Once again, Rangers appear to have ‘won the close season’. How many in a row is that now?
Sheyi Ojo, on loan at Ibrox from Liverpool, has said that Rangers are “the best team in the league”.
He’s not the first person to proclaim that without a game being played.
Back when Mark Warburton brought Rangers into the top division having lost a mere five games in the Championship, there was a feeling of optimism among Ibrox followers.
Back then, Joey Barton was going to show Scott Brown what it was all about and new Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers wouldn’t know what hit him.
Barton soon found out that pre-season boasts ring hollow in Glasgow. Before long, he was back down the road with his coffee machine cable between his legs as Celtic won an Invincible Treble.
The lesson has never been learned. Whether it’s cheerleaders in the press, or Dave King proclaiming that Rangers are in “tangible reach of becoming the dominant force in Scottish football” despite losing a league by nine points, the Ibrox club appears to live in a false reality.
It’s like Donald Trump for football, where saying things enough times means they must be true, even if they’re not.
Ojo illustrates this point. He said: “The difference last season was nine points which proved we’re pretty close to Celtic.”
To football fans, nine points doesn’t mean “pretty close”. It means “chasm”.
Elsewhere, the Evening Times excitedly asks: “Are Celtic a busted flush? Do Rangers hold all the aces?”
This season, the paper says, “promises to be the closest and most fiercely-contested in a decade”.
If not the exact words, then that same sentiment will have been expressed in a few pre-seasons recently.
Even Kenny Dalglish gets in on the act. He says: “The gap has been closed significantly by Steven Gerrard.”
The “significant” closing of the gap amounted to three points in the end.
Celtic, despite off the field turmoil last season, from the summer, through to Rodgers’ James Bond ejector seat exit in February, responded to Rangers improvement by increasing our own points tally and keeping a safe distance.
For the past three seasons, Rangers have been held at arms-length, wildly swinging fresh-air punches. Quite often with a large element of slapstick involved.
Last season, they finally landed a couple of blows, including one in a dead rubber after players’ had celebrated a title win. They stung our pride, but they didn’t count for much in the end.
This close season, Rangers have again been adding to their squad. Steven Gerrard has signed so many players, the law of averages dictates that at least one might be half decent.
Last season, as with the two before, there weren’t any who would get on the bench for Celtic. This year, they might have a right-back who could do so.
Off the pitch, as ever, one hand at Rangers doesn’t appear to know what the other is doing.
Rangers self-inflicted troubles with Mike Ashley look like hitting them hard. The need to sell ‘star player’ Morelos seems to be strong.
Has there ever been a player so popular that fans and management seemingly want him sold so much? There is a desperate need to find some sort of equivalence to Celtic by matching the £20m fee we got for Dembele.
It’s a fantasy figure. Morelos hasn’t done it in any big games, hasn’t helped his club to silverware, and has been unable to stay on the park due to his temperament.
But we’re breathlessly told that ‘AC Milan have entered the chase’ for the player. What a chase that promises to be!
They could win it wearing a blindfold and with both legs tied together if they wanted to. Gerrard himself has said that the only bid they’ve had for the player since he’s been at Ibrox was for an eye-watering 3million euros (three million). They must be holding out for five, I’d reckon.
In a further hint of ‘moonbeams for the masses’, Rangers revealed that they are exploring expanding the capacity of the stadium, which has already seen “several millions” invested on improvements, “unseen” to the naked eye.
Rangers managing director Stewart Robertson told the Daily Record: “Ultimately, if the financial model doesn’t work and we don’t get payback on it then you could question why we’d do it as it’s money that could be used elsewhere.”
It sounds like they are ‘exploring’ this possibility as keenly as AC Milan might fight for the signature of Alfredo Morelos.
Despite all of these ‘improvements’ on and off the pitch at Ibrox, Celtic have swept every bit of silverware up for the past three years.
If Sheyi Ojo had been looking for hard evidence of who was the ‘best team in Scotland’ it wasn’t hard to find.
However, Celtic start the league next season with the same amount of points as anyone else and have it all to prove again.
Whatever Rangers’ improvements or otherwise, the main danger to our dominance will come from ourselves. As with any club that’s been on top for so long, we need to guard against complacency.
The Ibrox braggadocio, once again, should ensure we do that at the very least.