With St Johnstone visiting Ibrox, St Mirren visiting Pittodrie and Celtic off to Rugby Park, this was an unlikely week for the champions to extend their lead over all three in the chasing pack. But, thanks to a 90th minute shot from Scott Brown that was deflected into the Killie net, that was how it played out.
This was Celtic’s first win in three league games on an artificial surface this season and there was no mistaking how unaccustomed they were to the surface. Even Kilmarnock players suffered as any forward ball on the deck ran out of play. While it is unlikely we will play on plastic again this season, we need to get a game plan for this surface.
Kirk Broadfoot was given a straight red for a studs-first challenge on Scott Brown’s calf. The Celtic captain then collected his second yellow after fans, in what looked like a tribute to Newco fans celebrations of SPFL wins, invaded the pitch to celebrate with the players. Brown did not actually approach the perimeter of the stand but was quickly engulfed by fans, and inevitably, two cards.
I heard Steven Gerrard’s harsh post match assessment of his team’s application against St Johnstone. If publicly telling players how inept their application is leads to unbridled success, Newco will do the double this year. I do, however, have a nagging suspicion that there is more to management than getting angry and telling players they are not “real Rangers”.
Gerrard is new to management and it tells. Moreover, he split the team by absolving two players of responsibility, not on account of their exceptional performances, but because others did not do enough for them. If you Play Favourites, those favourites better be exceptional.
St Johnstone looked broken at the conclusion of their recent encounters with Celtic but there was more at stake than a football game at Ibrox on Saturday. After winning in Perth in December, Steven Gerrard said, “We shouldn’t have to work that hard to win at places like this, with all due respect.”
With all due respect, that was transparently disrespectful. It was also naive and would motivate every single St Johnstone player. Well played, ‘Stevie’. Sort your own attitude out before attacking your players’ and they might do better.