Wed, Jul

Reprogramming the robot: Rangers v St Johnstone

Match Analysis
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While scrolling through the daily rags looking for my usual fix of football news, another story jumped out and took my interest. It was about a group of scientists that were trying to stop the production of sex robots. Now while I'm sure there is indeed a market for such a product, as I would imagine it is just an advanced rubber doll which they seem to be able to sell, I personally feel that there are certain things a robot can’t duplicate. Feelings and the ability to think for one’s self is two of the main things that spring to mind. A robot can only copy programmed movements over and over again but does not have the ability to change things when circumstances are slightly different to the conditions programmed into them. Well I suppose it is pretty much like the wife really. Maybe worth a swap, as it would save me a fortune?

What has this to do with a football preview one may ask. Well over the last few games Rangers have played, there seems to be a certain shock generated that we cannot score at least five goals. I must admit that our manager is slightly to blame here when even after a 3-0 win Mark Warburton stated that we fell below standards and that the players were holding a meeting to deliver improvement for the next game. Admirable words but my opinion is that the players are not robots. Ergo, it is impossible for any team to walk on to the football field as a robotic machine and achieve the same result every week. The conditions that our trained football playing robots will come up against are different pitches, different weather conditions and most importantly an opponent who does not play in a manner to suit our programmed playing style.

After working for 30 years in the metal industry I have worked often with production robots and believe you me they probably have more bad days at the office than normal human beings. Only when they are on form and all conditions fit can they produce to the highest standards.

In the past I played darts to a reasonable level in Holland and I know from experience that Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen achieve what they have by training several hours almost every day in a robotic trance getting their arm to make the same movement time and again. I even read a story that the late, great Jocky Wilson could not walk to the board hour after hour so he had a bucket of marbles and sat on a chair throwing the marbles at a target just to get that robotic movement in his arm. It must have taken him as long tidying them back up!

Moving on, the improvement in Rangers play has been phenomenal. It is obvious - even to a layman - that that we have put in the hours training on our fitness, passing and movement. And we really have been a joy to watch compared to recent years. One of the conditions that have changed in the last few games though, is that we have now lost the surprise factor. Managers can now study hours of video to work out exactly how our system works. This is where the manager has to be careful in making us a robot to one system. The danger is the higher standard we play, the better the opponents will be and therefore be more prepared to throw sand in our cogs.

Watching Aberdeen dismantle Hearts on Sunday offered an example of a team willing to soak up a bit of pressure and hit like a panther on the break. Now Hearts' defending left a lot to be desired but in the system we play we will be open to exactly the same tactic. The higher we play, the more clinical teams will be at hitting on the break. In fact, Motherwell produced exactly the same tactic to beat us in the play-offs last season.

This evening Mark Warburton’s Rangers team will have its first real evaluation when we take on St Johnstone in the League Cup third round. This will be Warburton’s first test to pit his wits against top division opposition. More than likely we will meet a St Johnstone team that are willing to soak up pressure and hit us on the break. While St Johnstone are not the strongest in their league they will give us a good idea of just where Rangers stand at the moment. Many Championship managers have stated we are Premiership quality. Tonight we can gauge if that is really true.

If things are going against us does the Ibrox wizard have a plan B under his magic hat or has he created a robot who loses all coordination at the first sign of change in our pre-programmed conditions? Let’s hope we have not lost the ability and feeling to change the game plan if necessary, and become a whipping robot for the break-away boys in the big league.

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