Rangers reaction: Clement not keeping pace with Beale start; refreshing display; connection between team and fans frays quickly
Coupled with Sparta Prague beating Real Betis, the top three places in Group C remain the mix going into the final round of matches in a fortnight – the Ibrox men assured of finishing no lower than third whatever their fate in Seville to be now certain of at least the Conference League last 16 play-off. Below, Andrew Smith looks at the implications of the outcome, and muses over a few other developments across the evening.
Clement not keeping with Beale start
The necessary change of management that led to Michael Beale being replaced with Philippe Clement has had the desired effect of stabilising Rangers. A side who have gone nine games unbeaten under the Belgian having lost two of their three outings immediately prior to his arrival. It always appeared as if it would be impossible to replicate the immediate impact of his permanent predecessor, though, and so it has proved.
When Beale assumed the reins for the post-World Cup resumption last December, he embarked upon a 14-game sequence wherein his team won 13 and drew one. With back to back 1-1 draws after the late penalty drama at Pittodrie on Sunday, Clement’s Rangers have now drawn twice in a week…the outcome for a third of his matches in charge. Granted, Beale didn’t have European football to contend with a year ago, but in that run he did successfully negotiate a trip to Aberdeen. Indeed, it wasn’t until he had been in the job five months that he failed – for one of only two occasions over his brief tenure – to win back-to-back games.
Refreshing flag display
It was quite something to watch the full Broomloan Road-covering tifo being unfurled before kick-off. A support who take great pride in leaning into their Britishness and unionism, it is exceedingly rare to see them define as a Scottish club. That they did, though, in refreshing and, on St Andrew’s day, fitting fashion with a display where a simple message of ‘Rangers pride of Scotland’ was the centre-piece message set over a blue and white saltire.
Connection between team and fans frays quickly
The Rangers manager has made great play of restoring the connection between the fanbase and their players, which had been snapped with barracking replacing backing so often in the closing month of the Beale era. And Clement has had success on that front as results and display have been ratcheted up. Against Aris, though, he detected “a nervousness on the pitch with the players and also in the stands”. “Maybe one side doesn’t help the other side, and you can have a discussion on where it starts,” he said pointedly. The 49-year-old was supplied with all-too-raw evidence that the bond between his men and those watching them is fragile, and quick to fray. It would have been arresting to hear the booing for his decision-making, effectively, when this proved piercing as he chose to hook Todd Cantwell in the 36th minute in the desire to introduce width in the wide-right area he had been deployed. Replacement Ross McCausland giving him that and a precious equaliser for a first goal to accompany his just-inked contract extension.
A bubbling over of anger generated by retaining the luckless Sam Lammers in the no.10 role that the support believe should be the preserve of Cantwell, their cheering for the Dutchman’s withdrawal in 57 minutes could only leave you wondering at how low it must leave the attacker to held in such contempt by his own in becoming their new whipping boy for fan lashings now that Cyriel Dessers has been pushed to the fringes. Ultimately, Clement won’t change the minds of the Rangers public towards certain players; he merely has to change those unloved for hardly inconsequential reasons.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.