It's been a long time since I commuted out of Glasgow by train. Sitting comfy in my own space long ago won out over being cramped in with all the other passengers on Scotrail's poky carriages, but the journey home was made a bit better by taking up the Union Street vendor's kind offer of a 'final Times' to while away the minutes. I think you can still get the Evening Times, at least it is available online. I hope so, because the two games against Motherwell over the coming few days fits the bill well - at last, as we creep into June, our season reaches its final times: finally, we get to the play off final.
It seems like a long and winding way to find out who gets the final place in Scotland's top league but you can't argue with the box office - if there are any tickets left for our 1st leg against Motherwell it certainly won't be many. Selling out Ibrox - not an easy task this season - tells its own story.
It's a funny 'final' though, to take the idea of a final - a decider, a one off, a be-all-and-end-all contest, and split it into two. South of the border Norwich took the glory in an actual final and won promotion to England's top league. Scottish football long ago washed its hands of sensible decisions, but last week's first leg at Ibrox created a better vibe than I've heard for a long time so maybe the SFPL have actually got this one right.
Even so it wouldn't be a Rangers game if there wasn't some bitter, unpleasant undertaste generated by the other team or their fans. This time around there is seemingly some argument over allocations, and the threat of potential bother should away fans sneak into home areas. This is only an issue if Rangers fans do it - the Hibees who snuck into Rangers sections last week aren't worth a mention, unlike the deadly hail of paper which met Hibs corners.
You can end up a sad, lonely paranoid over things like this, the guy who makes everyone else in the pub groan when you come through the door, but over the years the cumulative effect of constantly being demonised must have some result. For some people it might be a renewed desire for the fight, for me its been an erosion of my Ibrox going habit. That the team played football to make your eyes bleed didn't help, but this year I certainly haven't gone anything like as much as I used to.
There's only so many battles you can fight, and with other things fighting for attention, the grim football and shouty voices of football's media bawbags has been a turn off. The football has slipped to a measly half a passion in my scale behind other things, but even so, these two games have grabbed the attention. One more heave at Ibrox and another defensive shut out at Fir Park and the team will have delivered, kind of, this season. I have a feeling that will seem like the easy bit once we get to the point of assembling some kind of team for the top league - but cross that bridge if and when we come to it.
Come what may, my over riding emotion come the end of the season will be relief that it's over. When we staggered into action, away back last August, I didn't expect much but I didn't expect quite such a weird trip. I don't know how long it will take to forget the memory of Kenny McDowall, lost and alone, on the touchline, gazing in mute helplessness at his equally impotent charges lumber about the pitch in varying states of incompetence. Maybe one last effort by the team tonight and a positive result will make it easier.
I hope we go with an attacking 5 of Vuckic, Shiels, Miller, Clark and Law, with Murdoch sitting before the regular back 4. Getting to a team which more or less picks itself is a sign that things are stabilising. Hopefully, whatever the play off result, we'll continue that stability into coming years - I've had as much as I care for of the madness.
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