A few months is a long time in this crazy game that we all love. Andy Halliday commented post-match to Rangers TV: “ We are loving life.” He could be speaking for teammates and the fans as well. The stadium roared last Sunday afternoon when James Tavernier’s slick footwork left the Peterhead player bamboozled. Martyn Waghorn firing his shot over the crossbar followed. That roar wasn’t just any roar – it was symbolic. The fans now firmly believe the club is moving in the right direction both in the boardroom and out on the field of play.
The positive energy surrounding Rangers at the minute is something that hasn’t been around since the week of the UEFA Cup final in 2008. It has only been reaffirmed with the sale of season tickets: the club has surged through the 30,000 barrier and are closing in on 35,000, which all things considered, is fantastic loyalty from the support.
Frankly, those sort of numbers were only going to be whipped up if supporters saw change taking place, and to everyone at the club’s credit, especially the board for keeping to their promises. Off the field, the banning of certain shareholders’ voting rights alongside the pending listing on the ISDX market, are good moves on the business side. On the field, the prudent, sensible manner the management team and MD Stewart Robertson have gone about their business of rebuilding the decimated footballing operation has been first class. Between them, in the market, they have let 12 players leave the club; replacing them with eight and a net transfer spend of around £685,000. That is good business in anyone’s book. It’s not only the way the transfers have been conducted, the trial periods of Jason Holt, Reece Wabara and particularly John Eustace have been handled with the utmost professionalism, care and consideration.
It’s that kind of professionalism and know-how that has been lacking in the transfer market for a number of years – all the way back to Martin Bain’s time as chief exec – where paying off players seemed to be the norm rather than trying to grab some sort of transfer fee for them. That goes back to what Mark Warburton has continually talked about when he referenced value, not only are the club capturing young, hungry players at a minimal outlay, but are looking to bring in guys like Eustace alongside model pros like Lee Wallace and Kenny Miller to help the younger guys on and off the field. It won’t just be those three who carry that responsibility. Davie Weir, who played into his early 40s, is there to give the players the best advice on how to look after their bodies in order to prolong their playing careers.
So far, on the footballing side of things, everything has been positive. The players are happy, the management team are happy, but most importantly, the fans seem to be delighted and buying into what the new management team are trying to do. The exuberance from the three performances thus far, and the two domestic cup results to get the season underway and it seems like it is not going to take a dip anytime soon.
That good form and feel-good factor only carried itself into the first home league match of the season as St Mirren visited Ibrox. The performance was very pleasing and the football was excellent at times. It didn’t take long for Ibrox to stand as one; Lee Wallace rifled a left footed shot high beyond Ridgers from a Barrie McKay corner. Wallace who produced a magnificent solo display added the second goal midway through the first half. The move was a thing of beauty: involving McKay and Holt, the latter played a lovely through ball for Wallace to run onto and calmly slot home between the legs of the helpless keeper.
The 3-1 scoreline flattered the victors somewhat. But that was down to one of two minor flaws within the side. The defensive midfield position is one that has to be addressed – while Andy Halliday is doing a decent job in there, he often lets the opposing midfielders run off the back of him. He would be better utilised in one of the two other midfield positions. The only other flaw is the passing up of numerous chances, but as the season progresses you would imagine that the sharpness in finishing will improve.
It was a good night of football and a good barometer of how far the side have come under Warburton, especially as Rangers lost the game against Hearts 2-1 around the same time last season. Warburton has sent the fans home happy in both the home games until now. As a fan, that is all you can ask for, to see the team win and be entertained.
It is only a short period into the tenure of the new management team, but they seem to have caught the imagination of everyone. If it keeps continuing at this rate, the summer feel-good factor around the club will only continue to gain momentum. One cannot help but think this season could indeed be one to look back on and think: “Yeah, that’s when the Rangers came back.”
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