With a kick up the backside and a punch in the face, Rangers’ and Scotland’s domestic season came to an ugly close at a roused Fir Park.
The bigger picture – in which Rangers were beaten 6-1 on aggregate by Motherwell in this Scottish Premiership play-off, and so will spend a second successive season in Scotland’s second tier – was shoved aside by a scrap that ended with three red cards shown after the final whistle and four police horses on the pitch.
Rangers substitute Bilel “Billy” Mohsni was at the centre of some shocking action when the whistle blew on Motherwell’s 3-0 win.
After initially refusing to shake hands with Well’s Lee Erwin, when Erwin reacted with a push, Mohsni kicked the home striker and then swung a left hook that left Erwin nursing a cut below his mouth when he spoke soon after.
Erwin called Mohsni “an embarrassment to his club”. The authorities may use stronger words.
It emerged that Mohsni, Erwin and Motherwell sub Fraser Kerr who joined the mêlée quickly, were subsequently shown red cards by referee Craig Thomson.
It was an unseemly climax, though it could have been worse. Had hundreds of Rangers fans not begun departing when Motherwell went 2-0 ahead on 70 minutes, the pitch invasion and provocation by home supporters after the whistle could have led to crowd trouble.
It left an easy symbolism to fit on to Rangers’ season: a squabble to end a mess. It has been 10 months of boardroom battling, with manager Ally McCoist in and out and a team struggling to justify its status as favourites in a division including Hearts and Hibernian.
Following that dramatic, historic demotion to the Scottish Third Division three years ago, the assumption was that the Ibrox juggernaut would hurtle to three straight promotions and be back in contention for the title and Europe in May 2016. But that will have to be put back a year at least.
Rangers’ temporary manager Stuart McCall, who began the season with Motherwell, talked of the club being an “exciting prospect”, but this comprehensive defeat over two legs against opponents who were fresher and faster will dent Rangers economically once again. McCall spoke of “two lists” in terms of summer recruitment. It will now be List B.
McCall does not know his fate, and there are 10 players out of contract – Mohsni among them; Rangers again look like a rebuilding job.
In front of their biggest attendance of the season – as Rangers fans will note – there was a glee to Motherwell’s celebrations that took in mockery of the former Glasgow giants. That will be replicated in other areas of Scotland, where Rangers still divide, if no longer rule.
Their absence from the top flight has facilitated a predictable league domination by Celtic, but elsewhere, as Saturday at Hampden Park showed, there has been a sprouting of variety – Inverness Caledonian Thistle took the first-ever major trophy back to the Highlands, the Scottish Cup.
But that is the bigger picture and as the Motherwell manager, Ian Baraclough, said: “If the back pages are full of two or three players brawling, that’s the wrong message from Scottish football.” Unfortunately for Baraclough, goals from Marvin Johnson, Lionel Ainsworth and John Sutton, will be inside.
Later, Mohsni carried on his spat with some Motherwell fans in the car park. On and on it goes.
Motherwell (4-1-4-1): Long; J Law, Laing, McManus, Hammell; Lasley; Ainsworth (Sutton, 75) Pearson (Grant, 73) McDonald, Johnson (Ramsden, 84); Erwin. Substitutes not used Twardzik, Kerr, Moore, Watt.
Rangers (4-4-2): Bell; Foster, McCulloch, Zaliukas (Mohsni, 70) Wallace; Vuckic, N Law, Murdoch, Ferguson (Walsh, 55); Boyd (Clark, 60) Miller. Substitutes not used Smith, Crawford, Shiels, Simonsen.
Referee C Thomson.Reuse content