Glasgow's 'New Firm' derby yields grisly spectacle with a grim moral to it
View From The Sofa: Clyde v Rangers, Sky Sports 4
Long ago, back when Ally McCoist was a cheeky contestant on a weekly sports quiz show and the world had not heard of Craig Whyte, let alone his inability to run a football club within its means, there probably was no need for Sky Sports 4.
Back in days of yore, football fans would have been happy with, for example, yesterday's showing of the Merseyside derby or Chelsea v Manchester United for their Sunday afternoon fix. And if you supported a top-flight club with a large fan base, if your team wasn't on TV one week, it wouldn't be long before it would be showcased.
But that was before Rangers' spectacular implosion and plummet down to the Scottish Third Division. But just because the club had fallen down a metaphorical mineshaft, it didn't mean the hundreds of thousands of fans were happy to peer over the edge of the hole and shout down to see if they were OK. A good proportion leapt down with the Glasgow club, along with McCoist. And yesterday, they got a chance to show the world the new incarnation of the Glasgow derby. Against Clyde, whose last eight fixtures against Rangers had been as cannon-fodder in cup games.
And here was the problem. Rangers looked just like Rangers at first glance – they were clad in blue and Dean Shiels' goal which helped them towards their first away win in their new league was a peach – but, even with the slick Sky production, it had the air of a first-round FA Cup game, in terms of quality on the pitch and in the studio at half-time.
The on-field skill level was typified both by the Clyde forward Stefan McCluskey's skewed shot that should have been an easy equaliser just before half-time and the clumsy scuffle which led to John Neill's red card. And the half-time punditry was similarly elementary. It only took two minutes for Neil McCann, a former player at Ibrox turned pundit, to utter the phrase "at any level of football, that is poor" – as if we had forgotten that Rangers were now slumming it – when speaking about his old club.
It was frustrating to watch. This was not a battle between two plucky underdogs eager for a big club in their next tie – something that makes the lowest-ranked teams watchable in a cup match – this was two sides scrapping for survival. But the likes of Whyte, Peter Ridsdale or any other chairman who has aspirations to spend money they don't have in order to live the dream should be forced to watch a game like this. So when the bean counters try to count beans that don't exist and set forth the chain of dominoes that can bring a club to its knees, they know what will ensue. But they should also remember the fall of a club doesn't mean the support will also vaporise. They will still demand to see their club. And that is why we now need channels like Sky Sports 4.
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