In fact, when we lost in Sunday’s Viaplay Cup Final, my attention wasn’t automatically taken up by that defeat (after all the game looked lost after just five minutes of us standing off Celtic). Instead, it was the bigger picture that was grabbing my attention.

Earlier in the week, Rangers Academy lead coach Brian Gilmour took an under 18 side out to compete in the fifth edition of the Mohammed VI Football Academy Tournament. The games were live on YouTube and I was able to watch most of them. OK, we were up against some good teams (Real Madrid, Lyon, Marseille, Fath Union Sports and the impressive Mohammed Academy side) but with only one win from our five matches, I am not sure the trip can be considered a success. There were some possible explanations for the poor results – the travelling, the heat and the poor artificial surfaces will not have helped – but the general lack of quality was worrying. Very few players stood out (even Lovelace or Rice who have been involved with the first team lately) and, as much as it can be difficult or even unfair to judge players on a small sample of 2x30min half matches, I was not impressed. There seemed to be no obvious strategy to our play, which certainly mimics that of our Men’s team.

My mood was not helped further on Friday night when, in a pre-cursor to Sunday’s Old Firm non-contest, the Women’s side were comfortably beaten 3-0 by Celtic in Airdrie. Now, women’s football in Scotland is not overly easy to analyse with a huge gulf between the three top Glasgow sides and the opposition. Hearts and Hibs do seem to have improved over the last year or so but generally, the league is always between Glasgow City, Celtic and Rangers with our side looking to retain their title from last season. Unfortunately, despite Friday’s loss to Celtic being our first of the campaign, four draws already have put us on the back foot in our title defence. With just two games left until the post-split fixtures begin, Rangers are seven points behind leaders City and in third place behind Celtic. Although I will concede to being a casual observer, progress does not seem to have been made this season.

Moving onto Saturday and even our B team – although riding high in the Scottish Lowland League – could not win. Worse, they were humbled 3-0 away to mid-table Berwick Rangers. Of course the B Team cannot be promoted from their division but are now behind Spartans in the table and will be overtaken by Celtic B should they win their game in hand. More informed commentators than me have been concerned by the standard this season and it seems there are few players showing the quality they’ll need to catch the eye of the first team manager.

Sunday afternoon does not need much in depth discussion. As touched on above, a cursory look at the first five minutes of the game told an early story. Rangers stood off Celtic, could not keep hold of the ball themselves and certainly did not seem capable of causing them many problems despite the usual big pre-match words. Fortunately, for us, Celtic were equally poor for much of that first half but when they did start to move the ball around, we struggled badly. Whether it was down to fitness or just common, garden laziness, various players were unable to match Celtic’s enthusiasm or athleticism, never mind the basics of making a 5-yard pass. As has often been the case this season, we did show some spirit to grab a goal back but the damage had been done and we never really looked like scoring an equaliser with Celtic also missing two sitters late on.

Post-match, fan reaction has been understandable with everyone from the manager and players to the board receiving criticism – some of it reactionary but many points also valid. For my part, I decided to wait a few days before putting my thoughts to print. I was extremely angry after the game – not because I felt we were going to win but at the way we lost.

First and unlike many other supporters, I did not mind the starting line-up. Yes, leaving out Raskin was perhaps a surprise and Cantwell was unlucky as I had him MotM above Raskin v Livingston the previous week. But the manager explained his thinking on that and it was reasonable – the same XI had hammered Hearts just a few weeks previously so surely they’d be able to apply the same level of commitment and effort to Celtic in a Cup Final? The answer was a resounding no.

Whether or not Lundstram and Tillman were fit, neither contributed whatsoever and along with Glen Kamara’s now usual half-hearted efforts, the essential midfield battle was lost. This meant we often sat too deep and certainly did not support our attackers or force Celtic back often enough. Morelos’ continued appalling lack of conditioning ensured they could keep a high line and our threat was minimal with both Sakala and Kent well off form.

Indeed, it can be argued only Allan McGregor got pass marks in an individual sense as defensively we also struggled badly with Goldson and Davies both unable to mark any Celtic player closely enough and Borna Barisic failing to stay goal side of his man once again. Meanwhile James Tavernier, threw in his usual Old Firm display of appearing busy himself but in actual fact failing to marshall those around him. His words about needing to work harder after the game really stung given many of the players are so far off the pace nowadays, it’s clear that they don’t feel hard work is necessary.

Check out our Podcast

This Friday night we'll preview the Kilmarnock game at Ibrox live on YouTube, as well as discussing this article and all the week's latest news. Don't miss it and remember you can take part via the chat facility!

Visit our Youtube channel

For the manager’s part, I would imagine Michael Beale would not have slept well on Sunday night. Yes, he may still feel the XI he selected was adequate but in retrospect perhaps Raskin and Cantwell – his January signings after all – should have started the game. Furthermore, the changes he made through the match were questionable. Why did he wait so long to change a midfield that was not functioning and, why did he take off Morelos just as Rangers seemed to get him into the game?

No matter the answer to these questions, Beale should have the very least learned a valuable lesson on Sunday. It is beyond clear now that much of his squad are not up to the challenge. Of course, some deserve praise for winning 55 and taking us to Seville but at Rangers, you are only as good as your last pass and, for many, their time has clearly come and gone. I don’t actually think there’s much point in naming who should leave as I’m not so sure there are many who should be staying (other than those new to the club).

The problem with a scorched earth policy though is removing upwards of ten players requires serious funds and the Rangers board rarely look keen on spending the kind of money that delivers the necessary quality. Not to mention, Ross Wilson’s recent work in the transfer market is inconsistent at best. For example, if we take Malik Tillman as a success and a necessary purchase (something our fans and myself often change their mind on), then it will take £5m. At the same time, we need to replace our goalkeeper, add quality midfielders and sign a variety of attacking players unless we finally negotiate contracts with Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos – two players who still split opinion on their worth. Do we really have the financial ability to make wholesale changes? What risks are involved?

If we look at last summer’s signings alone then it does not inspire confidence. Lawrence and Yilmaz have hardly featured because of severe injuries; Matondo now seems to have completely disappeared after being continually injured early on anyway, whilst Davies and Colak have also been unavailable for long periods. That is the best part of £15m spent on minimal return. Do we gamble more- last season’s Europa League Final run and this season’s Champions League group stage appearance will have topped up the coffers along with income from the sales Bassey and Aribo but other outgoings for CapEx projects may have swallowed up some of those monies?

Where do we go from here then? I have seen plenty rants on social media along with several mainstream articles of merit asking questions, demanding change and even protests being suggested via other forums. After losing another trophy to Celtic, that is understandable – especially in such a now familiarly meek fashion. The problem is there are very few solutions being suggested and I am afraid I cannot outline anything obvious either – not without the usual bland caveats about finance and context.

For what it’s worth, I do think this season has been an unusual one. I cannot remember a Rangers team having so many injuries to so many key players. That has been a contributory factor – not an excuse, but a valid point worth raising. However, it needs to be explained and solved. I have seen conspiracies about fitness department cuts and software being used instead, questions about capable medical staff leaving, players talking about a lack of pre-season and much more but there is clearly an issue somewhere. An issue that needs action and a solution. Quite simply we cannot have someone like Kemar Roofe – an expensive acquisition and key asset starting just 42 games across the best part of three seasons. If it was just one player, then you can suggest bad luck but when it is several then there is clearly a systematic problem.

Ultimately, season 2022/23 has gone. We will hear the manager and his players talking about the league and trying to stop a Celtic treble by retaining the Scottish Cup but in the grand scheme of things that will only matter in the context of Michael Beale delivering tangible change on the field. Nevertheless, he will need help elsewhere. As discussed our youth system is struggling, the women’s team is not doing as well and the B team exercise appears less than obvious in a practical sense. Meanwhile our players are unfit and we have obvious issues in the medical department. Who bears responsibility for these issues? Can they be reversed or is it time for change?

These answers lie in the boardroom and it will be interesting to see how our board – after a timid AGM late last year – react to Celtic winning at least another two trophies. As it stands, criticism of the directors can be found online at least but it remains somewhat unorganised. With no credible fans group of note any further swell of disapproval make take time to appear but supporters will become more vocal without meaningful improvement on the pitch.

Off field, we have seen some infrastructure improvements around the footprint of the stadium. For all its criticism in terms of the investment scale and timing, New Edmiston House is excellent, the Blue Sky Lounge very good and other similar projects welcome (if not the Albion housing sell-off). However, fans will rightly point to their own input into all of these costs and the continued financial contribution needed to fund them. From the ongoing difficulties around MyGers, to the commercial activities that seem to be incessantly requesting our cash, there is only so much goodwill to be found when we are not winning on the park. Replacing a board and key investors isn't something easily done but they cannot be immune from criticism and I'm surprised we have heard nothing from Stewart Robertson in recent days.

As such, I would suggest the next three months are vital for the club. Irrespective of who wins what, it has to be demonstrated that the manager, the Sporting Director and the board recognise what needs to be done with a renewed pathway to success outlined. This period will see some Rangers careers ended but also the chance for some to begin and others to be renewed. Results on the park will reflect that to some extent but communication and clarity will help too. Especially when they club will be asking hard up fans to renew their season tickets in short order. Do you have £500+ spare?

In conclusion, our captain was right to say much hard work is to be done. That starts now and anyone who is not interested in keeping fit or applying themselves should be left behind – no matter who they are. Let us identify the passengers and, just as importantly, let us identify those capable of leading us forward.

That leadership is needed more than ever and it has been sorely missing since Sunday. Who will step up?

Discuss this article

Enjoyed this satire? Disagree entirely? Found a spelling mistake? Whatever your opinion, it's welcome on our popular and friendly message-board.

Visit Gersnet Forum