Rangers comb through Celtic wreckage with so much still to win and lose - including their prized possession

Parkhead defeat reiterated need for change in summer – but next two weeks still hold massive significance

A penny for the thoughts of Rangers manager Philippe Clement on Sunday as he surveyed the wreckage of his team’s trip across Glasgow to take on Celtic.

Losing 2-1 at Parkhead was the knockout blow for his team in this gripping title race. At one point the favourites to land the Premiership crown following a resurgent run under the Belgian, many have alluded to defeat in Dingwall and a draw at Dundee as the reasons for fizzling out like a cheap firework. But it is the results against Celtic that have truly cost Rangers. In four league derbies, they have only taken one point. Brendan Rodgers continues to haunt their dreams.

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Clement’s hands were tied at Celtic Park, denied the services of so many important players. His two most experienced central defenders in Connor Goldson and Leon Balogun were injured, and at the other end of the pitch, his most proficient forward Abdallah Sima is still sidelined. The Senegalese’s pace, power and conviction in front of goal would have been invaluable in such a fixture. Rangers created chances and while Cyriel Dessers did well to take his, Fabio Silva’s wastefulness when presented with two good first-half opportunities was costly. Perhaps not as costly as John Lundstram’s contributions, though.

The faces of the Rangers players say it all as John Lundstram scores an own goal to make 2-0 to Celtic.The faces of the Rangers players say it all as John Lundstram scores an own goal to make 2-0 to Celtic.
The faces of the Rangers players say it all as John Lundstram scores an own goal to make 2-0 to Celtic.

The 30-year-old has been a largely positive influence on Rangers since arriving in 2021 but this was not his day. He was caught out in the opening goal, poked past his own keeper Jack Butland for Celtic’s second and then was sent off – rightly – for an ill-advised, reckless sliding tackle on Alistair Johnston in first-half stoppage time. It was a nightmare 12 minutes for the Liverpudlian, and he was inconsolable afterwards. Old Firm matches don’t care for tears, though, only cheers. The Celtic fans waved him – and Rangers’ title hopes – off the pitch.

If Rangers are to be praised for any of their work at Parkhead, it can be said that they never gave up. Those that remained on the pitch kept battling, kept trying for an equaliser. Defender John Souttar came off at the break due to injury and right-winger Dujon Sterling filled in at centre-back – and was one of the best players in the second half. But workrate was not a substitute for quality and composure. Rangers lacked both across all areas of the pitch expect in goal, where Jack Butland continues to show just how important he is to this team.

Clement has done well to eke every last drop from his team but he, and the Rangers hierarchy, know that another overhaul of this squad is required in the summer. Work has already begun with recruitment chief Nils Koppen, with Panamanian centre-half Jose Cordoba earmarked for a move. The Belgian will need money to spend to eclipse Celtic and Rangers do not have a war chest to play with. Selling some of those already at Ibrox that have proven this season not to have the title-winning minerals could be tricky. Whisper it, but Butland is the most sellable asset. What do they do if a tempting summer bid from an English club comes in? Long-serving James Tavernier and Goldson have been linked with a move to Saudi Arabia and should decent offers present themselves, those funds could facilitate some incomings. Rangers fans will want players in the ilk of winter arrival Mohamed Diomande, although he was a clear second best to the passing and nous of Celtic’s midfieders.

Rangers’ run in Europe this season, and the galvanisation of a squad left reeling from life under previous boss Michael Beale, should give Rangers supporters belief in Clement. He has shown enough to suggest that he is a fine manager. Backing will be required for him. In the short-term, he must find a way to lift his players off the floor and beat Dundee on Tuesday to at least make Celtic land the title officially themselves 24 hours later against Kilmarnock. Then there is the Scottish Cup final. Another date with Celtic. Another loss would be damaging, there is no doubt, and erode the feelgood factor further from winning the League Cup in December.

It may not feel like it right now, but the season is far from over for Rangers. There is still something to be won – but also more to be lost.



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