Amidst the usual negative reaction to a poor result at Ibrox on Saturday, I was struck by just how willing some people were to exaggerate. I won't repeat some of the nonsense thrown the way of the players and manager but it's fair to say many comments were unhelpful. Juxtapose that backlash with hundreds/thousands of fans leaving the game early (from the 75th minute no less!) then I was just as disappointed at the fickle nature of our support than the actual draw with Morton.
Clearly though any constructive criticism does has a lot of merit and we ignore fan opinion at our peril. Importantly, as I highlighted after we dropped points away to Livingston, the problems we faced against them and Morton are nothing new. Teams will sit deep, we'll need to break them down and we can ill-afford passengers. Moreover, if we're sloppy defensively when the opposition does counter then we'll concede enough goals to cause us problems. For that reason, it's certainly frustrating that such obvious tactical issues remain prevalent and dressing-room summits or not, these deficiencies need to be addressed.
Indeed, all over the top reactions aside, because we've struggled to address these defects it is fair to say our squad isn't good enough and I doubt many people would genuinely argue with that. Yes, Mark Warburton prefers to work with a compact squad and it's good to see younger players featuring regularly but as we struggled on Saturday I clearly wasn't the only fan non-plussed with what we had to change the game. Guys like Clark, Shiels and Oduwa have all contributed to a reasonable degree this season but the jury is out on how effective they are in a general sense. Add in perennially injured players like Templeton and Bell then an agreeably efficient squad quickly becomes too thin. Worse, players who aren't playing quite as well don't have a replacement to sharpen them up. For example, James Tavernier has had an impressive début season but with only the unconvincing Fraser Aird as deputy, it's no surprise to see his contribution falter of late.
Thankfully, by and large the manager acknowledges the need for new players and it would be a surprise if at least two or three didn't arrive next month. That improved competition for places should spur the existing lads on and, as much as the above criticisms are valid, we shouldn't forget just how effective we've been in the majority of games this season. Even on Saturday we still played well enough in patches but just lacked that extra guile and quality to finish the game off. It can also be argued that the stop-start nature of our recent schedule hasn't helped so with a tough festive schedule coming up, there should be no excuses in the matches against Falkirk and Hibs either side of Christmas Day.
We may still be in 2015 but these two games could prove pivotal in terms of the Championship title race. Not only do we have a resurgent Hibs - unbeaten since we won at Ibrox in late August - but a hungry Falkirk side doing their best to keep up with both of us. Rangers may rightly still be favourites for the title but those who predicted a stroll to the Premiership were wrong and as Hibs have shown with wins over the New Firm in the League Cup, writing off the Edinburgh side is premature. Mark Warburton may make light of Alan Stubbs' attempted mind games but he must take their challenge seriously. As must any Rangers fans who think we're somehow entitled to success rather than having to earn it.
In that sense there are no easy short cuts back to where we used to be. Not only do we have to appreciate the budgetary restraints on the manager's pursuit of new players, our current league position won't excite many targets either. Yes, a packed Ibrox every other Saturday helps but irritable jeers from the stands and a half-empty stadium by the 85th minute won't. Bearing that in mind, when we appraise the club at the moment we have to peruse the whole package. Yes, we don't want to follow court cases instead of cup games but, for the next few years at least, these legal challenges will be as much a part of our future as any league match. After all how can we spend millions on new players when we're hamstrung by the corporate pillaging of recent years? Unfortunately until we're free of all litigation then it's difficult to plan effectively.
Consequently, patience is most definitely a virtue nowadays for Rangers fans. As much as we're all eager to get back to the top of the Scottish game, it's not going to happen right away and there are many obstacles still to face along the way. Yes, we're already approaching four years since the oldco entered administration but there's no end in sight to the difficulties that period brought the club. Therefore, as much as we need to see composure, fortitude and endurance on the field, we as a support need to partake of the same qualities off it. Bill Struth's famous quotes have never been more valid. We must heed them.
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