Phil Thomas: Rangers’ resurrection has been even more spectacular than Leipzig

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ON THURSDAY the hipsters will be falling over themselves again to kiss the backside of everything to do with RB Leipzig.

Fawning over and flattering the German outfit they all salute as the textbook example of how to build a modern-day club.

Rangers have made a deep run in the Europa League this season


Rangers have made a deep run in the Europa League this seasonCredit: Willie Vass
The Scottish side face RB Leipzig in the semis on Thursday


The Scottish side face RB Leipzig in the semis on ThursdayCredit: Reuters

They’ll work into an eye-fluttering lather at Leipzig’s journey from the fifth tier to challenging at the Bundesliga summit.

And they will try to convince us what a heartwarming and honourable ten-year fairytale it has been should they lift their first European trophy.

There is every chance, too. After all, they are hot favourites to win the Europa League ahead of this week’s semi-finals.

Those chai latte-sipping, goatee-bearded types may be right. We could see the next stage of an incredible footballing journey in the days ahead.

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But the most remarkable win wouldn’t be one that sends them into a frenzy. Because although Leipzig — backed by soft drink giant Red Bull — have come from the basement, so too have the team in their way.

And in Rangers’ case, they haven’t done it backed by the untold millions of a global company, which sponsors major sporting events and teams around the world.

Yes, it has been a stunning rise for Leipzig, from winning the NOFV-Oberliga Sud — Germany’s fifth tier — in 2010 to the Bundesliga in 2017.

They have had huge successes, reaching the last four of the Champions League two years ago and developing the likes of Naby Keita and Timo Werner.

Yet while they were on a money-no- object route to the top, so were Rangers. Only having to count every penny — certainly in the early days — as they did so. The original club may date back to 1872 but the current version has just over a decade of history, thanks to financial chaos, liquidation and a restart in Scotland’s Division Three.

It was a resurrection which, after a few businessmen saved them from disappearing altogether, saw a lot of players do just that.

And as they set off in the fourth tier in 2012, pretty much any money spent came from the fans’ pockets at the turnstiles.

But what numbers flooded in. Their first league game at Ibrox, against East Stirling, was in front of almost 50,000. The numbers hardly dropped thereafter.

While they were able to spend more as they climbed the ranks, it has never been silly money, and last year they stopped what most felt would be a Celtic stroll to a tenth title in a row.

Amid talk of European Super Leagues and moneybags giants trying to run the show, Rangers have shown what can be done. Yet rarely are they spoken of as a textbook example. Rarely is their journey hailed in the same raving way as Leipzig’s.

If some of the so-called elite had a fraction of the initiative and drive that has taken Rangers back to the top, maybe they wouldn’t be in the mess they’re in.

So if anyone tries to tell you what a story it will be if Red Bull make next month’s final in Seville, put them straight. The Blue Bull would be even better.

Rivals do not give a dross

THE contrast in Manchester and Merseyside could not be greater.

As City and Liverpool fans savour their finest teams in the modern era, United and Everton suffer the worst.

Watching your biggest rivals slug it out for silverware, while your own side serves up a pile of dross every week is tough enough. Even if it has got to the stage where you expect it.

Yet what really hurts at Goodison and Old Trafford is how little the men putting them through it seem to actually care.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, United fans knew they’d never win the title. A good Cup run was the best hope. But while the talent may have been missing, at least the effort never was.

Manchester United were hammered 4-0 by rivals Liverpool on Tuesday night


Manchester United were hammered 4-0 by rivals Liverpool on Tuesday nightCredit: Rex

And when it came to playing City or Liverpool, regardless of league placings, it was a right old battle. All points were hard-won, the losers always devastated.

Likewise with Everton. Their Stanley Park rivals may have been kings of Europe, but any derby win came with a bruised shin or bloodied nose.

Again, everyone knew what it meant.

And as much as the fans hurt, they never doubted that the players weren’t doing likewise.

It didn’t soften the blow but somehow made it more bear-able. You were all in it together.

These days, though, that has gone. It is the name on the wage slip, not the one on the badge which matters. Not just for these two, of course, but this week has highlighted it.

Back in the day, if you couldn’t match your rivals for talent, at least you would for effort. Sometimes it meant players crossed the line but it was almost expected by both sides.

Yet now there is more chance of a bit of passion on Songs of Praise than from those in an Everton or United shirt.

Two proud clubs. Two proud sets of fans. Two lots of couldn’t-give-a-toss players.

Maybe the stinging criticism United, coached by Ralf Rangnick, have copped this week will inspire Everton to put in a performance at Anfield today. But you wouldn’t hold your breath.

Pog won’t take lead

A DAY after the Anfield debacle, and we were told Paul Pogba is “increasingly likely” to leave Old Trafford.

In terms of a shock, it was less predictable than Liverpool’s win or the fact Pogba has almost certainly now played his final game for the club.

Yet as much as Manchester United supporters will wave him off with two fingers pointing straight into the air, his will be one of THE great unfulfilled Premier League careers.

Paul Pogba is set to leave Manchester United this summer when his contract is up


Paul Pogba is set to leave Manchester United this summer when his contract is upCredit: AFP

Brilliant with Juventus, a World Cup winner for France, Pogba should have been known as one of the finest midfielders to ever grace the field of play in England and for United.

In terms of talent, the Frenchman is right up there with the likes of Old Trafford greats Paul Scholes, Bryan Robson, David Beckham and Co.

When it comes to attitude, application and effort he’s also in a different league.

Only, this time, he is right down at the bottom.

THE Against The Odds documentaries on ITV have been compelling.
If you haven’t seen the ones on jockeys Rachael Blackmore and, especially, Guy Disney hunt them down.

But the next, on Derby- winner turned trainer Johnny Murtagh is on another level, as he speaks about his battle with alcohol as well as his glory days.

Johnny Murtagh — Creating Belief is on Thursday May 5 at 9pm.

WHEN Middlesbrough keeper Luke Daniels caught a backpass from Sol Bamba, Huddersfield were fuming when referee Darren England showed a yellow.

They insisted Daniels merited red as he stopped a certain goal, even though a booking and indirect free-kick were correct, because it was a technical offence.

Which proved one thing above all else — there are still plenty of footballers who don’t know the rules.

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