Outside the Box: Rangers are undone by the naked ambition of Stirling

 

It is unlikely that any team in any country were shorter odds to win their league this season than Rangers, who after being demoted to Scottish Division Three were generally offered at 1-25 or 1-33.

Those who invested big money may be a little nervous to see them sitting only third in the table, but a bigger impact would be felt in the many multiple bets covering different divisions, in which virtually everyone picked the 54-time Scottish champions to win their league.

"Despite their mixed start, we still see them as the class acts in the division and they remain 25-1 on to win," one bookies' spokesman said. "Over the course of the season, despite a few funny results, we just can't see them getting beaten."

One of those "funny" results occurred last weekend with a first defeat since 1953 by Stirling Albion to add to the failures to win away to Peterhead, Berwick and Annan. Not only did Rangers lose to a part-time side that had been beaten in each of their five previous matches – and who had to replace an injured goalkeeper at half-time – but Stirling were also without their manager, Greig McDonald, who was getting married, leaving assistant Shaun Fagan to hold the fort. Most embarrassing of all, perhaps, was the revelation that the game's outstanding performer, Stirling's Kieran McAnespie (a 13-club veteran with spells at Fulham, Bournemouth and Plymouth on his CV), once gave up the game after being freed by Morton in 2009 and became a cameraman for TV porn channel Babestation.

The 33-year-old said after the win over Rangers that he "hated football for a while" but had been tempted back into junior football and returned to the Scottish League with Arbroath before joining Stirling this summer. Last Saturday McAnespie made the winning goal for Brian Allison.

Pope's prayers answered

A Pope at Rangers might not seem the best fit, but perhaps the club should consider their options.

Tom Pope, 27, is a striker who has never before scored more than 10 goals in a season. But he has already managed 12 for Port Vale in this campaign, becoming the fastest to double figures for the club since 1933.

Pope bagged four in a 6-2 win over Rotherham, scoring as many goals in just over an hour as he did in his 53 matches for the Yorkshire club. Vale's manager, Micky Adams, has put the improvement down to Pope getting fitter over the summer and not indulging quite so often in his liking for a pint. But despite Pope's goals having lifted Vale into the top three of League Two, the club made only £16 when they were listed "for sale" on eBay last week by a disenchanted fan – or was it a Stoke supporter?

Dark days for Kettering

Having run out of players as well as money, Kettering Town are in serious danger of going under after 140 years.

 Last weekend they could only turn out 10 men for a 7-0 defeat by Bashley in the Southern League Premier Division and the midweek game against Leamington had to be postponed as they couldn't even raise that many. Yesterday's game at home to Bideford was also postponed after the electricity supply was cut off at the Nene Park ground.

Once national trendsetters under Derek Dougan as the first club to have shirt sponsors, Kettering have endured a wildly fluctuating few years since being taken over by Imraan Ladak in 2005. Appointing Paul Gascoigne as manager did not look like a move towards long-term stability – Gazza lasted 39 days.

Since then Kettering won the Conference North and performed well against Fulham and Leeds in the FA Cup but more recently their chairman, George Rolls, was suspended for breaching FA regulations on betting.

s.tongue@independent.co.uk; twitter.com/@stevetongue

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