Opportunity Knocks! - Rangers v St Johnstone

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Whilst Marc Bolan was proclaiming the benefits of riding a white swan, the Beltane folk of Carnac were ignoring their necessary offerings to Alaunus. In a fit of pique, the sun god had washed our intended summer hols camp site into the Bay of Biscay. This information arrived a week before setting off, French stamped envelope, correspondence and returned cheque in hand; my old man was on the blower to the BBC Meteorological Department, wanting a long range weather forecast for Brittany? Apparently, the outlook for ducks was most promising. A bracing week in Portpatrick ensued amid vague promises over the unexpected windfall. A month later, another envelope delivered fulfillment. This was a much more exotic piece of stationery, it had the gates of Ibrox on the bottom left hand corner. Three season tickets all in the same name. Both Granddad and Dad had no imagination. I had always assumed Mother's aspirations for the windfall had drowned in a sea of misogyny; however, she insisted the events of six months previously had been uppermost.

Section G of the Main Stand was Death's waiting room, a pinelands of pensioners seeking their last gasp. Well, that's how it looked to this fourteen year old in August '71. We were all gasping our last as ra Sellik cuffed us three times in the season's opening four weeks, all at Ibrox. Ah, and there are those that insist the reintroduction of the League Cup sections are a good thing? Bad went to worse, we lost the first three League fixtures, Thistle and Aberdeen straddling the green'n'grey. Mitigating factors were twofold, a couple of retired theatricals immediately behind us demonstrated their strict adherence to the cause of Rangers, and Gilbeys. It was all legal then, tartan flasks (not hippies) were consumed with gusto. The thermal wave of juniper competed for discomfiture with those old heavy oak seats, it was a gin'n'tanic experience.

The taller of the two introduced himself as, 'Tommy Top Onions' and his intro' was timed to Rangers first corner/free-kick. As Andy Penman addressed the ball, and Bomber strode forward, he effected Hughie Green's transatlantic tone and bellowed, "opportunity knocks". He meant it, most sincerely. The rest of the turn quietly succumbed to a Gilbey induced slumber. The second ray of light arrived from rain sodden Brittany. Rennes to be exact, in the first round of the European Cup Winners Cup. Wullie Johnson's goal had secured a first leg 1-1 draw on a night of torrential deluge. The BBC did not lie in those days. The Ibrox return's defining moment came when a Colin Stein shot was parried by the keeper, Alex McDonald continued his late run into the box and slid the rebound into the net. At full time, Tommy was demanding we all vote for Doddie that week, as he had received a record score on the clap-o-meter.

I was not aware of the phrase, 'managing expectations' in the autumn of '71, the demands of the Rangers support was ever present. We had won our first trophy in six years a few months before, DJ's headed League Cup winner. It was to be Wullie Waddell's first full season in charge, and Kilmarnock's Tommy McLean had finally signed for his boyhood heroes. The first five weeks of that season were truly crushing. Doddy's belief in continuing that run seemed to signify a continuing deep belief within the players. At Hampden on Sunday, whilst standing in the North Stand, an uninvited and unwelcomed Hughie Green flashed into my mind, as Jason Holt's unbroken stride met Tav's square cross. Opportunity knocked, but a centre-half stymied Holt's needle on the clap-o-meter.

In relating Jason Holt's style to that of Doddie, I am not emulating Billy McBungle's direct comparison of Stevie Fulton to be, "the new Roberto Baggio". Of course, it's easy to be mistaken of Bob Baggio traversing the terraced roads above Milan in his Lamborghini and Fulton's struggle to maintain his balance toting a Big Mac in each hand, as he bounces down the slopes above Greenock. In mitigation, we must remember Billy managed to relegate both Manchester City and Aston Villa in the same season. No, Holt is taking his first steps on a road that could lead to Doddie status. Further, there is no comparison in abilities between the 71/72 team and today's. There is one direct similarity, both arrived at the club for the reported transfer fee of £50,000, nearly half a century apart.

McDonald's arrival from St Johnstone was not universally accepted by Bears. I remember numerous heated discussions on supporters' buses and terraces, there was a hard corps minority that claimed Doddy was a 'corner boy' not fit to wear the jersey. I loved his combative style, a powerhouse of a competitor, and his innate ability, even willingness to upset the Yahoos, at every turn. It took three years for Doddie to become a firm favourite. Similarly, we must encourage Holt to keep on, keeping on. Those runs up the blind side, always available, never hiding, must be applauded. I hope Jason can go on to emulate Doddie's 500 appearances and 92 goals.

This evening, the wily Tommy Wright brings a stuffy Saints, hoping to replicate last season's 1-3 result. They are ahead of us by two points, having played one game more. There is a three goal advantage to the Perth side in goal difference. We are quite similar, in that both teams lack genuine pace. It will be studies, tactical, and attritional aspects that will determine, i.e. the ability to keep making those runs. I believe Holt is our best hope in this regard. Kranjcar's injury is most unfortunate, because he has the ability to find the blind side runner. Will Hodson retain his place and ensure Tav' plays one forward? Can we convince a forward to remain in the opposition box? O'Halloran deserves a chance, but a tight Saints leave no room in behind. Should a clearly tired McKay be rested?

I would go with: Foderingham; Hodson, Hill, Kiernan, Wallace; Tavernier, Halliday, Holt; Waghorn, Miller and O'Halloran; to effect a 2-1 result. This is my emotional reaction, I have predicted 1-1 draw in Bluebear's Prediction League thread.

Interestingly, in Ally's first season in management, he was 13 points ahead of Lennon in late Autumn. We had St Johnstone and Killie in successive games at Ibrox, we drew both 0-0 and the rest is history. Like Rennes in '71, I hope we achieve two victories, shining the light on the road ahead.

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