A Day with the Colts – Rangers B – 20/03/2022

Background

Colt teams are not new nor revolutionary. Most clubs – professional or otherwise – have some form of youth, reserve or development system in order to create a pathway from grassroots to the first-team squad. This is normal. It has been for generations. Some of the world’s top nations have B teams lingering in the lower leagues in order to promote growth for the nation’s footballing youngsters. If it can work in Spain or Germany, then why not Scotland?

For me, Colt teams are an issue for a couple of reasons. The two Glasgow giants already have such a huge financial stranglehold on the Scottish game. I remember growing up in an era where the Old Firm could buy players from other Scottish clubs willy-nilly at a cut-throat price. The draw of either Celtic or Rangers was far too large to even consider turning them down, especially as a youngster who wishes to make it to a higher level.

However, Rangers B and Celtic B entering the Lowland League just looks rank rotten. It makes a mockery of the pyramid system, which has only recently been rightfully opened up for those who wish to progress upward. To have two clubs just slot in for a few quid absolutely stinks. Also, the precedent has now been set. Although the two teams cannot gain promotion to League 2 for now, I would not be surprised if conversations are already taking place to make promotion a reality. Then, where does it stop?  Could we be seeing Colt teams challenge for League 1, or the Championship? I certainly hope not.

However, I do understand the incentive that caused Lowland League clubs to vote in favour of the Colts. The financial gain from increased crowds and testing yourself against the supposed ‘elite’ of Scottish youth football can bring benefits to developmental progression in itself and perhaps give an extra edge to raise your game.

I believe there are better alternatives in developing youth players than firing nine past against lowly Vale of Leithen or Gretna 2008. For me, the loan system works perfectly well and allows younger players to experience a more competitive edge with experienced players who have seen everything at every level. Strategic partnerships should also be encouraged. Working with other clubs around the country at a higher level in a collaborative manner surely brings the same benefits to what competing in the Lowland League would bring to the future of Scotland’s national team?

On a bright and sunny Saturday, I decided to see for myself. The highly anticipated first Old Firm ‘B’ Team Derby (too much of a mouthful) was being played at Ibrox with the coveted Colt bragging rights up for grabs. Does anyone even care? I was about to find out.

The Journey

Finally, I have a Saturday off! Usually, I would travel to games by driving, but with today’s weather, I fancied a stroll or two in my adventure to Ibrox. After leaving in plenty of time, a busy train towards Glasgow Central completed the first part of my journey. The second consisted of only my (maybe) fourth time on the Glasgow Subway. I find it unbelievably convenient, quick and cheap and provided the simplest route possible to today’s destination. A short walk after arriving at Ibrox Subway Station brought me to the ancient home of Scotland’s current champions for the very first time.

Facilities

It honestly blows my mind how big Ibrox Stadium actually is. After turning a corner, it stands in all its glory in the middle of the community in which it serves. Parts of the stadium look rustic, but most look incredibly top of the range and exactly what you’d expect from an elite worldwide football club. As I climbed up the stairs in the Sandy Jardine Stand it brought back familiar feelings to what I experience at Easter Road on a bi-weekly basis. The view of the ground in full view is outstanding, with TV cameras and angles providing no justice whatsoever to what I was seeing. It is not a regular, modern clone of a stadium. It is feeling. It is old-school, and obviously plays a huge role for the 50 odd thousand fans who fill it out every week. Ibrox easily scores a 4.5/5.

Atmosphere

Naturally, the largest crowd of my travels so far poured into the Sandy Jardine stand to witness this derby. I enjoyed the noise and encouragement the supporters poured into their youngsters, with positive play being applauded at every move. I enjoyed the camaraderie of the support as a whole and felt as though it was not as hostile as I expected it to be. This is a huge community, and I appreciated it greatly. I don’t particularly appreciate a tiny, tiny enclave of support singing a few sectarian numbers though. In fairness, the vast majority of Rangers supporters around me did not approve either. It may still be a problem in today’s stadium stands, but it is reassuring to know it is not universal. 3/5.

Quality of the Match

I went into today’s contest expecting a relatively close encounter by two young sides looking to assert themselves in this new world they have found themselves in. However, my presumption was squatted away like a fly on a hot day within the first fifteen seconds. Ross McCausland found himself with plenty of time and space down the right. With the Celtic defense spluttering, he cut inside and fired low to send the 9000+ supporters wild. An electric start.

Rangers continued their pressure, with Alex Lowry putting his stamp on the game with flair and intent. After a tremendous touch and turn, the forward took on a backtracking Celtic defense with   a few step-overs before firing his strike just wide of the post. His next attempt at goal would be a bit more accurate…

After Lowry collected the ball 35 yards from goal, he marauded forward with plenty of space in front. He unleashed a curling effort beyond Tobi Oluwayemi to send the Sandy Jardine into raptures. A wonderful goal for a tremendous young talent. Rangers were two-nil up and cruising.

The game remained one-way traffic, with the young Gers refusing to let Celtic out their own half. After more good work down the left, Lowry found Tony Weston with an inch-perfect overhead pass into the box. Although Weston’s half-volley rolled wide, the Rangers supporters were showed their appreciation for the dominance their team were applying to the occasion.  

They were on their feet once more shortly after. After a defense splitting pass from left-back Robbie Fraser, Weston found himself one-on-one with the Celtic ‘keeper. With cool confidence, the striker swept the ball home to give the home side an unassailable three-nil lead. I’ve never seen a more dominant display at this level of football.

It could have been four shortly after. After Lowry found yet another killer pass, right-back, Adam Devine wandered his way into the box. His toe-poked strike slapped the bottom of the far post to send the young Hoops into the break without further embarrassment.

Half time: Rangers B 3-0 Celtic B

The second half started slowly, and never gained any traction in the entire 45 minutes. The only real chance in the half for Rangers fell to Devine once more. After a positive passing move, the right-backs strike from the edge of the box went comfortably wide.

It took around eighty minutes of the game for Celtic to muster their first chance on goal. Substitute and promising attacker Ben Doak’s scuffed shot the only real attempt on the Rangers goal. It summed up a disappointing and underwhelming performance from a Celtic team I expected a whole lot more from.

Honestly, this could be one of the most boring halves of football I’ll ever watch. With Rangers having wrapped the game up after twenty-five minutes, there looked to be more intention to try different styles of play and test out further tactical elements. The Gers defense stood too strong for a Celtic forward line who had absolutely nothing to give.

Full Time: Rangers B 3-0 Celtic B

Rangers’ first half display was tremendous. They had the game wrapped around their finger after the first quarter of the game, with a few individual performances standing out for the Young Gers. None more so than Alex Lowry. The highly promising attacker ran the show in the first half and thoroughly deserved the standing ovation he received after his substitution. The young man looks as though he could control a fly-away in a hurricane, and has a deadly final ball to bring his fellow attackers into the game. His aesthetically pleasing curling finish put the cherry on the top of a wonderful performance. If the Colts are to bring anything positive to Scottish football, Alex Lowry looks to be the poster boy for it.

To say Celtic B were disappointing would be an understatement. They looked weak at the back and unimaginative going forward. Their plan of feeding the ball to flair enthusiast Karamoko Dembele did not work, with the winger being outmuscled and outwitted the entire game by a clever Rangers defense. They will need to rethink their strategy going forward, as whatever plan they had came undone very quickly.

Overall, the first half of this match showed the young talent on the blue side in terrific form. Their attacking impetus and constant barrage on the Celtic goal provided entertainment by itself. However, the quicker I forget about the second-half the better. I’d have honestly preferred to watch paint dry. This match scores a 2.5/5.

Pricing

For a visit to Ibrox, a ticket costing just a tenner is a pretty good deal. It’s a decent way to enter this iconic Scottish stadium to tick it off the list in an easy way. I certainly cannot complain. 5/5.

Final Score

Rangers B score a handy 15/20 and shoot up to mid-table in the TSFA League Table. I may not agree with Colt teams in the professional set-up, but I can’t complain about the action I watched and the individual performances I took in. I hope to see some of these youngsters playing regular football soon. It is the least the Colts can bring.

– Connor

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