It’s just before 4.30am and although I didn’t get to sleep until well after midnight, I’m already wide awake. I suspect (hope?) that considering all the criticism of you and the players for last night’s result you guys may also be having the same sleep deprivations. Thankfully there is a solution…
First of all I’d like to thank you. The last few years have been dreadful for everyone connected with the club and it is clear Rangers Football Club is far from being on an even keel. It certainly can’t be easy working with faceless decision-makers and ever-changing board members. Add in what is a disjointed football operation as a whole, then I doubt any other person in your position has had to cope with as much uncertainty as you. To conduct yourself with the kind of dignity you have during these tumultuous times is testament to your Rangers credentials. We won’t forget.
Unfortunately, despite these unprecedented managerial pressures, as fans we still have to be critical. In that vein, some fans may be overly demanding while your former playing colleagues may not have the managerial experience to validate their points in the media. However, despite what Kris Boyd says, neither should their criticism be ignored. Quite simply, our performances this season and, if we’re honest, since you became manager are not good enough. Sure, last season’s unbeaten league championship win may not have been as easy as some critics claim but it certainly wasn’t perfect. Similarly our Third Division title win was far from impressive. Job done you may rightly contend but perhaps our weakened position now suggests that isn’t the case.
As it stands, we already sit nine point behind Hearts in the Championship table as we approach the mid-point of what is a crucial season for the club. Not only have we failed to take any points against our closest rivals in two games, we’ve dropped another seven points including a 1-3 humbling at home against a completely rebuilt Hibernian. As we prepare to play them and third-place Queen of the South away from home over the next few weeks, can any of us really be confident that the nine-point gap won’t increase? Like you, I think we’re capable of winning every game we play in but such pre-match belief is often eroded as we struggle through the first halves of most matches. And every time we think we have turned a corner, our mental and physical fragility is usually exposed soon enough. Last night’s embarrassment being a perfect example.
Of course such poor displays are not always down to the manager. In that regard, your players must take their share of the blame. On paper we have a solid squad of Scottish Premiership standard players (and paid as such) yet, for some at least, playing for Rangers is clearly beyond them (and their pay packet). I’m not saying it’s easy and you know yourself how difficult that can be. After all, our fans are often fickle, unreasonable and disparaging so to cope with that you need to have a mental strength not many players (and managers) can ask of themselves. Can we really say that of all our players?
Ultimately though, the choice of player and our on-field strategy comes down to you. Consecutive lower league title wins aside, that strategy has to be questioned and, all things considered, it’s not good enough. Not only do we immediately hamstring ourselves via the regular selection of aging, slow, immobile and often unfit players; you play others out of position. Perhaps it isn’t fair to single out individual players but I think we’ve moved beyond niceties so some direct criticism is appropriate. Quite simply, Steve Simonsen, Lee McCulloch, Richard Foster, Kris Boyd, Kenny Miller and Jon Daly are all well past their best. Yes, they’ve had largely decent careers and I agree every team needs experience but the continual selection of McCulloch and Boyd in particular completely stifles the team creatively. One; we need to sit far too deep to avoid McCulloch being exposed and, two; we’re unable to get in behind teams because nearly all your strikers are now incapable of running quickly. For all their worthy predatory instincts, Boyd and Daly are unable to get into scoring positons often enough and as an alternative the route one ball to them is hardly effective against the comfortably physical type of player we see in the lower leagues. Because of that one-dimensional outlook, even Kenny Miller is struggling to affect games while the one player that does look qualified (Nicky Clark) is continually passed over despite an impressive start to the season.
Unfortunately, it’s not just our elder statesmen that are the problem. Few other players in the squad are contributing anywhere near enough – in all areas of the team. In fact, it may be easier/quicker praising the ones who are. Darren McGregor is one of few signings that seem suitable. Strong, reasonably quick and works hard yet you often choose to apply more pressure on him by constantly moving him about the defence. Similarly, Lewis Macleod has been one of very few young players given a regular chance yet again, he’s moved about the team and far too much is asked of him. Others such as Mohsni, Wallace, Law and Black have occasional good contributions but their inconsistency is why the team is so erratic. Meanwhile, clearly talented players such as Templeton and Shiels flatter to deceive. The fact the constantly mediocre Fraser Aird can keep them out of the team says a lot about their abilities (or lack of them).
Indeed, I think mediocre sums everything up quite nicely and there’s no point in hiding from that. Once again, as manager this is your decisive responsibility and there are 400-800,000 reasons for why you should be addressing all the above. Taking a wage cut earlier this year may have been a wise public relations decision but your still-incredible salary and associated perks means the fans have every right to question the fiscal justification for you, your management team and your players. The club’s financial position remains perilous so as long as all staff members under-perform there is validity in examining such matters.
Consequently, I think it’s also fair that many fans are now questioning your position. In February 2012 as the club entered administration, you proudly said ‘we don’t do walking away’ which, at that time, were exactly the kind of defiant words the fans needed and wanted from our club legends. As one of our most famous sons you also had every right to highlight Rangers were your club. It is and no-one can ever say any differently. However, neither should you hold yourself and the rest of us hostage to something that was said under very different circumstances. No-one will think any less of you for walking away now; in fact, I’d wager most fans will see such personal responsibility as just another example of why we hold you and your memories so fondly in our heart.
In closing Ally, I’m not a footballing expert. Despite the empirical analysis above I can’t lecture you on the intricacies of the game or how to deal with the media and your own personal reputation. To be honest, not many people can judge you – not Bomber Brown, not Charles Green and certainly not the chancers that sit on the board at Rangers now. In fact, the best person to assess your performance is yourself. With that in mind, be honest and consult the people you can trust. Sometimes, there is no shame in saying something is beyond us. In fact, being able to recognise when that is the case can be the biggest strength of all. Finally, if and when you do leave you’ll always still be one of us.
Yours in Rangers,