When well-intentioned, battle weary Rangers supporters at last managed to wrestle away executive control of Rangers after years of plundering spivdom that used Rangers for their own interests, it was a happy day. However the situation, legacy issues and in part, the scorched earth that King and the 'Three Bears' took over was a very difficult challenge.
A strategy, good recruitment and finance was required for various areas of the club. Countless expensive legal cases would bring distraction and uncertainty for amongst other things, revenue streams we were trying to recover. The latter seemed to be what Dave King took on, whilst others back in Glasgow got on with running the club. In an RTV interview in April 2015, Paul Murray mapped out a vision going forwards and in my opinion it made good sense. Once the disappointment of a play-off defeat to Motherwell wore off, the way ahead began to take shape.
For 2015/16, Mark Warburton proved to be an excellent appointment, he very quickly got his excellent recruitment done and had the team playing some wonderful football in front of very happy full houses at Ibrox. We achieved promotion as Championship winners, won the Challenge Cup, which had eluded our grasp in previous years, and got to the Scottish Cup Final.
However, as we approached that Cup Final, 'storm clouds' approached Ibrox for the first time in nearly a year. In hindsight, they seemed to be so high that to most they were hardly visible. Ironically, they started to gather after a notable victory over Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final and took the form of poor on-field results that culminated in a Cup Final defeat to Hibs. More importantly, there appeared to be problems brewing between Warburton and at least part of the board. This seemed to be material in the change from a broadly progressive and successful strategy to a more reactionary style with a cumulative negative effect, later on developing into something akin to an omnishambles.
The banner headlines of this omnishambles has been two awful summer transfer windows and a dubious managerial appointment.
After Pedro Caixinha was sacked, Alastair Johnson publicly cited "institutional failure" and "systemic failure" to have been part of the problem. He was referring to the managerial issues but I think it goes further and all the way back to April 2016, when Warburton's relationship with the board seemed to sour.
2016/17 was our first season back in the top flight and our summer recruitment didn't seem to be consistent with what appeared to have been our short-lived 'strategy', nor Warburton's way of operating. It was high risk and brought in expensive dodgy temperament players, injury-prone youngsters and way out of condition veterans. We went big on the 'Going for 55' line and heaped what was unreasonable expectation on what had quickly become a dysfunctional first team, managed by a man who I think, already knew that it was a matter of time and was essentially going through the motions.
If that wasn't bad enough, when we started on the downhill slope in the springtime of 2016, our main rivals had prompted a mini-revolution and appointed Brendan Rodgers. This energised their club, their support and saw the beginning of an almost absolute domestic dominance.
This was very much the background when Warburton was eventually sacked under an acrimonious cloud. The board seemed to want to get back to a progressive strategy and reduce risk in terms of football management/recruitment, when they declared they were looking for a Director of Football, as well as a first team manager/head coach.
After Ross Wilson turned down an offer to become our DoF, we then appointed Pedro Caixinha as manager. The main rationale being that the vacuum had to be filled and with an eye on giving him time to get his feet under the table, so as to be prepared for early European competition.
Meanwhile, the search for a DoF continued and Mark Allen was eventually appointed in mid-June. Between March and June, on top of match preparation, Caixinha was organising his squad with an eye on the following season. He seemed to quickly have problems with several players, have a less than fully motivated squad for some football matches and then have to deal with early pressure on the back of predictable but significant defeats. All this at the same time as targeting new signings to replace those who would be leaving.
Does 'institutional failure' play its part?
We wanted to go down the DoF route and eventually did, however the circumstances and pressure meant the manager was recruited first and he also took charge of a relatively large summer recruitment spree. We then repeated the mistake of the previous summer and spent too much on high-risk signings. Not forgetting the managerial selection process that brought us Pedro, which by most accounts wasn't the most professional.
Thus, it wasn't to take long into the 2017/18 campaign before a red flag started waving above Pedro. It also had a whiff of 'groundhog year' about it; we had recruited poorly and had a manager who knew in his heart that it was only a matter of time. Expectation exceeded what was actually possible with this group of players. Eventually/Inevitably, Caixinha was sacked, so the board were under pressure not only to get the next appointment right but they had to be seen to be doing it right. The former being obvious, the latter was made clear by Alastair Johnson when he talked of "systemic problem" and "institutional failure".
It's with that in mind that I feel this pressure of doing it right has lead to the long drawn out selection process (SP) we are currently in. It obviously incorporated the DoF within a SP that seemingly waited until the World Cup qualifiers were finished until it completed its application deadline. Thereafter it will have completed its short-list and started interviewing candidates as per what I read into the statement of November the 10th. Personally, I'd have gone for McInnes straight after sacking Pedro but it's easy behind the keyboard.
If we think back to the vacuum prior to Pedro being appointed, the board might have been better to keep Murty in the job until a DoF was appointed but the pressure/outcry to fill the vacuum was too great. Perhaps, now that we've come this far, we'd be better to let the SP run it's course and see what comes of it.
That being said, I can understand if there is less than full confidence that the club will start getting things right after 18 months of omnishambles. Especially when there are significant financial and structural issues that run parallel to the football matters. We can only hope that the board use this week's AGM to brief the shareholders and supporters as to the current situation. That they actually recognise failings, 'complications' and 'barriers' whilst proposing significant changes to get back on track.
- We need clear leadership from the board and that may mean changes and/or additions in such roles.
- We need a joined-up strategy for the club as a whole (including finance), not the reactionary management which has been all over the place.
- We need a hard-nosed and competent CEO to implement strategy on a day to day basis. (Stewart Robertson doesn't seem to cut it and lacks the confidence of the fans).
- We need better communications/PR (Traynor has been a negative). That said, the support also need to understand that to have any control over the 'narrative' we can't keep on making enemies out of everyone.
- We need an excellent first team manager.
- We need to get value out of every pound spent, rather than having the habit to simply look for someone else to throw a large wedge our way.
It's also worth noting the support have been brilliant but (and many won't want to hear it) still need to show further patience and realism because we aren't going to get to where we want to go any time soon. The important thing is to steadily improve and be ready to scupper our rivals bid for their tenth title in a row.
We also must remember that there are no guarantees for future success - but for the board to not make significant and positive change to the way we have done business in the last 18 months would guarantee something much more unpleasant.
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