The concept of nominative determinism is that you find yourself in a job or career that’s related to your surname. My personal favourite example is that of Scottish goalkeeper Neil Parry.
Speaking of goalkeepers, Rangers’ third choice is called Andy Firth, whose surname sounds a bit like a messed up ordinal number. And in the spirit of nominative determinism, he has got himself embroiled in some messed up numbering.
A graduate of Liverpool’s academy, and so well-known to Steven Gerrard, Firth signed for Rangers in January 2019 and was allocated the number 32 shirt. This potentially could have been an in-joke with him being a former Liverpool player and the club sponsor being 32 Red.
Six months later he posted an Instagram story saying he had switched to the number 12 shirt. This immediately caused some befuddlement as that particular number had been retired by the club in 2012 (signifying the fans being the 12th man, we were told at the time).
— Footballer Instagram Stories (@BallerStories) July 10, 2019
Despite some sections of the Rangers support finding the retiral distasteful, others were unhappy about 12 being allocated again, and so Firth quietly switched to 26, recently vacated by Lee Hodson. However, this wasn’t before he sat on the bench for a Europa League first-round qualifier wearing 12, and as UEFA don’t permit squad number changes, this would wind up being his designation for the remainder of the European campaign.
The Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 has resulted in what’s often called the ‘new normal’. Normally, for instance, you finish one season before you start another, but in August 2020 Rangers played their final 2019-20 Europa League match after the 2020-21 Scottish League campaign had started. And this is where things get firthy. Sorry, filthy.
In the pre-season friendly against Motherwell on July 22, Firth came on as a substitute wearing 26, the same number allocated to his profile on the club’s new website. The next time he would make any sort of appearance would be in the 2019-20 Europa League round-of-32 second leg against Bayer Leverkusen. With new signing Jon McLaughlin ineligible and former back-up goalkeeper Wes Foderingham having left the club, Firth took the reserve goalie spot, spending all night on the bench wearing his 2019-20 European number of 12.
With Allan McGregor sustaining some sort of injury during the trip to Germany, McLaughlin took over in goal for the next two domestic games, against both Saints Mirren and Johnstone. This meant Firth was on the bench, and while in theory he should have been wearing 26 against the Paisley Saints, most sources had him as 12.
Things got stranger still three days later when the Perth Saints came to Ibrox and Firth’s number was listed as 13! What’s more, his number on his website profile had been changed to 13.
Sifting through historical edits of Wikipedia reveals his number on was changed to 13 on that site on August 2, before any of the matches mentioned above. What seems likely then is that the supposed 12 jersey Firth ‘wore’ in the St Mirren game was a typo on the teamsheet and he’d switched to 13 a week earlier.
Despite all this, it does mean that in his 20 months at the club, across three seasons, Firth has been allocated four numbers (32, 12, 26, and 13) and has bounced between 26, 12, and 13 this season alone. He’s still only played one match for the first team, and he’s on his firth…sorry, fourth squad number.