and £30m-plus to come from the Champions League.

First and foremost, though, the manager needs to show he can lay a glove on Rodgers and his current team. If he doesn’t win the Scottish Cup final, he’ll be going into the first derby of next term knowing that a fifth failure there will have punters calling for his head.

Only he can decide who has the minerals to stop the rot at Hampden on May 25, but one thing is for sure. Lundstram can’t be one of them.



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