Rangers' Footballing Future
- 04 February 2013
There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth since the team's woeful performance against Dundee Utd in the Scottish Cup on Saturday. Quite rightly, our fans were not happy with a performance which lacked quality, desire and in some cases even a basic level of competence. However, it is worth noting that Dundee Utd have beaten considerably better Rangers teams in the cup in recent seasons. Is it really worthwhile pouring over a single performance and highlighting the obvious flaws in this current team? The focus of Rangers fans tends to be on the immediate – the latest result or the latest poor performance from a player. I would argue that we as fans need to take a longer term view, but in doing so we need to see that the club are doing the same.
When Ally McCoist had to cobble together a side in a matter of weeks in the summer, before the SFA's illegal registration embargo was forced into place, there was always the risk that we would end up with a few duds in the squad. We had to get players in quickly and in such circumstances, due care and attention tend to go out the window. So it is that we find ourselves with players such as Cribari, Black, Shiels – all of whom have failed to live up to the standards we would expect from experienced pros. The emergence of young players like MacLeod, McKay, Aird and Hutton has at times been overshadowed by just how poor these more experienced signings have been. So do we sack the manager who signed them and whose team seems incapable of cohesive play for more than part of any given game? Perhaps, but what then?
Ally McCoist is a Rangers legend. This complicates matters because, in their heart, every Rangers fan wants Ally to be a success. The head, at the moment, is maybe thinking differently but we need to look beyond this current team and find out what the plan is to rebuild the club and provide a sustainable, successful future.
Off the field, Charles Green has raised significant sums and has laid out plans to increase the club's revenue across a number of fronts. It remains to be seen if these are all successful but the plans are there. Can we say the same for developing the football side of the club? What are the plans to improve our coaching of young players or indeed our first team? What are the plans to ensure that Murray Park attracts the best young players? How can we ensure that these players flourish, providing the first team with a regular stream of talent that is good enough to win not only Division 3 but the top league in Scotland and to compete in European competition? How are we going to start finding the type of players that Celtic have done in the past few years? Players who can be bought relatively cheaply and can contribute to the club before being sold on for a profit? Don't get me wrong, Celtic have signed plenty of duds themselves but these mistakes are at least offset by their ability to make a large profit from one or two individuals. Like it or not, that is how we will also have to operate whilst we remain financially constrained by the Scottish game.
Craig Mather is now in charge of Murray Park. We have not heard a peep from him. We don't know what he is doing to improve things. Are we putting in place a scouting network to support Neil Murray? Are we going to employ our own, competent scouts rather than relying solely on agents who have a vested interest in us signing their players?
On the coaching side it seems to me that we need to support the existing team with more technical coaches. The importance of having people who know the club involved in the coaching team cannot be underestimated. All big clubs have ex-players on the staff, but they also have excellent technical coaches who can work with players and improve them. It is not necessary to sack existing coaches to bring in new ones. We can and should have both. Not so long ago, at Chelsea, they had Jose Mourinho, Andre Villas-Boas, Steve Clarke and Brendan Rodgers all working in the same coaching team. Now they are all managers in their own right. There is nothing stopping us doing the same.
No Rangers board and management team has ever had the opportunity to change the way the club operates in the way those in charge currently do. There has always been the pressure to win the league, win the cups and compete in Europe. We may not always have managed to do so but the pressure to do it has never subsided. That pressure is gone. We are not expected to win the cups, we are not competing in Europe and we should be able to win the league for at least the next two years at an absolute canter. So now, more than ever, is the time to focus on the structure of the club.
We need to improve the coaching, improve the recruitment of both young and experienced players and ensure that the system we put in place can be sustained for years to come. What is the point in signing players over the age of 28? When we reach the top league they will be past their prime and the ones who are good enough now are unlikely to be attracted to Division 2 or 3 anyway. We should be bringing in promising players for the youth teams and making sure our 18 and 19 year olds are getting regular game time in the first team to allow them to improve. We should be a hugely attractive proposition for young players. What other clubs our size can give them the chance to play first team football regularly in front of huge crowds?
People say we need experience and I agree, but we already have it. McCulloch, Alexander and Wallace provide experience but more importantly the performances to go with it. Why do we need more? Experience alone is not a reason to be in the team – it must be coupled with desire, ability and a certain level of performance. Does Ian Black bring anything to the team that Lewis MacLeod can't? Does Dean Shiels bring anything to the team that Barry McKay can't? Not based on their performances this year.
If a team full of 18-23 year olds had gone to Tannadice and performed the way our more experienced team did on Saturday, not only would the fans have been more sympathetic but the players would have learned from it. What did Ian Black or Emilson Cribari learn on Saturday? What did Dean Shiels learn? None of these players are going to improve and our results this season suggest we don't need them. The best performances have come when these guys have not been playing.
Ally McCoist has the chance to put in place a real and lasting legacy at Rangers. He can be the man who completely transforms the way we operate. We will work our way up the divisions but we have to ready when we get there. I would love it to be Ally that does it. He knows the club inside out but he needs help. He needs better coaches and better scouts but most importantly he needs to have the vision to build his legacy.
I think we need to hear more from the club on this. Fans are always impatient and none of the above can happen overnight but we need to see it starting and it would be nice to hear as much about this element of the rebuilding process as we do about the commercial side. Perhaps it has already started. If so then the club could take a lot of heat off the management team and improve the mood of the fans by communicating the long term vision more clearly. The absence of information leads to suspicions that there is no vision. Time will tell if Super Ally will be the man to lead us back to glory but everyone connected with the club needs to try to look beyond games like Saturday and focus on the bigger picture.