On the one hand, committee members have been working extended hours ahead of a momentous event. Glebe Park had to be upgraded, staff arrangements had to be made and commemorative mugs, badges and programmes produced for what will be the first game that Rangers have played since the insolvency event that saw the business and assets bought by Sevco Scotland Ltd and the club demoted to the lower leagues.
On the other, manager Jim Weir has been getting ready for a football match which has at times seemed incidental. Weir's challenge has been to separate the two occasions, since his own players could have been overwhelmed by the attention. Tickets for the home fans went on sale last Monday evening and were sold out in hours. Rangers still had a few tickets yesterday morning, but the expectation is the 4200-capacity Angus ground will be sold out.
There is a sense of Rangers feeling they are embarking on something worthwhile: the rebuilding of their club. For Brechin, the occasion is less principled, but still significant. The knockout tournaments can often pair provincial sides with the leading clubs, but nobody supposed the Ramsdens Cup could ever create such a significant occasion. The response in Brechin has been animated. The town feels descended on, and the media were out in droves yesterday. The club itself has reacted as if jolted out of a mundane existence. The decision had been made at boardroom level to not print any programmes this season, but a batch has been run off to mark this game, and raise a few more funds. The commemorative mugs – bearing: "Brechin City v Rangers, Glebe Park, 29th July 2012. Brechin City first club to play new Rangers in a competitive game." – and badges will also be of value. They reflect the encounter's exceptional nature, since this will be Rangers first-ever match outside membership of the top flight.
The build-up sought to be in keeping with this unconformity, and Rangers were only granted a temporary SFA membership late on Friday night. The delays irked Weir, who went from preparing to face Dundee, to uncertainty, to facing Rangers and then back to uncertainty again. A lower league manager might be inclined to worry about the routine of his players' working lives, but it will have been a distraction from the clamour of today's tie. After winning a friendly against Inverness last Tuesday night, most of the players were back at work the following day.
"I try to get my players to treat every game – a bounce game or whatever – the same, so that the hard work is there and the will to win," Weir says. "It was vital that the players built their confidence up. We've got caught up in the circus.
"It's a small town, a really small population, and the media exposure is great. Hopefully we can do ourselves justice. It's been a concern from one minute to the next who we were going to play. Now it's Rangers in their first game, and it's creating a bit of history live on television."
Weir has not been able to settle upon a mood. At first, the prospect of facing Rangers was intriguing, with most of the Ibrox side's leading players choosing to leaving rather than allow their contracts to be transferred to Sevco Scotland. With a registration embargo having been imposed, Weir believed he might be facing a young, inexperienced and under-prepared side, since the absence of a SFA membership meant that Rangers could not even play official friendlies. Yet the squad still contains Maurice Edu, Dorin Goian, Carlos Bocanegra, Lee Wallace, Neil Alexander, Kirk Broadfoot and Lee McCulloch. The likes of Ian Black and Craig Beattie have also been training at Murray Park with a view to signing for Rangers now that the embargo has been pushed back to September 1 – Black and Andy Little put pen to paper yesterday but cannot play – and Weir has had to come to terms with the reality that Rangers will not be as undermined as he thought.
"When it was announced we would be facing Rangers, I started to think about the players they had lost over the close season, so then you think, 'it's young boys they've got and we might have a realistic chance here'," he says. "Then I started to pick up reports from other managers who had played them in bounce games about the quality of the players that had fielded. Then I saw the players they're offering contracts and new contracts too, and that feeling that we might be facing a young, inexperienced side went out the window. The team we face will be full of quality. We will be massive underdogs."
Today's contest is a momentous occasion, but also an indication of what Rangers will face in the coming seasons. The lower leagues will require a period of familiarisation, from the surroundings to the nature of teams' responses to playing such high-profile opponents. "They'll need a lot of experience," Weir says. "It will be a test of character."
It is a challenge that begins today at Glebe Park.
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