A dish best served... at five-ish: Hibernian v Rangers

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My favourite revenge scene in any movie is the execution that triggers, literally, the denouement of Michael Mann’s peerless heist epic Heat. It’s not how Robert De Niro’s Neil McCauley finds Kevin Gage’s Waingro, hiding in a hotel room. It’s not that he kills him with two close-range handgun shots to the chest and one to the head. It’s that, as the thoroughly evil Waingro sits on a sofa in his bath robe, staring morosely at the floor, McCauley makes him face what’s happening to him. No. Sorry. Scrub that. He makes Waingro face who is happening to him.

Gun pointed at his sitting target, McCauley demands “look at me.”

Waingro sniffles and blubbers, terrified to look up.

McCauley growls. “Look at me.”

Waingro slowly raises his head just as everything falls out his arse and his lights are switched off.

That, McCauley thinks, will teach him to wear a fu**ing Craig Whyte mask to a Scottish Cup tie (or something similar – I haven’t memorised the lines).

Last time Dundee United were at Ibrox they brought the biggest support they’ve ever had in our place, split evenly as a neutral venue, and it was one of those few times I’ve seen Rangers play above themselves domestically, post-Souness, and lose.

No. Sorry. Scrub that.

As of 5pm last Saturday, the last time Dundee United played at Ibrox there were no fans of either club present, locked out because of Covid-19, and the 4-0 doing they escaped with flattered them almost as much as the gloating attention we as a support granted their relegation from the top flight - at Dens Park by Dundee (sat helpless on your sofa in your bathrobe) - and their subsequent promotion play-off failures against Hamilton, Livingston and, on penalties, St Mirren (two to the chest; one to the skull) over four of the last five years.

Four goals, but it should have been five-nil. Four injuries, but it should have been five-nil. Ryan Kent maintains his goal-every-second-game ratio of this season and Tav, in the armband, maintains his goal-every-five-games ratio in the 250th appearance of his five year Rangers career, and it’s all over by half-time. Kemar Roofe brilliantly poaches a Scotty Arfield drive and then Scotty needs no poachers as he finishes off a sublime team drive: Goldson picking, Ryan twisting and flicking, Hagi slicking his way down whatever avenue hurts them most, again; what a counter-attack – what a goal - Four-nil:

Look at me.

Look. At. Me.

A regal Stevie G, a studious Neil McCann, a freezing Emma Dodds and the world’s only balding, retired 12-year-old, Alan Hutton, can estimate all they like, on a Tyldesley-less Rangers TV, how many more we should have scored on Saturday. I can confirm we were just one shy. It might be a dish best served cold but by the time Rangers get round to serving up some revenge, it’s usually freezing and it’s usually by five clear goals.

It was nice winning 3-0 at Pittodrie under Pedro. But we were under the cosh for most of that game and it amounted to little more than paying off some of the interest still being accumulated.

The 5-0 we did them by at Ibrox last September felt like the moment we put the sheepish types back in their pen for putting us out both cups, simply by being organised, and the concomitant McInnes embarrassment. That five-goal trouncing began taking chunks out the prinicipal sum they’re owed. That was young Vito Corleone/Andolini, carving up his parents’ murderer, Don Ciccio, in Godfather II.

Hearts continue to give us problems at Tynecastle. But by the time they put us out the Scottish Cup this February, their annoyances were already heading inexorably back to “crumbs from the master’s table” category. We’d just progressed to the last 16 of the Europa League and, after beating them in all four league fixtures in Gerrard’s first season, at Ibrox last December the maroon buffoons got done 5-0.

In that game it was almost like the Hearts died but Rangers did far more than survive. Wouldn’t you agree, my ingrate Jambo friends whose team we applauded round the Parkhead pitch after they left us trophy-less in 1997-98 and whose club we kept alive for decades by packing their death trap open terracing off Gorgie Road?

That was Heat again; McCauley executing Roger van Zant for trying to kill him and his crew when all they wanted to do was sell him back his bearer bonds to everyone’s profit.

And, of course, this very midweek, we avenged the most embarrassing European result in the history of our fellow Glasgow giants. We didn’t just beat Lincoln Red Imps for the sake of making it through to next week’s qualifier versus Willem II. No. We did it for the collective pride of the SPFL, we did it for the reputation of Scottish football and – most of all – we did it to provide some peace and comfort to our separated brethren across our beloved city. And, of course, we did it by five clear goals (although the fifth goal was pretty unclear and the fourth was a complete mystery – I watched it on Premier Sports).

By the end of Taxi Driver, the world thinks Travis Bickle’s an avenging angel but, really, he just hated everyone in his immediate vicinity and wanted to shoot stuff up.

I doubt this will be the season we beat Celtic by five clear goals in a game. We’ll do that as a celebration of our newly redoubled confidence after we’re league champions. They – the only side I have ever seen score five at Ibrox or see, on live telly as it was, beat us by five in a domestic game - will be getting theirs soon enough.

However, in fairness, that 2016 Scottish Cup semi makes us the last side to have beaten Celtic in any domestic competition; last season’s Europa League makes us the last Scottish side to have gone past them in any competition and, since we’ve arrived back in the top flight, Rangers stopped their 22-game winning run of 2016-17 - becoming the first Scottish side to take league points from them at Parkhead that season - and last December became the first Scottish side in over five years to beat them in a meaningful league home game.

And, tell me now, how does it feel? Now that the Arabs of Tannadice have been given that first-person pasting we craved so bad for so long, do you feel like the Highlander at The Quickening? Do you feel like Michael watching Al Neri shoot Fredo in the middle of his Hail Mary? Do you feel avenged? Do you feel sated? Do you feel like a big man? Well, do ya?

No, me neither. It was nice. It’s always nice to skelp someone who’s annoying you. But there’s nothing like getting what you want to remind you what you actually need. Re-reading my little list, above, of our recent “achievements” against Celtic, it’s actually a list of Celtic achievements. There’s a difference between occasionally annoying someone specific and utterly dominating everyone.

I didn’t crack open the champers on Saturday night or sit in front of Pointless Celebrities feeling smugly vindicated. All it takes is one good pasting of one of these rivals we’ve boycotted or cursed or swore revenge upon since 2012 to make you realise they’re as worthy of our ire as gonky big Richard Osman’s snidey barbs are deserving of a retort from urbane co-host Alexander Armstrong, and about as capable of overhauling us long-term on the football pitch as any member of Bucks Fizz is capable of naming the most obscure elements of the periodic table not ending in “-ium”.

I want every opponent crushed and I need to see some crushed more than others. But, really, it’s all emotional displacement. Slaughtering the biggest opponents Scotland has to offer outside Glasgow is just a corollary of Rangers being back on top – of Rangers being back where we belong. It’s not revenge on isolated clubs we crave – it’s revenge on the Banter Years. And you get that via Glory Years.

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On Sunday we visit a club whose fans are busily trying to overtake Aberdeen’s in hating Rangers as a badge of honour and, historically, have given us the occasional bloody nose. The ill-will’s underpinned by their name versus our demographic. That they’re Scotland’s fifth-biggest club and, “alongside” Rangers, one of only five to have been Scottish champions more than twice, makes it inevitable we’ll have a tense relationship, that they’ll have their moments against us.

Revenge? Vengeance? It’s rarely more than a dramatic device. We have to remember Neil McCauley made an arse of killing Waingro earlier in Heat and it’s his inability to let it go which leads to his own death, pretty much outside Waingro’s hotel, just as he should have been sailing off into the sunset with the love of his life. The laws of drama right now say either blunt-edged Rangers are about to give someone Scottish a terrible doing or the first goal especially parsimonious Rangers concede this season will be an opposition winner rather than a mere consolation.

Both those screenplays are realistic at Easter Road. It largely depends on the actors. Roofe and Tavernier went off in Gibraltar to add to the three we haven’t seen again from last Saturday. Precautionary or not, our understudies are good but, as always, motivation is key.

We only played Hibs three times last season but we won in every possible pain-inflicting way; a late comeback win midweek at Ibrox; a Christmas three-going-on-ten-nil exhibition at Easter Road: But the 6-1 home win last August was the first proper payback for the Hampden atrocities of May 2016.

Six-one. Five clear goals. Godfather II again: Don Fanucci, who threatened his business, in the face and chest as Vito’s home-made silencer ignites more brightly than the flickering hallway bulb outside his apartment door.

We’ve done Hibs revenge. Beating them in cup finals or relegating them cannot adequately pain a support so used to both. Invading the pitch to attack their players would only make us animals. No. They’ve been dealt with on the Revenge front. Now it’s just about finishing off any pretensions they had to the title. Let’s do that the way Jake LaMotta does to Tony Janiro in Raging Bull:

It’s not revenge. We just want to make sure no-one can ever again say they’re looking good. We merely want to beat them to a bloody pulp.

Possible team (4-2-3-1):

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