It's not been a good seven days for Rangers fans. This time last week, we were approaching the first leg of the play-off final against Motherwell with reasonable confidence that we'd be able to give our Premiership peers a good challenge over the two matches. Unfortunately, while the first game (result aside) was competitive and close enough, the second match merely served to highlight the glaring faults across the Rangers squad.
Quite simply, we were outplayed for the majority of the tie and once again our mental and physical and fragilities were exposed for all to see. Consequently, while more than twelve players may be out of contract this month, there's precious few of the squad worth retaining over and above those departures. For example, have the likes of Cammy Bell, Lee Wallace and Nicky Law really shown themselves capable of dealing with the expectations of being a Rangers player? Similarly, although younger players like Murdoch, Walsh and Aird have contributed to a reasonable degree, it's difficult to confidently say their obvious limitations will be addressed going forward. It seems clear, whoever is in charge next season has an incredibly difficult task ahead of them.
In that sense, the management team is key and given our unacceptable failure this season, I'm not sure Ally McCoist, Kenny McDowall or Stuart McCall can consider their contribution good enough to be involved in the future. Yes, the latter may have improved upon McDowall but, restricted by poor players or not, the same bland style of management as his predecessors became obvious during his few months as caretaker. Unfortunately for McCall there's enough doubt about his efforts to suggest a complete change is required in the manager's office. Ergo, while the papers may carry a different name favoured for the role on a daily basis, it's vital the club's board appoint the right man in short order.
And what of the board? Well, it's been three months since the Dave King consortium swept to power at March's EGM and while outright panic may not be evident over our failure to be promoted, doubt and cynicism is again building amongst the Rangers support. With our league position previously uncertain, it may well have been unfair to have expected substantial investment and change in such a short time-frame but now our future has been decided, there should be no excuse for the regime now. Hence, while most fans may take most notice in what manager and players arrive, the modern era (especially at Rangers) tells us off-field matters are of equal or more importance for a club that has struggled so badly in recent years. Indeed, it's debatable whether boardroom appointments were dependent on what league we finished in and the lack of progress there is worthy of valid criticism.
Clearly, the coming few days and weeks will be vital for Dave King. Not only does he have a (somewhat vexatious) general meeting to deal with next week but he has to be seen to leading from the front in rebuilding the club. It seems certain he'll be back in the country to attend said meeting and inconsistent airport interview sound-bites aside he now has to put the meat on the bones of his plans for Rangers. Yes, he's been at pains to make clear fundamental change and investment is required but if he's to persuade estranged and erstwhile season holders to return then his overdue strategy will need to be as substantive as the monies required to implement it. For example, if the club is indeed struggling on so many fronts, then a top-quality CEO will be required to oversee the raft of changes required across so many areas. Yet, can such a person happily arrive after the actual manager is appointed? Or will the manager have to wait until the CEO takes up their position? After all, what came first; the chicken or the egg?
Moving on, while the above appointments may well be key - there are still many more problematic issues of note at the club. The post-match events on the pitch at Fir Park appeared to have ignited the old debate over the club's PR work, new strip releases only serve to magnify the retail contract dubiety, how can new players be signed without a scouting operation and, although transparency and accountability were King's buzzwords in March, there's been precious little open fan engagement since. It's certainly unfair to pressure fans into supporting EGM resolutions without accompanying such requests via genuine unity and information sharing. Has boardroom fan rep Chris Graham been replaced yet? Or is that another role the club are frightened to fill in case the media expose a politically incorrect comment?
Okay, perhaps this commentary is in danger of turning into a rant so I'll stop stating the obvious with regard to the club's plentiful problems. What's more important is that we - and by 'we' I mean the club and support together - genuinely start work to repair everything that must be on someone's long list. It goes without saying that some of these issues won't be fixed right away and some sort of triage system will have to be setup at Ibrox to designate priority of resources. Of course, this should have happened already so while we may be considered impatient for looking for immediate change, the clock is ticking ahead of renewals.
As such, this is where the club have to be clearer than ever as what fans arguably want most is honesty and clarity. Perhaps we're fickle more than we should be but that's exactly why our expectations should be managed with our goals shared and agreed before we put our hands in our pockets again. Sticking plasters will not do. Faux concern is unacceptable. Neither do we want to hear excuses. Only ripping up the failed model of recent years and truly starting again will capture the imagination of fans turned off by lies, embarrassed by moonbeams and, more often than not, left on the outside of their club looking in. Can Dave King become the new gallant pioneer we desperately need? And do we all appreciate just how much we may need to change as well...?
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