If we go back just a fortnight, then things looked fairly good for Rangers supporters.

Despite an unfortunate ref-affected draw away at Easter Road, we'd just beaten PSV in the Netherlands to qualify for the Champions League group stages for the first time in 12 years.  It seemed the associated monies would allow us to strengthen our squad further to allow us to not only maintain a domestic title challenge but to compete - at least to an honest, hard-working degree - in Europe.  After ten years in the doldrums and a slow, slow return to the pinnacle of Scottish football, including our 55th title two seasons ago and an incredible run to the final of the Europa League last term, was the fabled 'journey' back to being Scotland's best finally complete?

Just two weeks later the answer appears to be a resounding no.

Of course that response is rather flippant.  Yes, we've come back over a decade, under various very difficult circumstances, to the top division and have been successful again.  Yes, the club is going to post the kind of impressive financial results we've not seen for the better part of 20 years.  And, yes, all concerned deserve more than huff-taking when the going may get tough once more.  In that respect, surely we've learned by now that patience can be a virtue?

With that in mind, I think the current Rangers board - or at least elements of it - deserve our composure.  These people have put in vast amounts of their own personal fortunes to allow the club a platform to compete again.  Under some impossible to predict situations (a global pandemic and war in Europe), they've provided steady leadership and investment needed to keep the club on an even keel.  They can't guarantee success and we should all know by now we cannot afford to take risks with our finances.  However, that should also not mean no criticism.

In that sense, mistakes are being made and there are issues which they seem to struggle with.  MyGers, ticketing portals, commercial partnerships, stadium facilities, PR, scouting, football operations and more all have valid concerns from supporters with few clear answers.  Customer engagement is constantly highlighted but not visibly improved whilst fans are asked for more and more money - themselves affected by worsening fiscal pressures.  No matter, if things are going well on the park, oftentimes such issues can be masked or at least endured as a necessary part of maximising investment into the team itself.

Winning our 55th title in 2020/21 did that.  And, despite not enough improvement in the squad, reaching Seville last season did the same.  Moreover, early transfer activity this summer allowed further optimism for a new campaign.  The signings of Colak, Tillman, Lawrence and Matondo in particular seemed to pacify most supporters - even if there were some doubts about the composition of our midfield and depth in attacking areas.  No matter, the season started fairly well - not overly impressive - but results good enough to, well, mask any issues that did seem to be developing.  The fitness and attitude of Alfredo Morelos was a major indicator of problems in the dressing room with a not altogether convincing explanation from the manager around squad support for the Colombian's effective suspension.  Only an awful away performance in Belgium pointed to a deeper malaise but surely that was a one-off?

Unfortunately the last fortnight has seen problems escalate.  No further additions to the squad despite CL qualification surprised most fans and subsequent humiliations at Parkhead and in Amsterdam have made that decision look questionable at best.  Meanwhile supporter frustration with services from the club has worsened - increased ticket prices, poor payment structures, travel concerns and a club apparently unwilling to engage on any of the above has seen fractures develop.  Perhaps understandably (but nonetheless wrongly) fan media with Men's team press access are blamed by some whilst the players, coaches and directors seem to shrug their shoulders to any sort of accountability.  

On the park has seen our last two matches lost by four goals which could easily have been double.  Players look lost in a tactical sense but, worse, many are clearly disinterested and unwilling to do the hard yards - evidenced by Ajax running a combined 6km more than our players in Wednesday's rout.  Previously reliable players can't do the basics right and others are shirking responsibility at every opportunity. Few, if any, can say they're doing what's asked of them.  Meanwhile, player after player is suddenly now injured and rarely do we hear why or when they will return.  If we're entirely honest with ourselves, all this points to a manager struggling to cope.

Even so, I've followed Rangers for the better part of 40 years and rarely is that path a smooth one.  Back in the glory years of 9IAR, doubts were still abound.  Our European efforts were usually poor, our investment into the team inconsistent and often wasteful, and future planning not to be found under the now discredited David Murray.  There were good times and bad, and everything in between so trying to predict what happened next was usually a fool's errand.  As such, it could be argued there's some over-reaction now.  A win on Saturday at Aberdeen and a positive result against Napoli next Tuesday would help. The return from injury of various players will also make the squad look that bit stronger and allow for under-performing players to be dropped.  The end is not necessarily nigh.

Yet... that takes us back to the point above about issues being masked.  There are clearly problems at the club and we cannot allow results - bad or good - stop us from examining them more closely.  Yes, the board should expect our support through good times and the bad but if there are complications then let's work together to address them - don't keep us at arm's length.  Involve us, be open and perhaps we can help further.  Don't do what David Murray and subsequent spivs did by patronising us and pitting bear against bear through misinformation.

In closing, we're in somewhat of a perfect negative storm right now with Rangers.  It might well pass but it's fair to say we've not prepared well for it and seem to have no idea what to do.  Such moments require clear, decisive leadership and not only does the manager take responsibility for that, so does the chairman and his appointments.  The fans have backed you to the hilt in recent years. Do not take that for granted or the storm could easily get much, much worse.

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