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THE 16/17 SCOTTISH AWAYDAY: RANGERS

May 17, 2017

A cool breeze blew across the platform, as it bathed in the early morning sun. A quick glance into the wallet again. 4 sets of train tickets, and 4 Rangers vs Hearts match tickets.

The chaps were off to Ibrox.

Sam, Mick, and Mighty were joining me for the 4th Scottish Awayday, and yes I must admit to a sense of apprehension about entering the home end of Ibrox what with me being a Roman Catholic.

But hey, the Scottish Awayday doesn’t stand for any religious prejudice! Besides, I can run fast.

The 6.19 Virgin Voyager soon came into view to take us to New Street, before boarding the 7.15 service to Glasgow Central.

Mighty then presented to us the contents of his clinking carrier bag: the familiar black and white cans of Carling that we know and love so much; and some silver cans of something, emblazoned in foreign writing, with a picture of a bumble bee, with a big unmistakable “6%” sign.

I surveyed the cans with caution.

“Where these from Mighty?”

“The shop up the road mate.”

“I meant what country!”

They were from Poland. They were also “fucking shit” in the words of Micky.

Being the refined, sophisticated bunch we are, the beautiful scenery was thoroughly enjoyed, despite the weather turning grimmer as we edged toward Scotland.

The River Clyde was in view as the train rolled into Central.

Time to tackle the “Clockwork Orange” and get ourselves to Ibrox.

A short walk down from Union Street in the pissing down rain saw us at St Enoch, awaiting the Inner Circle service on the “Clockwork Orange”, Glasgow’s small circular subway system, which is orange.

There was, obviously, a lot of Rangers fans also stood waiting, which meant that once the subway arrived it was, obviously, absolutely fucking rammed.

I hate rammed public transport. I hate rammed places.

Wedged into the side of the subway with my head tilted against the roof and my arse tilted up against the door, the subway scuttled off under the River Clyde.

The windows dripped with condensation, “how far is it” asked the lady next to me as we reached Cessnock, “the next stop” I replied, glad I had made her day. I hope she meant Ibrox.

We climbed the steps back into daylight. Music drifted through the air from the Louden Tavern. Men stood arms aloft, clutching unwanted match tickets for sale.

“Welcome to Ibrox Stadium” said the massive wall art between the Sandy Jardine and Copeland Road Stands.

IMG_6679Following Jack & Victor from Still Game towards the stadium.

Gazza, Michael Laudrop, and super Ally looked down on us as we walked by, Rangers greats that contributed immensely to their 9-in-a-row title winning spell into the mid 90’s.

My Mum worked with Ally McCoist’s sister when he was starting out at Kilmarnock. Yeah, I’ll use that one if any Rangers fans cotton onto my Celtic roots…

A match programme was purchased in front of the imposing Bill Struth Main Stand, before we walked past the famous blue gates and into the ground, up the grand old glass fronted staircase, right upto the Club Deck stand, well out of the way of the pissing down rain.

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Sam and Mighty were chuffed as “Simply the Best” started over the tannoy, followed by “Penny Arcade” from the legend Roy Orbison.

We were 2nd row from the back of this massive stand, so despite the players looking far away it was a great view of the action.

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I took in the surroundings. This was some place. I became conscious we seemed the only group not wearing any Rangers merchandise, or orange, or anything with a Unionist emblem. Partisan indeed.

Behind us sat 3 women, broad Glasgow accent’s whose quick wit and vicious tongues had us stifling laughter all game.

Rangers started brightly, on the front foot, getting into challenges, beating a passive-looking Hearts into the 50/50’s.

Some quick slick passes and Rangers were off, Tavernier striding upfield before feeding the ball to Kenny Miller on the right who delivered a beautifully inviting cross into the path of Joe Swash I mean Garner, who headed into the corner, and then took a whack on the head by a Hearts defender, meaning he celebrated his goal sprawled on the floor clutching his head, in the pissing down rain.

The game restarted and Rangers set about Hearts again, hungry for more.

However when Hearts forwards Isma Goncalves and Bjørn Johnsen saw the ball, Isma particulary causing unease in the Rangers defence with his languid, almost effortless style, you sensed Hearts still had something to say about proceedings.

Alas, Josh Windass is through, Prince Bauben pulls him back, foul, red card to Buaben, the game is here for Rangers to take… but it wasn’t as straightforward as that.

If anything, Hearts improved. Their early match lethargy was replaced with a renewed enthusiasm, as the tackles crunched and the Rangers support started to lose heart.

“Ya fucking dirty prick!” growled scary lady #1 after a particularly hearty Hearts challenge, with a voice so vicious you immediately knew her husband was at home doing the ironing.

With each passing minute the discontent from the home stands grew louder, Rangers ending the half looking a lot less assured. It was going to be an interesting second half.

IMG_6687Looking out to the Sandy Jardine stand, Hearts fans in the left corner

A lone seagull squawked its displeasure as another mis-placed pass rolled out of play.

Hearts equalise. They shouldn’t have, not from that situation, a Rangers corner, but they broke quickly; Johnsen withheld Holt’s challenge, advanced into the box, squared to that man Isma, who shot in decisively, before wheeling away in the yellow/pink Party Ring away strip toward the delirious away support.

The venom from the home stands when that goal went in. The anger, the disgust.

The heat was on Rangers. Kenny Miller and Clint Hill, the standout players despite their senior years, took responsibility whilst others shirked; shrinking violets treating the ball like a hot potato.

Josh Windass was substituted.

“He’s longer hair than the women on ma street. He’s got bigger titties too!” stated scary lady #2.

Now was the time for Hearts to hold firm and frustrate the home fans more. It definitely wasn’t the time for their ‘keeper to make a complete balls up of a cross and gift the home team an equaliser, oh no, but Viktor Noring was in generous mood and Barrie Mckay lashed home gleefully.

2-1 Rangers.

But Hearts still threatened, playing 3-4-2 and making the home support even angrier, “I’ll drag they useless bastards off the pitch by their hair!” shouted scary lady #3 (least you’ll be safe Kenny Miller).

Hearts were impressing me. Manager Ian Cathro is just 30 (younger than me!) and hasn’t had it easy in his first managerial spell, but I was appreciating and enjoying how he’d set Hearts up to still “have a go” despite being down to 10-men.

Rangers needed more leaders out there on the park, a cliché maybe, but it was clear. There is big pressure and expectation at this club, the crowd was 47,809 – how many games in England top that on a weekend? Pedro Caixinha’s new signings will need broad shoulders and strong resilience to deal with the demands of playing at Ibrox.

Hark at me sounding like I know what I’m on about.

The match was yet to finish but it was time to leave, to take the longer walk upto Cessnock Subway station, (in the pissing down rain), hopefully avoiding the crowds.

Back in the city centre we head to the Royal Scot on Union Street to enjoy a couple rounds of Tennants, yours truly getting the first round in and raising a toast to the Scottish Awayday. Soon after, it’s a quick walk up the road to the iconic Horseshoe Bar, battling for a pew amongst the hordes of Rangers fans.

Time passes quick, too quick, as we chat football, share funny stories, and laugh like a bunch of mates having a top day out. After a final round of Captain Morgan’s and a red aftershock which was delightfully minging, it was time to head back to Central station for the 18.00 train home, via the shop for tinnies off course.

With the early start I thought we’d all flake out on the journey home but we remained resilient to the end, arriving back into Burton at 22.45.

What another great Scottish Awayday.

Glasgow, you’d been an experience and an education.

IMG_6686No it’s not an ice rink – at Central before the train home

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