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No complaints from Smith as Rangers avoid second trip to Pittodrie

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Despite being on the verge of retaining the SPL title there is a distinct lack of dignity in the public comments from Rangers manager Walter Smith.
Since the end of February the destination of this season’s championship has been almost a formality with no real challenge coming from a Celtic team whose caretaker manager described his side as ‘having gone out every competition with an absolute whimper’ this season.
Smith has made more than a few references to the troubled financial times that Rangers find themselves in, with the end of the season looming the club appear to be no closer to finding a buyer to take over from Sir David Murray.
Securing the future of the club in uncertain financial times would be worrying enough for most managers but bizarrely Smith has chosen to find fault with the SPL who have been more than helpful to his club on a number of occasions.
After beating Hearts today Smith said: “The whole thing about the split is impossible to do. When the human element comes in, there has to be a question as to why Rangers have to do it so many times and Celtic have not.
“Other clubs are having to do it so many times and Celtic haven’t and they are the ones who were doing the complaining. That’s all I was bringing up.”
Rangers will have to play Dundee United away three times this season to make up for only going to Aberdeen once- there is no possible solution to that issue with the split in place.
Since replacing Paul le Guen as Rangers manager Smith has yet to win at Pittodrie in the SPL.
Celtic have been to Aberdeen twice this season but seem content to accept that as inevitable under the current set up.
Smith added: “The thing that annoyed me about the three games away from home this year is, the season we had the UEFA Cup final, we were told that nobody would be asked to play three games at home or away. Now they have given us three when it suits them.
“I can’t understand that point of view. Somebody, somewhere, is actually making the conscious decision to do that, forgetting that they had told us the opposite.”
The reason that Rangers have three away fixtures on the bounce was to allow the maximum number of Rangers fans to see their side win the title and the trophy presentation.
With the title almost in the bag the SPL anticipated Rangers clinching the title today against Hearts then bringing the curtain down on the season with the trophy presentation on the final day against Motherwell with both fixtures at Ibrox.
Rangers draw with Dundee United prevented that from becoming reality with the title likely to be completed next weekend.
The only reason that Rangers had three consecutive away games after the split in season 2007/08 was because they had been unable to schedule in a trip to Love Street to play bottom-six St Mirren in the previous six months.
The events of season 2007/2008 seem to be causing Smith particular concern despite the season being extended to assist Rangers bid to win an unprecedented quadruple as well as the postponement of a fixture to give Rangers extra time to prepare for a Champions League tie which they lost 3-0 at home to Lyon.
It’s convenient to gloss over facts with the passage of time but some issues require being brought to light before they become distorted even further.
While Rangers were picking and choosing their fixtures through December Celtic played SEVEN SPL matches including a game away to Hearts which was played in a seven day spell that included Champions League ties against Shakhtar Donetsk and AC Milan.
Celtic became the only Scottish side to play two Champions League games in a week.
As well as sticking to their schedule of fixtures Celtic used a free midweek date, December 11, to play a postponed game with Falkirk.
That game had been postponed to help Scotland’s prepartions for the EURO 2008 match with Italy, Rangers were due to play St Mirren in the same round of fixtures but never got around to playing that match until May 15- after the split when St Mirren had nothing to play for.
That fixture is the only time that a pre-split fixture has been played after the split.
While Celtic got on with their demanding schedule, recognising it as the price of success, Rangers requested the postponement of their game with Gretna on December 8 to give them extra time to prepare for their Champions League qualifier with Lyon.
Having won 3-0 in France Rangers required a draw at home to progress with Celtic into the knock-out stages but lost 3-0 to move into the UEFA Cup.
During December when Celtic played seven SPL matches Rangers played five games dropping just two points against the nine dropped by Celtic.
In hindsight Celtic would probably have been wiser to ask for a postponement of their match at Hearts but there is always a feeling that asking for postponements is flagging up concerns over a particular fixture.
By the turn of the year Rangers were two fix
tures behind Celtic something which in normal circumstances could easily be made up but Rangers season took on an incredible turn as they reached the final of three cup competitions requiring replays in two rounds of the Scottish Cup.
In contrast Celtic’s European interest ended in the Nou Camp in February with defeat to Barcelona before being knocked out of the Scottish Cup by Aberdeen at the quarter final stage.
Game by game the decisions made in December that saw Rangers play two games less began to get problematic for the SPL with any spare dates being used up by Rangers European run and Scottish Cup replay requirements.
Reluctantly, and at the expense of the other clubs in the top six the season SPL season was extended by five days to accommodate Rangers fixture congestion meaning that Celtic and others had to wait 11 days between their final two matches.
Despite this extension there were further soundings made about extending the season even further with suggestions that the Scottish Cup final between Rangers and Queen of the South could be put back into midweek to extend the SPL season by a further two days.
Queen of the South were far from happy with this with four weeks already separating the end of their SFL campaign with their cup final appearance.
With other clubs indicating that they wouldn’t accept a further extension the final SPL fixtures got underway.
Rangers had to play three matches away from home as well as the outstanding St Mirren fixture.
Being as diplomatic as possible the SPL gave Rangers a run of away, home, home, away, away fixtures after the split with the St Mirren game played between the two final post-split fixtures.
These decisions clearly still annoy Smith, the problem could have been avoided if Rangers had played a similar schedule to Celtic through December.
By concentrating on European fixtures Rangers fell two matches behind with the SPL deciding to extend the season to ensure that all of the top six clubs finished their campaign on the same day.
Smith is clearly feeling the pressure of events at Ibrox and will no doubt celebrate his side’s title success passionately.
Dragging up issues from two seasons ago when the SPL went out of their way to assist Rangers is poor judgement.
Since the split was introduced the SPL has given Celtic and Rangers 19 home and away fixtures with the derby matches evenly split.
The split will always create an imbalance of fixtures but is there any real difference between three away games against Dundee United and one with Aberdeen and two away games at each club?
Every single season there will be some imbalance thrown up by the split but after watching the Motherwell against Dundee United match today the only clubs with grounds for complaints are United and Hibs- any league looking for respect should have moved fixtures away from Fir Park with the ‘playing surface’ beyond a joke and a disgrace to Scottish football shown worldwide thanks to ESPN.

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2 comments
  • Anonymous says:

    Typical celtc. Only they're allowed to complain when they perceive unfairness.

    The fact is, if Celtc had been in Rangers position and had that kind of imbalance for the last 10 years they'd be screaming for the UN, EU, US and anyone else who would listen to their delusions of victim hood.

    The facts clearly show Rangers are the club who are serially victimised by the post split fixtures and Smith is well within his rights to point this out especially after Celtc had a moan last season (when they were getting beaten in the league).

    At least Rangers don't try to make the issue look like an excuse for their failings, unlike celtc who will deflect all blame away from their own door, refs, masons, SPL, SFA, linesmen, conspiracies etc.

  • Joe McHugh says:

    Thanks for your comments anon, it's good to see a balanced reply as your team prepares for another attempt at the Champions League.

    Feel free to highlight the ten fixtures that have put Rangers at a disadvantage, I suspect this would have been highlighted long before today.

    Every time that Rangers or any other team has gone to play a third away game at one club it is because they only played once away to someone else.

    Celtic and Rangers have played 19 home and 19 away games each season since the split was introduced including each hosting two derby matches.

    The rest of the fixtures are much of a muchness: is three trips to Dundee United and one to Aberdeen much different from two trips to each ground?

    Over 38 games the Celtic and Rangers fixtures are as close as possible to being the same.

    This season's home/away rota was to let as many Rangers fans as possible see the likely title clinching match and conclude the season with the SPL trophy presentation.

    If Smith wants to highlight differences why doesn't he go all the way and explain the number of times Rangers went to Tynecastle last season and Pittodrie this season?

    If you could provide a link to the sort of complaints that you claim Celtic have made I'd love to have a look, as far as I know Celtic have asked for guidance on cases that get brought to the attention of the SFA Review Panel and asked for change to the Appeal Procedure to take the match day referee out of deciding again on his own decision.

    The second point has been backed up by the SPFA as well as the Chief Executives of the SFA and SPL which suggests that there is backing for change.

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