Rangers 4 Gretna 2: Rangers inflict fresh curse on Gretna fairy tale

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The Independent Online

What is the point of Gretna? Aside, that is, from being lambs to the slaughter for most of the SPL, including yesterday at Ibrox where Daniel Cousin opened this stroll of a win (the scoreline is deceptive) to keep Rangers four points clear at the top of the table.

The question is being asked with increasing frequency in Scottish football, prompted by the latest serious illness to beset the club's eccentric owner, Brooks Mileson, more of which later.

Rangers dominated yesterday in a match that rarely got above training-session standard. Cousin, still waiting for a Fifa green light to move to Fulham, opened the scoring, rounding Gregg Fleming in Gretna's goal after a pass from Barry Ferguson.

Steven Naismith hooked in the second from Ferguson's corner. Chris Burke lashed a loose ball home for 3-0. Kenny Deuchar, the only man in 2008 to score against Rangers in the SPL (he got one in January), nodded in a corner for 3-1. Kris Boyd extended Rangers' lead then Deuchar got a second from another corner.

"I'm delighted we've won but a bit frustrated with our use of the ball at times," said the Rangers' manager, Walter Smith, who celebrated his 60th birthday yesterday. "There was also some slackness in conceding the goals. But after the exertions of Thursday [winning in Athens in the Uefa Cup] I'm just glad to win."

So Rangers march on, still in contention for four trophies, and Gretna's woes continue. When Mileson was in hospital last week, suffering from a brain infection, none of his players or staff were paid, because he alone signs the weekly wage cheques, which total some £30,000.

To make matters worse, his then manager, Davie Irons, decided to jump the sinking ship (Gretna are bottom by a mile and relegation is inevitable) and take charge at Morton of the First Division. Further clouds gathered as Gretna said they cannot rule out administration at some stage.

Cue a firestorm of indignation that little Gretna should never be in the top flight in the first place. One argument is that they have few fans, so bring nothing to the party. Every other SPL club loses money while they are in the division, because they take the place, for example, of a well-supported Dundee or Dunfermline.

Another beef is that they are ground-sharing with Motherwell because their own Raydale Park is too small and shabby to make the SPL grade. Some even argue Gretna never intended to build the 6,000-seat home the SPL requires, and actually want to go back down to the SFL so as not to bother. As Mileson himself might say: "What an absolute load of crap."

There have been many "points" to Gretna these past few years, first but not foremost of which is that they have entertained a wider sporting public with their rise from nowhere to the SPL with three successive promotions, plus a Scottish Cup final in 2006, lost only on penalties, and through characters like Deuchar – a qualified doctor, currently on a career break playing professional football.

Gretna's rise up the leagues embodies the very point of a pyramid system on which a million dreams are built every season at every level.

Mileson is a maverick and philanthropist. He broke his back as kid, lost a kidney, has ME, but smokes 60 a day, had three major bowel operations last year, and keeps llamas, monkeys and exotic frogs among other creatures in a private menagerie.

He also loves football. Clubs and non-league causes on both sides of the border have benefited from his charity.

So why should not spend a few million a year on Gretna from a fortune estimated at £75m at one stage? Albeit at a greatly diminished level, Gretna are Chelsea. And if for nothing else, Gretna deserve some thanks for what is rapidly becoming a cautionary story.

Football ultimately cannot sustain fairy tales, just as a village, which is what Gretna really is, cannot sustain a top-flight club. They will find their (lesser) level, or fold. They may be back, or not. Few can predict what will happen, which is the point of Gretna, and football.

Goals: Cousin (13) 1-0; Naismith (22) 2-0; Burke (60) 3-0; Deuchar (71) 3-1; Boyd (88) 4-1; Deuchar (89) 4-2.

Rangers (4-4-2): McGregor; Broadfoot, Cuellar, Weir, Whittaker; Burke, Ferguson, Davis, Naismith; Darcheville (Novo, 61), Cousin (Boyd, 61). Substitutes not used: Alexander (gk), Dailly, Faye, Furman, Fleck.

Gretna (4-4-1-1): Fleming; Barr, Hall, Meynell, Naughton; McGill, Murray (Wilkinson, 70), Skelton, Deverdics (Baldacchino, 78); Kissock (Buscher, 70); Deuchar. Substitutes not used: Krysiak (gk), Makinwa, Eklund, Griffiths.

Referee: C Murray (Scotland).

Man of the match: Davis.

Attendance: 48,375.

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