Kenneth Ward: Clement should stop claiming wins if Rangers don’t win

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<p><figcaption class=Rangers manager Philippe Clement (Image: PA)

I strongly disagree. No, not the usual reaction of the sports editor when I present him with this column. This was instead Tony Docherty’s response to suggestions from his Rangers counterpart, Philippe Clement, that his side deserved to win their Premiership match in Dundee on Wednesday night.

For anyone other than the Belgian who watched the 0-0 draw unfold, it was difficult to dispute Docherty’s view.

The Herald: Dundee manager Tony Docherty shakes hands with Philippe Clement at full-time

The Herald: Dundee manager Tony Docherty shakes hands with Philippe Clement at full-time

Dundee manager Tony Docherty shakes hands with Philippe Clement at full-time (Image: PA)

READ MORE: Philippe Clement’s troubles resonate with Rangers fans after Dundee draw

Football managers, along with the countless other responsibilities that consume them, have the responsibility of holding the baton as conductors of the atmospheric music around their club. That’s why, following a draw against their nearest rivals in the title race on home turf earlier this month, the Belgian maestro chose to describe the point achieved as a “moral victory” after leading the supporters inside Ibrox after full-time with a rousing , fist-punching, let’s get this thing done, and then the victory lap after Rabbi Matondo’s emphatic stoppage-time leveler.

The problem for the Rangers manager is that the tie has been in decline for some time – and that draw at home to their rivals was actually a missed opportunity for his side.

Since a 2-1 home draw against Motherwell in the Premier League in early March, Rangers have fallen off a cliff with just two wins in their last eight games. The 1-0 defeat to Benfica in the second leg of the Europa League Round of 16 at Ibrox ended all the optimism generated in their group during qualifying – and failing to win the third derby of the season at home to their rivals could well be the catalyst for Celtic to achieve three-in-a-row.

The Herald: Rafa Silva scores for Benfica at IbroxThe Herald: Rafa Silva scores for Benfica at Ibrox

The Herald: Rafa Silva scores for Benfica at Ibrox

Rafa Silva scores for Benfica at Ibrox (Image: SNS)

READ MORE: Jarring Clement Monaco stat as history threatens to repeat itself at Rangers

What should concern Clement more than perceived moral injustices is the cold nature of the results themselves. He only has to look at the long list of his predecessors Ally McCoist, Mark Warburton, Pedro Caixinha, Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Michael Beale, along with a host of interim directors, who have been in the dugout on that front since 2012 .

When McCoist failed to win the final leg of ‘the journey’ back up the divisions following the club’s collapse in 2012, while Robbie Neilson’s Hearts romped to the Championship title in 2015, the runners-up found themselves in Hollywood’s position A-lister who auditioned. for the role in the Premier League play-off final against Motherwell. Again, this should have been a passing area, with Motherwell being the worst team in the country at the time. Over two legs, however, Bilel Mohsni and others managed to blow their big chance right in the faces of their long-suffering supporters to extend purgatory for another season.

This fall at the final hurdle has since become a worrying trend for the Ibrox club. When Rangers mortgaged former City banker Warburton, the Englishman – who signed current club captain James Tavernier from Wigan during his first season – galloped their return to the Premier League, pitching a bonus win in the Scottish Cup semi-final inside. Ronnie Deila’s Celtic in 2016.

Listen to the frenzied claims from Rangers fans that they were “back”, that the “joke years” were over and that the silverware would once again descend on Ibrox. Rangers obviously failed to lift the Scottish Cup in the final against Hibernian – another worrying fall in the final. But even the arrival of former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers through town couldn’t quell the impression that Rangers were coming for their old rivals.

The Herald: Celtic celebrate Moussa Dembele's goal in a derby hammering of Rangers in 2016The Herald: Celtic celebrate Moussa Dembele's goal in a derby hammering of Rangers in 2016

The Herald: Celtic celebrate Moussa Dembele’s goal in a derby hammering of Rangers in 2016

Celtic celebrate Moussa Dembele’s goal in a derby hammering of Rangers in 2016 (Image: SNS)

READ MORE: Philippe Clement insists Rangers were Dundee’s ‘boss’

Until the first 5-1. That was the result in the first Premiership derby of the season at Celtic Park in 2016, and it set the tone for Rodgers’ entire first spell in the Parkhead dugout. Four trebles in a row followed and Celtic drowned out the now noise coming from the south side of the city. Not even the fanfare of Rodgers’ former Anfield protegee Steven Gerrard, unveiled in 2018 as the hapless Caixinha’s successor, can stem the flow of silverware washing up on Celtic’s shores.

Then Covid struck. The worrying effects of the lockdowns that dominated Gerrard’s third full season appeared to unnerve Celtic. Lennon’s side capitulated as Gerrard’s Rangers romped to the 2020/21 title, and once again the feeling coming out of Ibrox was that the tide had finally turned in their favour. But it turned out to be another false dawn.

The arrival of a virtually unknown manager in Ange Postecoglou and his ‘we-never-stop’ mantra were injected back into the Parkhead club’s bloodstream intravenously and a double was delivered with minimal fuss. Gerrard had followed his old mentor Rodgers into the Premier League to take the Aston Villa job in November, and Postecoglou made mincemeat of Van Bronckhorst and then Beale in his two seasons in charge. He achieved a fifth treble in seven years before leaving for Tottenham last summer.

Van Bronckhorst had of course led the Ibrox team back to a European final in 2022. It was an incredible achievement by the former Dutch internationalist. But the Europa League final defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville was the latest stumble at the final hurdle faced by the Ibrox club.

While it may seem harsh to criticize such a narrow miss on such a lofty platform, the result of the Dutchman’s disappointing start to the following campaign ultimately cost him his job. That demonstrated how insignificant his relative success was in the eyes of the Ibrox support as their arch-rivals continued to lift domestic silverware around them left, right and centre.

The Herald: Giovannie van Bronckhorst came painfully close to Europa League gloryThe Herald: Giovannie van Bronckhorst came painfully close to Europa League glory

The Herald: Giovannie van Bronckhorst came painfully close to Europa League glory

Giovannie van Bronckhorst came painfully close to the Europa League victory (Image: SNS)

READ MORE: Tony Docherty applauds Dundee for going ‘toe to toe’ with Rangers

Similarly, his replacement Beale, who many credited for Gerrard’s 2021 title success as the England legend’s number 2 that season, suffered the consequences of a disappointing start to his first full season in charge despite stringed together a series of positive results. taking over from Van Bronckhorst halfway through the previous campaign. And that now brings us back to Clement. Doesn’t it sound vaguely familiar?

While the mood around the Ibrox club has remained generally optimistic since Clement’s arrival, with winning the Viaplay Cup in December bringing some much-sought-after trophy success, Celtic have kept pace this season despite Rodgers ‘ own stumbling blocks along the way – not least in the area of ​​the Ibrox club. first hurdle in that competition. The difference with Celtic, and Rodgers in particular, is that, barring the Covid-induced catastrophe under Lennon in 2020/21, they have gone the distance and consistently come out on top.

This is why victory proclamations after not winning won’t stand out for Clement at Rangers. Not only does this risk damaging his credibility overall, Ibrox’s support is in no shape to suffer from the failure to win lightly. Make no mistake: this opportunity was there for Clement and Rangers – and their supporters know it.

Should Rangers fail to catch their rivals down the stretch, which seems almost inevitable now that they are three points behind with just five games remaining, including a visit to Celtic Park next month, the Rangers manager should be most concerned about his first appearance. The entire campaign in charge is that for those of us who have followed the club’s fortunes closely over the past decade, the failure of Tavernier & Co will have come as no real surprise.

No, they will not be the moral victors, nor will they have deserved to win if Celtic were to clinch the title. It is now up to the Belgian to find out where this recurring failure comes from and solve it – if not this season, then very soon afterwards. If he doesn’t, he will join a long list of his predecessors.

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