The concept of the new where Rangers are concerned brings their supporters out in hives. Yet, as Ibrox played host to European football for the first time in the post-liquidation era last night, it was a commendation of the club to be struck by a sense of something new and different.
It is not unusual for a chairman/owner to appear on the pitch before his team’s first game of the season and tell his supporters how wonderful they are – and there certainly was an element of the wondrous in 48,681 turning out to watch Luxembourg part-timers Progres Niederkorn in the Europa League first-round first-leg qualifier.
And when Dave King, somewhat nervously, took the mic in the minutes before the ground’s first European tie in six years, he indeed had the sugary words about being “back” where the club belonged and how it was a chance for Rangers fans to show why they are “the best”.
In his address King, pictured, reiterated that supporters were “ambassadors” and “every single one of us has a duty to protect Rangers’ reputation”. “We must not give anyone any cause to criticise us,” he stressed.
Immediately afterwards a Tannoy announcement gave details of a police number to ring if any supporter was aware of unacceptable behaviour, just to ram home the message – albeit one never stated explicitly – that the sectarian, anti-Catholic chanting that has been such a source of besmirching of Rangers down the years, and especially in Europe, had to be addressed.
In the past, Rangers have been guilty of paying lip service to an endemic problem. The strenuous efforts made in recent days mean such an accusation could not be levelled at this Rangers, in the here and now.
It has to be said that when the supporters launched into the song Follow Follow after being asked to follow with pride, you cringed about what would, erm, follow the line about Dundee, Hamilton. Mercifully, it was a low grumble with no words distinct rather than the all-too-common “f*** the Pope and the Vatican” of recent times.
Granted, there were choral vituperations directed at Bobby Sands from the Broomloan Stand that houses the Union Bears. And the game had to be stopped late in the first half to remove scrunched-up paper balls from the remnants of a card display that had been hurled towards the visitors’ goalmouth from that area.
But the story of last night was not what happened in the stands, and the club’s efforts in making that so deserve applauded. Instead, the story centred on a thoroughly uninspiring win for a Pedro Caixinha’s side. The result could hardly have been any less convincing against opponents who had nothing much about them beyond a work ethic.
Only the second win in the past 25 European games contested by Rangers, the return leg next week now can’t even be considered the formality it was predicted to be before a ball was kicked in the tie.
Caixinha, with only three of his eight new summer signings in the starting line-up, presided over a display that, in play or personnel, was far from what was hoped. Indeed, it was all too familiar... when it was the one respect in which Rangers followers desperately wanted to be watching a new team.