Tragedy casts dark shadow over Rangers victory

Partick's Ziggy Gordon tackles Harry Forrester of Rangers. Picture: John Devlin
Partick's Ziggy Gordon tackles Harry Forrester of Rangers. Picture: John Devlin
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Everything else that took place in relation to Rangers’ game at Ibrox on Saturday naturally paled as the full horror of the bus crash involving supporters making their way to the ground later became known. The death of 39-year-old Ryan Baird on the Nith Valley Loyal Rangers supporters bus that overturned at a roundabout near Kilmarnock in an incident that led to a further 18 people being taken to hospital had the club’s goalkeeper Wes Foderingham reeling as he was informed after the game about the tragedy.

The 25-year-old spoke of “shocking news”. “It’s very sad and condolences go to friends and family,” he said. “The result, today, it all goes out the window when you hear that. All the boys are very upset.”

Rangers' Niko Kranjcar celebrates his goal against Partick Thistle. Picture: SNS

Rangers' Niko Kranjcar celebrates his goal against Partick Thistle. Picture: SNS

It is always challenging to somehow place loss of life in the context of a game of football. They do not belong together, but Foderingham appeared in front of the press after his side’s 2-1 win over bottom club Partick Thistle to discuss his professional duties.

The sporting encounter played out at Ibrox, which brought a first win for Mark Warburton’s men in five league outings, wasn’t one that offered up great cause for optimism over a title challenge that simply hasn’t been in any evidence. There are myriad flaws with the Rangers system that were not masked by a scintillating strike by Niko Kranjcar, pictured, after half an hour that was added to by a fine finish from Andy Halliday just before the interval.

Rangers have played better and not won this season – though they have never put together the whole package even in a recent upturn. However, ending five-and-a-half weeks without a Premiership victory overwhelmed any aesthetic considerations, though Foderingham wasn’t for saying that the quality of his team’s displays suddenly didn’t matter.

“We said in the changing room we’d much rather the performance not be as good and get three points. At times we were a little bit slack but the main thing is we got the three points,” he said. “Over the course of the season, if you have a performance, generally the results will come. That’s what we’ve said in recent weeks, but against Thistle the result and the three points were the main thing.”

The biggest plus for Rangers was a scoring contribution to savour from Kranjcar. The 32-year-old Croatian was at his sleek and skilful best as he swayed from one side to the other before smearing a drive into the net for a sublime individual goal. The playmaker was handed his first league start since he failed to make an impression alongside Joey Barton in the 5-1 mauling by Celtic three weeks ago.

Kranjcar hasn’t played much football in recent years, deriving little from his time with New York Cosmos in the second tier of the American game before his Glasgow switch in July. Rangers assistant David Weir, deputising as the main voice and coachside presence of the Ibrox side as Warburton served a one-match touchline ban for his vituperations towards officialdom at Aberdeen the previous week, said Kranjcar had still to be brought to the sort of fitness that would allow him to produce the form that won him 81 caps for his country and his move to Tottenham Hotspur.

The player begged to differ with the amusing take on perceptions of his languid ways. “I have felt really good for a long time,” he said. “I have repeated it so many times – I am a footballer who, when I don’t play well, people say I don’t look fit. Then when I do play well people say I’m the fittest I’ve been. It’s something I’m used to, it doesn’t annoy me because I’ve had it since I was 17 years old.”

Foderingham found himself somewhere between Weir and the Kranjcar himself on the Croatian’s conditioning. “Niko is a fantastic player, very, very gifted, there is no doubt about that,” he said. “At the start of the season, he struggled for fitness a little bit and is finding his feet now and against Thistle showed he can unlock a defence and pull a rabbit out of a hat when needed. We have needed that in the past few weeks and his goal was a bit of magic from him.”

Rangers certainly need some magic – and from more than just a manager’s hat.