13 November ~ The tattered remnants of the Dons may be forgiven for still feeling somewhat dazed as they totter onto the Ibrox turf this weekend. Aberdeen's visit to the other end of Glasgow last week produced the kind of club record nobody wants – their worst-ever defeat, a colossally humiliating 9-0 at the hands of Celtic. As if the BBC's "Nine goals in 90 seconds" clip wasn't bad enough, one Greek TV station apparently felt the highlights worth setting to Benny Hill music. Few in the north-east would have objected to seeing manager Mark McGhee chased around Celtic Park in classic Hill style, provided the pursuers had pitchforks.
A midweek 2-1 home defeat to Inverness Caledonian Thistle added to the pressure, although those few souls who attended the match gave the team solid backing amid a general view that the Dons' performance merited at least a point (and the services of a competent referee). Despite a series of board meetings during the week, McGhee remains in place for Rangers, backed by a somewhat underwhelming message of chairmanly support, finally issued on Thursday. Most Aberdeen fans have mixed feelings about jettisoning another manager without boardroom-level change, but McGhee may be grateful that his chairman fell short of an unequivocal vote of confidence, given that such statements are normally scribbled on the back of a draft P45.
While bemoaning his substantial injury list, McGhee may feel he might as well head off to Ibrox as anywhere else. Historically a tetchy encounter both on and off the pitch, prompted by a series of unsavoury incidents in the 1980s, anything resembling a spirited fightback is likely to lift the club. Rangers, however, are never keen to lie down to the men from the north-east and may be particularly dangerous after being stung midweek by a coupon-busting 3-0 reverse to Hibernian – their first league defeat of the season. Walter Smith's taut assertion that his team will "hopefully get back to business against Aberdeen" suggests they will not be in merciful mood.
Despite the Hibs defeat, Rangers remain top of the league thanks to the other half of Edinburgh obliging them with a victory over Celtic. Both Glasgow rivals' domestic progress has been so far smooth, with their own encounters likely to settle the flag's ultimate destination. Rangers' real challenges have come in Europe, where they are currently an expected third behind Manchester United and Valencia in their Champions League group. With fourth-placed Bursaspor out of contention, the Ibrox side can feel comfortable about having some form of European football after Christmas, although Smith is bullish about their chances of beating Man Utd at Ibrox and edging Valencia into the Europa League instead. In the meantime, most neutrals, if not Greek TV producers, will be hoping that Saturday's result doesn't need to be spelled out in words on the videprinter. Dianne Millen