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Stage 2 Preview with Tom Miller


As is the norm these days at Ibrox, the off-field issues again threaten to overshadow what is happening on the pitch. Whatever happens these coming weeks behind the scenes - the show on the park, as they say, must go on!

The Stage 2 league campaign begins at Ibrox this Saturday with an early kick-off against Brechin City. We will all be hoping for a performance more along the lines of the recent 4-0 win against Albion Rovers rather than a repeat of the gut wrenching disappointment that was the trip up to Forfar.

Performances on the park were certainly sporadic last term and with eight new players arriving it will be crucial for Ally McCoist that his team gels quickly. At Albion, Nicky Law and Jon Daly certainly looked like they will have a major impact on last season’s squad. If others can have a similar effect the season may yet look bright as, even after the League Cup exit at Forfar, there are still three trophies up for grabs.

Last season many of us (including Dorin Goian) expected to see Rangers take the field against teams full of beer bellied geriatrics – this obviously wasn’t the case as we discussed in a previous article with Tom Miller here.

So what does Stage 2 have in store for the Ibrox faithful?

Tom Miller is back and brings with him his plethora of Scottish football knowledge to discuss all of our opponents in the coming season including, what players to look out for and even some helpful away game information.

BRECHIN CITY

Won`t be an easy place to go with a new surface laid after horrendous problems with drainage last year.

Ray McKinnon lost only two games of the first 20 since he took the helm in October 2012 and is likely to be linked with future managerial vacancies at bigger clubs.

Look out for ex-Ranger Derek Carcary, still a flying machine and chipped in with 12 goals last season. Star Man though is Striker Andy Jackson he has top flight experience with St. Johnstone and doesn`t give defenders a minutes peace.

My tip for 3rd in table.

STRANRAER

Nobody likes heading to Stair Park but it`s as close as our Northern Ireland fans will get to a ‘home’ game.

Ticketing issues are likely with safety a concern at this old ground too with its Coo Shed North Stand but I suspect that will be the biggest problem for Rangers when they meet the Ferry Port side. On the field, I think Stranraer will struggle.

They made a decent signing in the summer in Martin Grehan who notched ten goals for Alloa last season and he has a real physical presence. But for me it`s the drop for Stephen Aitken’s side. 10th place of 10!

ARBROATH

Gave Celtic a real fright last season in the Scottish Cup and in Paul Sheerin (who played under Souness at Southampton) they have a very talented young manager who still has to play as the squad is pretty thin.

The Red Lichties are run on a shoe string budget and have lost a number of players from the last campaign including goal threat Steven Doris who has gone to Dundee.

I think it could be a season where Arbroath spend more time concentrating on survival than thinking about challenging.

Finishing 8th would be as good as it gets.

AYR UNITED

Great old football club - but a bit of a dilapidated stadium now. Manager Mark Roberts took over in May 2012 and has brought real energy to the job. Finished 7th last season and I would expect a bit of an improvement this term with 5th considered progress.

Look out for their own Robbie Crawford! At just 19 he is set for big things and made more appearances than any other Ayr player last season.

FORFAR

Well we now know more about The Loons than we did before we met them on League Cup business.

History was made with Forfar claiming their first win ever over Rangers, albeit it took 120 minutes to secure it.  

No trialists were allowed in the cup tie and when we head back to Station Park on League business in September we must match the organisation and game plan of Dick Campbell’s side if we are to take all three points.

Dick can sometimes be considered a Joker but make no mistake, he is a serious football man who knows how to prepare a team.

Chris Templeman and Marvin Andrews may have long forgotten their 30th birthday but there are plenty of legs in the side to do their running.

Forfar have a good blend of experience and youth and in Gavin Swankie they have a predator in the box to a take half chance.

Playoff spot and runners-up for me!

EAST FIFE

All change at Methil with new owner Lee Murray, a self-confessed Rangers fan, and a new management team that includes former Rangers striker Kevin Drinkell. The Fife are looking to bring in experience and the Hearts connections could yet see Ismael Bouzid join up with Christian Nadi at New Bayview. I also like the industry their Skipper Craig Johnstone brings to the side while Man Mountain Joe Mbu at the centre of their defence is a monster and a defender who keeps it simple but effective. Their goal threat will come from man of many clubs Liam Buchanan but it`s that lack of support to their main striker that will see them finish just south of mid table. 6th for me.

DUNFERMLINE

A true sleeping giant and having their CVA approved and accepted will give them a platform to build on but they do need The Pars public to come out in numbers. Dunfermline will still have quite an overhead to carry with East Park rental to be paid for so purse strings will need to stay drawn tightly but if anyone can get every ounce of energy from a team Jim Jeffries can.

Dunfermline will be going with a very youthful squad with energy to burn but that lack of experience may catch up with them in the final quarter of the campaign.

Faulkingham will be the provider on the field but Jeffries as Puppeteer off it has a value that money can`t buy.

Always a good day out for an away game!

4th come the end of the season.

AIRDRIE

A good start with two cup wins at home before the league campaign gets underway.

Brought in experience in form of ‘keeper Colin Stewart, Martin Hardie and Willie McLaren who has the skills to unlock most defences when he is in the mood. Scottish football’s answer to Peter Crouch Lewis Coult is the man most likely to take advantage of such service.

Coult was previously with Cowdenbeath and for a tall beanpole striker he has an excellent touch and can take it in well with his back to goal.

The Shyberry Excelsior Stadium or whatever it is called this week has always been a soul-less arena and Airdrie folk have never really got behind the club after it took on The United name…. reverting this season to Airdrieonians they are hoping crowds increase dramatically.

7th looks a reasonable return

STENHOUSEMUIR

A fairly bland side playing on a bland 3G Surface.

Last season they won 17 games drew 15 & were defeated 13 times. Pretty middle of the road stuff and I don`t expect anything different from The Warriors for the season ahead.

In Chris Smith, formerly of St. Mirren and Dunfermline, they have a goalkeeper who has ambitions to get back playing at a higher level and he could be worth six or eight points for Stenny next season. Other than that it will be a repeat of previous and a 9th place finish.    

 

Tom Miller's Predicted Table

1) RANGERS

2) FORFAR

3) BRECHIN

4) DUNFERMLINE

5) AYR

6) EAST FIFE

7) AIRDRIE

8) ARBROATH

9) STENHOUSEMUIR

10)  STRANRAER