Let's not be distracted by what’s going on across the city.
We’ve all seen it unfolding and, even for someone who has been in the game a long time, I must admit the state Celtic have got themselves into has come as a huge shock to the senses.
Every day another controversy off the pitch, or another couple of dropped points on it.
Fans demanding a clear out of everyone from the pie stalls to the chief executive’s office.
Even by the insane standards of Scottish football, it has all gone absolutely mental for Celtic at the worst possible moment.
But while the rest of us might be rubber necking at the sight of it all coming apart, Steven Gerrard and his players can’t afford to give it as much as a second glance.
I’ve been in a situation like that before and I’ll get around to that later. But what matters first and foremost right now is that the players at my old club don’t allow themselves to be distracted by the noise of Celtic’s implosion.
My worry here is simple enough. On Sunday at Motherwell, these players looked to me as if they had taken their eye off the ball.
They started slowly and didn’t snap out of it until they were a goal down and right up against it.
The manager said afterwards that he had to give them a bit of a blast at half time and that didn’t surprise me in the slightest. Every time the camera panned to him during that first half you could see how irritated he was becoming with the
This wasn’t the Rangers side we’ve been watching all season. None of the crisp, sharp passing. A lack of energy, urgency and
There’s only one word to describe what Gerrard was seeing slipping into his team. Complacency.
And that should set an alarm bell ringing even though Rangers are now sitting 20 points clear at the top of the table and closing in on a first top tier title in 10 years. In fact, especially because they are.
That was always my biggest fear whenever we were in a comfortable position on top of the league.
I’d hear all the talk about ‘champions elect’ and I hated it because the job is never done until it’s done. I always worried that complacency would set in and that, as a team, we’d allow our own standards to slip.
The next thing you know, you’ve been dragged back into a fight and it can be very difficult to suddenly flick the switch back on once you’ve slipped into a comfort zone.
And that’s the biggest danger Rangers face today. But if I could ask these players one question it would be this – do you realise you could become legends and heroes to hundreds and thousands of people for the rest of your lives?
Because if that’s not enough to motivate you then you’re in the wrong game and at the wrong club.
What more motivation could anyone need? I’m climbing up the walls of my front room here just thinking about it.
Isn’t that the reason we all played football in the first place?
I know it was for me when I was a young boy dying to pull on that Rangers shirt. You grow up dreaming of what it feels like to be a winner and to be loved for it by those fans.
So if these guys really understand how much this means to the club and to the supporters then they will reach out and grab it. It’s not like back in my day when Rangers were a successful club which was used to lifting silverware. It’s been ten long years since anyone took that Premiership trophy in through those front doors and carried it up the marble staircase. A decade of suffering pain like never before.
After 10 years of winning nothing they have no right to allow complacency anywhere near that dressing room. So now is the time to get the sleeves rolled up and hammer home towards the finishing line.
Don’t think for a second that’s alright to drop the odd point here and there along the way. It’s not. Winning is all that matters now, no matter how you do it. If Celtic are slipping up then fine, that’s their problem. It’s got absolutely nothing to do with you.
Now I might be sounding a bit harsh here and maybe I am. The truth is Rangers have been exceptional all season and they haven’t been given enough credit for the standards they have set. This Rangers team would have gone toe-to-toe with the Brendan Rodgers Invincibles never mind the current Celtic side which is a pale shadow of what it was back then.
So perhaps I shouldn’t get too worried about the recent dip in form because, even when they’ve not been at their best, they’ve still been churning out win after win. But those dropped points at Fir Park should serve as a reminder that they’ve still go a job to do no matter what else is going on outside of their own four walls.
As for Celtic? Like I say, I didn’t see this collapse coming at the start of the season No-one did..
It does remind me of the Paul Le Guen season at Ibrox and the very thought of that still sends a shiver down my spine. We stumbled on from one crisis to the next back then too and, yes, it really does impact upon the players. All of a sudden your confidence disappears and your legs feel heavier out there on the pitch. Suddenly, everything that always came as second nature before starts to feel like the hardest thing in the world.
I see that in this Celtic side and I know how it feels. Neil Lennon can see it too and appears to be at his wits end because he must feel as if there’s nothing he can do to pull them out of it.
I do feel for him because the guy cares as passionately about his club as I do about mine. He’ll be suffering right now and it’s not nice to see the way his own fans have turned on him.
But he’s big enough to know how football works and he won’t be looking for any sympathy from me or anyone else on the other side of town. It’s Celtic’s problem to solve.
They’ve cracked under the pressure that Rangers have piled on top of them. And this is no time to start easing off now that the finish line is in sight. No, Rangers simply have to stay focused and keep on finding ways to win football matches. That’s what champions do.