Rangers fans have plenty in reserve!

Posted by John Gow

Tom Shaw/Getty ImagesFraser Aird is one of Rangers faces of the future on the pitch.

It's not often that a reserve football match in the fourth tier of football can get a higher attendance than some first-team games in a nation's top division, but that is what happened when Rangers reserves (the 'Swifts', as they are known) lifted the Scottish football league reserve title on Tuesday night with a 2-0 victory over Queen's Park.

Of course, in the Rangers' 141-year history, it will barely register as a footnote of a footnote. But it was a small moment of positivity for a fan base who have suffered so much in the past 12 months. Not because of the 'trophy' win, as that is not important, but because the club have shown they have a few youngsters who will add something to Rangers in the future, or if they don't make it at Ibrox, will add to the wider tapestry of Scottish football.

Some of the guys playing on Tuesday have already broken into the first team, and it showed. Robbie Crawford was a class above the rest, while Tom Walsh had moments of brilliance and Fraser Aird scored the first with a mature finish. It wasn't a classic performance, but the boys played the game properly with the ball on the deck. There was no immature kick and rush football.

But like the rest of this season, it is not so much about what happens on the pitch, but what goes on off it that will stay in the memory. Seeing so many youngsters with their drums, flags and banners while jumping about in unison singing their songs is important for the future of the club. The big worry over the summer was the financial meltdown would see some fans walk away and the Light Blues could lose a generation of supporters.

That Rangers now have the 13th highest league attendance in the whole of Europe while playing in Scotland's worst league is a testament to what the football club means to those who 'follow follow'. Ironically, instead of turning people away, the crisis might have worked in the opposite direction.

It's noticeable to all those who regularly go to Ibrox that there has been an uptake in families and children going to matches. This can be explained with lower prices for youngsters and the desire for parents to ensure their kids appreciate something so nearly lost.

For this reason, it isn't just the young who have turned up week after week in sunshine, rain or snow. On Tuesday I was sitting beside an older gentleman who was telling me he had been going to Ibrox for 60-plus years. He spoke about Jim Baxter, Ralph Brand and Willie Henderson and told me he couldn't believe Rangers were in the Third Division, but he was proud of the way the support had reacted.

And it was this person who had the misfortune to sit a few rows behind the 'ultra' groups who like to stand the whole match with their huge flags. When the game started he asked those in front if they could please sit down because he couldn't see the field. He said this to teenagers who had previously been loudly laughing and joking in the way teenagers do, and it doesn't matter where you are in the world people that age can be unknowingly selfish: “Why should we sit down?" they might ask, "We are only trying to enjoy ourselves?"

This could have happened -- but it didn't. Instead they apologised, sat down or stood to the side, and for the rest of the match one of the youths kept turning around and asking the older fan if he could still see. It was a nice touch and for a brief moment it showed what football is all about. It is not merely the neutral love of a sport, but a shared identity from generation to generation.

After the financial disaster of 2012, the only reason Rangers are still here is because of fans like the older gentleman who will never give up on his team. And although they don't know it yet, the future will belong to those young Light Blues, on and off the field, for whom it never occurred to do anything else but follow their club no matter where it takes them.

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