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   Saturday, 4 May, 2002, 21:13 GMT 22:13 UK
Rangers deserve the glory

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In the end, it was all we could have asked for from a cup final: excitement, attention, drama and, perhaps more importantly, a little bit of peace and understanding.

At the end of a tormented season in which the beautiful game had turned ugly, Scottish football desperately needed its temples messaging.

And, on Saturday afternoon at Hampden, Rangers and Celtic produced a 90 minutes in which at last we could actually talk about the action.

For weeks the headlines have been monopolised by the administrators and the club owners, the liquidators and the creditors. At last the players squeezed themselves back into the picture.

Peter Lovenkrands scores the winning goal
Peter Lovenkrands was a pain to Celtic
Such was the relief of it all, even the biggest rival supports in the land went about their afternoon with a modicum of grace, dignity and self-restraint.

It was a smashing football match.

It ebbed and flowed and I take no satisfaction from forecasting that Rangers would win. Because, in the end, it could have gone either way.

But, on this afternoon, the side that Alex McLeish transformed deserved their win.

While we're on the confessional about the crystal ball gazing, I have to admit that, when I saw the line-up, my initial remark was something to do with Peter Lovenkrands never being a striker.

Oh well, you can't be right all the time.

Actually, his is not a natural ability to score goals. Rather, it would appear that it is something personal against Celtic.

The alchemy of Alex McLeish and Rangers could turn plastic into gold, but the truth is that his success piles on the pressure - just as it did for Martin O'Neill after his astonishing debut season in charge of Celtic.

Celtic were left dejected by defeat
Next season should be a vast improvement on the parade that was Celtic's casual stroll to the championship in the season that is currently breathing it's last.

As we revealed exclusively on the BBC in the immediate post-match moments at Hampden, Barry Ferguson will this week have talks with chairman David Murray, attempting to stave off what seemed an imminent move to Arsenal or Liverpool.

The conversation will be expensive for Rangers. But, if they are genuine about their desire to make an impact in Europe and once again overtake Celtic in the title race, they will have to make Ferguson the highest-paid player in the history of the Scottish game.

The irony is that Murray will have to produce the cheque book at the very time when he agrees that players are being paid far too much.

Rangers should enjoy the moment. They deserve it. But the real test is what happens in the next year.


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04 May 02 | Scottish Cup
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