WITH every passing week Lewis Macleod’s reputation at Rangers appears to arrive at a fresh plateau. If he is not scoring key goals, or being summoned to the Scotland squad, or picking up another man-of-the-match award, the 20-year-old is merely going about his business, an intelligent young footballer who, crucially, can shape the fate of a match.
Rangers 4-0 Falkirk
Scorers: Rangers - Law (25), Macleod (69), Miller (75), Clark (82)
Macleod was at it again at Ibrox on Saturday, delivering deft, defence-splitting passes, scoring a crucial second goal for Rangers, and generally whetting the aesthetic palates of an Ibrox crowd which now rouses itself eagerly whenever the ball goes near this young midfielder.
Some will say there is rash and dangerous talk around Macleod these days. He has been likened to a young Ian Durrant, a Derek Ferguson, or a Barry Ferguson, precocious talents who blossomed in their early days at this club before their various fates afflicted them. Is Macleod as good? You have to say, on the evidence of these past 18 months at least, that he has a very good chance.
“He is the best young player I have ever seen come through at a club,” said Richard Foster, the Rangers defender. “He is just a very, very gifted player, a joy to watch. I’ve got nothing but the highest praise for Lewis Macleod.
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“He just seems to have it all at the moment. I hope he keeps playing well, as he is winning us games. I think he is exceptional.”
Rangers had already struck Falkirk down through Nicky Law’s first-half goal, but the usual Ibrox edginess was setting in when Macleod, with a nose for the penalty box, rose to head Jon Daly’s cross past Jamie MacDonald after 69 minutes.
The floodgates duly opened for Rangers, but, were it not for that Macleod intervention, it might not have proved so easy.
There is steady, agitated chat among Rangers fans that Macleod should be displacing either Law or Ian Black for a role in the centre of Rangers’ midfield, and this will surely come in time. Right now, under Ally McCoist, he has to satisfy himself with a wide midfield role – either right or left – which many believe stifles the danger he can bring on Rangers’ behalf.
“He would probably prefer to play in [central midfield], that is naturally his position,” said Foster. “But, that said, he seems to be getting a lot of joy where he’s playing at the moment, on either side of the midfield.
“He’s still a young guy. He’s very grounded. He’s not an overly loud or confident guy. He is relatively quiet in the dressing room. But on the park Lewis just lets his football do the talking. It’s plain for everyone to see how good he is and how well he’s playing at the moment.”
This was Remembrance weekend at Ibrox on Saturday – a day which for some in recent years had come to mean gazing out on the Ibrox circus and pageantry through the cracks between your fingers. Rangers had been criticised in the past for their over-the-top Remembrance activities, but it has all been mercifully toned down by the club.
On Saturday, dignity and solemnity were restored, with previous stuff like Royal Marines abseiling off the tops of stands being phased out. Just an appropriate minute’s silence was accompanied by an impressive – if absolutely huge – poppy display presented in the Sandy Jardine Stand.
Rangers still like doing our war commemorations as a kind of giant art-form – the type you can’t miss. Somehow, the solemnity of the little poppy is transformed into something far larger and in-your-face. It’s just the way of it at the club.
With Law and Macleod having steered the home side to their two-goal lead, Kenny Miller rammed home a third – from a Macleod cross – before substitute Nicky Clark made it 4-0 eight minutes from time. That made it eight wins on the trot for the under-fire McCoist, a manager who continues to be doubted by large numbers of Rangers supporters.
McCoist stood in the pouring Ibrox rain, the very image of a man who, whatever his perceived shortcomings, is doggedly going about the business of getting this club into the top flight of the Scottish game. He has a very commendable spirit about him.
Poor Falkirk. They had their brief moments but, in an awkward season so far, had no ability to sustain any of their ideas.
“We never believed we could do it,” lamented manager Peter Houston afterwards. Houston, amid an often vocal and critical Bairns support, is never that far away from his own worries.
Despite an international weekend looming, Rangers’ next match on Saturday will go ahead against Alloa, even if McCoist had been of a mind to postpone it due to missing players such as Macleod. The Ibrox board overruled McCoist to insist the game be played. Foster took the view that the game going ahead was the correct course. “Having cut into Hearts’ lead, it would have been silly for us to have not played the game, and allowed them to go back further ahead,” he said.
“I think it’s important for that game to be on. We’ve got some momentum now, and hopefully we can carry that on into next week, and then into our game against Hearts after that.”
That match against Hearts – on 22 November at Tynecastle – is already whetting the appetite.
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