Scottish sport comment: Having described two draws on the road against the minnows of Division Three as “agony” and “unacceptable” Ally McCoist struck a more moderate tone after Rangers’ scoreless skirmish in the border town of Annan last weekend.
Perhaps it was a healthy dose of pragmatism which allowed the manger to deem the result “not a disaster” for the re-formed club. Quite so, for the Govan side will surely go on and win the title without too much fuss.
Still it’s a sobering thought that The Rangers FC, who lie in fourth place, are not even the top Glasgow side in Scotland’s lowest league — that honour falling to the gentleman amateurs of Queen’s Park.
Gers fans will eagerly tell you how much they are enjoying their tour to far-flung parts and remain delighted to have their team “back” after the headline hogging upheaval of administration followed by liquidation earlier this year.
While these points are certainly valid, let’s not kid ourselves, they will be accompanied by much private grief over a pattern which sees them canter to victory at Ibrox but pull up lame elsewhere.
We should not be so surprised. Every outfit the Light Blues face this season and next — should they win promotion — will be stuffed with gnarled journeymen, energetic youngsters on the way up and those who came close but failed to make the big time.
Collectively they are a determined bunch more than ready to pit their wits against a name which still carries resonance, even though it has undoubtedly lost some lustre.
What can McCoist do to remedy the situation? In the first instance he should accept life as it is and understand that the opposition will happily sit deep, tackle hard and never give his men a moment’s peace.
He must also encourage his side to stand up to the rigours of football at this level, but for Rangers to replicate the tactics of their opponents in a wholesale fashion — a tendency which has crept into their play — is gross folly.
They remain a side spattered with current internationals, such as Dean Shiels, Lee Wallace and Ian Black, and should therefore be able to dictate the tempo of matches, making significantly better use of the ball than any of the sides they will confront.
This then is really a matter of acclimatisation. Rangers’ Spanish striker Fran Sandaza may have been over-egging things a fair bit in describing Division Three as akin to a war zone, but nevertheless patience will be required if they are to manage the physical so that the aesthetic prospers in so brutal an environment.
It seems Craig Levein’s patience has reached its limit over scrutiny of his decision to exclude Jordan Rhodes from the starting line-ups in Scotland’s two World Cup qualifying draws against Serbia and Macedonia.
After a deluge of questions on the matter the manager retorted that the 22-year-old is “not ready” and “over-hyped.”
Not exactly a vote of confidence in someone he was happy enough to describe as a “pure-born predator” in the lead-up to the opener against the Serbs.
Levein’s current opinion — whether a volte-face or not — is the one which counts here, since he picks the team.
But his is also unquestionably a minority view on the prospects of the forward who has returned a handsome 85 goals over the last three seasons.
The clamour among the Tartan Army is therefore understandable. Blackburn shelled out £8 million to Huddersfield Town for his services in the summer and Scotland have very few of those kind of players.
My advice to Levein — a good guy doing a tough job — is don’t make it harder for yourself. There’s absolutely nothing to lose by starting Rhodes instead of Kenny Miller while he continues to bang in the goals as he has been for his new club.
Above all else though the manager will surely have an eye on the future. Should they make it to the finals in Brazil it is highly likely that Rhodes would be far and away the most talented finisher he has at his disposal.
Levein, who says disappointment “hangs about and eats away at you” must harbour concerns that his tenure as Scotland boss will be defined by whom he fields up front against Wales and Belgium next month.
Andy Murray can do no wrong it seems. Fresh from his triumph in the final of the US Open, he spent five hours touring his home town of Dunblane.
Murray signed thousands of autographs and hit tennis balls with just about every kid from within a 20-mile radius. It was the act of a real champion, someone who retains the common touch.
Notably he also described the £1.2 million prize money collected for beating Novak Djokovic as “obviously a ridiculous amount of money.”
On this showing becoming the first British man in 76 years to win a Slam is unlikely to change him or alter his focus on tennis.
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