Partick Thistle, the only show in town for that small, peculiar band of West End luvvies, right-on student types, and minor celebrities whose childhood bedrooms had their fair share of red, white and blue. And the destination for the Rangers on Saturday as we make the shortest trip of the league season to Firhill.
Thistle are perhaps unique in the modern era in that for a team regularly playing in the top flight, they haven’t seemed to achieve anything of note whatsoever. They’ve never reached the higher echelons of the league table, nor won a major trophy, and predictably lie in 10th place at the time of going to press. What they have done, on the other hand, is given Rangers a game on a consistent basis. From memory, since they were put to the sword in 1996 by the big Danish fellow whom Paul Gascoigne once mistook for a urinal, we’ve only ever beaten them by one or two goals. Even if I’m not 100% spot-on with that, they’ve put up more fight than a good few other teams down the years, even if they have difficulty getting over the line and actually beating us.
Since the shock of a 3-0 defeat to Thistle in May 1993 (yes, that of all seasons! Gerry Britton!), we’ve generally managed to put the Jags away in the end, the best game for me being turning round a 1-0 deficit in the last 20 minutes at Firhill in a must-win match during the 2002/03 season: Ronald De Boer’s late winner in front of the away end resulting in absolute scenes.
I’m led to believe a few things have happened in Scottish football since then, and we find ourselves living in changed times. This season is proving to be hard work, but then the saner amongst us would have predicted it to be so. I wasn’t particularly impressed by Aberdeen when we played them up there, and though consistently one of the better sides in Scottish football over the last few years, ultimately being a diddy team they are liable to lose silly games, so if we can maintain a level of consistency and keep winning games like Saturday, we should absolutely be looking at 2nd place which would represent a successful first season back. I can’t think of another promoted team getting 2nd place in the top flight the following year.
The major positive development in recent weeks has been finally looking like we are starting to defend better than a Karl Svensson/Dave McPherson-on-a-bad-day hybrid, leaking only four goals since the drubbing at Parkhead, back in the Joseph Barton era 11 games ago. I was of the opinion Danny Wilson was the best centre back at the club when the season started, but you can’t argue with Hill and Kiernan’s stats since they got a settled run in the team together.
Unfortunately, we’re proving a tad powderpuff up the other end of the park. I’ve always been a big fan of Kenny Miller, but I’d like to see Garner and Forrester given an extended run together in a top two. Forrester strikes me as someone who needs the confidence of a series of starts, rather than the fits and bursts Warburton tends to use him in. And Garner, well, I just see something in the guy and liked the look of him even during his first couple of games where he was getting a bit of stick from some quarters. It would also be nice to see Dodoo get some action – at the time I got the impression he was signed as a First XI player, which hasn’t transpired thus far.
In the midfield, Josh Windass is another I have liked the look of from an early stage this season. Hopefully he doesn’t join the fabled ranks of injury prone Rangers players, because I would be starting him most weeks. I’m still not sure where his best position is, but he looks a type that will add something from most areas of the park.
The others in the line-up pretty much speak for themselves, even big Wes between the sticks whom I reckon is the second best keeper at the club, but who am I to argue with the magic hat? Personally I'd like to see a 4-4-2 to mix things up and you can see my pick on the forum. However, given the manager's stubborness with his preferred 4-3-3, the team below is perhaps most likely.
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