We’ve grown used to some pretty amateurish nonsense since dropping down to the National League. In many ways it’s cowboy country: a lack of regulation brings certain freedoms, but much more gallingly, scope for clubs to go rogue and show no consideration for fans or opponents. How odd that it’s happening again to us, but this time it’s a Champions League club that’s the culprit.
Why won’t Rangers tell us where and when we’re playing them? Even the most disorganised of fifth tier sides tends to at least manage that: and let’s not forget, the game is scheduled to be played in 12 days time! Even sides in La Liga, which is notorious for announcing fixtures as late as possible, know when they’re playing by now!
They’re treating us like we’ll just bundle our young players into a minibus and pop over to play when it’s convenient to them
From Rangers’ perspective, the issue is whether to play at Ibrox or not. Clearly there are those within the club who want to reward their youngsters with the opportunity to play at such a magnificent stadium, giving them a taste of what they could achieve. However, the game takes place during an international break, and ten of their youth squad have been called up by their countries. With Ibrox seemingly not available for any realistic midweek date, it’s a straight choice on the face of it: give the youngsters a chance to play at Ibrox, or field a stronger side in midweek.
The issue is complicated by the success of the Colts though. Their progress through the competition has been impressive, and they took 500 fans to Solihull. The anticipated level of interest among Rangers fans, especially when there’s no first team game to demand their attention, means a good crowd is likely if it’s played on the Saturday, and the usual youth team venue would probably be inadequate no matter when the game is played.
So it seems like the sensible thing to do all round is to play at Ibrox. Some youth players will miss out, but they’ll still give a full complement of their academy products an opportunity to gain valuable experience in front of a real crowd. They’ll avoid any health and safety issues created by playing at a smaller venue, and give their loyal fans a chance to enjoy a glimpse of their future and the good work of the youth coaching staff. Yet there seems to be no rush from the Rangers hierarchy to get together and make the call.
I assume it’s because we’re playing their youth team, so they’re not treating it like a real game. That would be remarkably disrespectful to us, but its also the explanation that probably casts them in the best light. They’re treating us like we’ll just bundle our young players into a minibus and pop over to play when it’s convenient to them: in actual fact, quite apart from the logistics of organising the journey for our squad, if it’s played on the Saturday, there’s likely to be a substantial number of travelling reds taking advantage of the opportunity to see us play north of the border against proper football royalty.
It’s ludicrous, of course, and completely unacceptable that we still don’t know whether, a week on Saturday, we’ll be heading north 252 miles or south 213 miles. We’re not the only victims, of course. Eastleigh have no idea if they have to prepare for a home match on that Saturday, or if they have the day off.
It all reflects extremely poorly on the SPFL, of course. It’s their competition, they’ve dragged the likes of us and Solihull Moors into it, and now they can’t even make one of the sides in the last eight say when or where the game will take place.
Even the National League would be embarrassed by that!