Yeah, yeah … it’s the Huns, playing Zenit St. Petersburg for the UEFA Cup in Manchester shortly (I’m out the door as I finish this).
I can’t bring myself to wear a Rangers shirt to the broadcast of the game (reading this last night can really pound in the ambivalence I’ll always feel). But your country’s clubs are one team in Europe; I have a Protestant father and two Protestant grandparents; and this is one of the biggest games ever played by a Scottish club. I have played over and over this clip, of Rangers’ penalty shootout victory in the semi-finals over Fiorentina …
… and I get goose bumps every time, as the commentator yells “Manchester brace yourself; Rangers are coming. Scotland will have its big night as well. The Scots are heading for Manchester and you know what, Manchester may not be big enough.”
The thing is though, that the Huns have won their way through to the final playing anti-football. I well understand that when it’s your team and your country, only results matter, and I’ll be cheering my head off if they win (good for the coefficient and all). But Rangers are not an attractive team to watch, in Europe anyway. I think they’ll manage it though — Zenit are the kind of attack-first team Rangers are built to frustrate and defeat (though a team that can beat Bayern Munich 4-0 and Bayer Leverkusen 4-1 away needn’t fear anybody).
But history is on the Huns’ side. The other time Rangers won a European trophy (the 1972 Cup Winners Cup), the final victory was over a Russian team. And the victories in the three previous rounds were over teams from Portugal, Italy and Germany (Sporting Lisbon, Torino and Bayern then; Werder Bremen, Sporting and Fiorentina, in order, now).