It’s not easy being a Rangers fan at the moment for a lot of different reasons. Primarily, we all know subconsciously that we’re still not back where we belong at the top of Scottish football and it irks us in a big way, even if we don’t admit it. We try to keep on our brave faces and make out as though it doesn’t bother us and that it’s been a fantastic journey from the 4th tier of the Scottish game back up, but the reality is probably that very few of us are happy about any of it.
From the make-it-up-as-you-go-along rule changes, unprecedented sanctions, five-way agreements, attempted title-stripping, leaked HMRC tax case documents and widespread ‘guilty until proven innocent’ treatment of our Club, to the rushed and scatter-brained league reconstruction, it’s seemed like a relentless stream of schemers & opportunists out to inflict as much damage as possible on us and of course, to further their own clubs’ agendas in the process.
Then we have our shambles of an administration process run by administrators who appear to have almost certainly been in bed with Craig Whyte, Charles Green and their cronies. In the case of our GreenCo post-administration ownership, these men were only ever out to line their pockets with as many blue pounds as they could scuttle out the back door with on the back of broken promises, moonbeams & lies. If they’ve actually left yet (which many fans are skeptical of), they appear to have left our Club in a total mess.
Last, but not least on the long list of things which irk us about the past couple of years, there’s the football we’ve been watching. As if the off field issues haven’t been distressing and depressing enough, all too often the standard of performances from the team have been inconsistent and generally below our expectation levels. That’s despite the fact that even with a worrying financial situation, Ally McCoist has been able to keep and also recruit numerous good quality SPL standard players to take on the part-time teams of the 4th and 3rd tiers of Scottish football.
Of course, it’s not all been bad. There’s been some great games and very memorable moments along the way as well as some cracking away days for our traveling support, but there’s also been a lot of games which fans would rather forget and no doubt will forget. That’s not a slight on the teams in the lower divisions who’ve been brilliant hosts, given us tough matches and punched above their weight in the vast majority of games. It’s more along the lines of forgetting or trying to forget the below-par football we’ve often witnessed.
Small things, little things, like repeatedly punting the ball up to a loan striker who’s marked by at least 3 or 4 opposition defenders just doesn’t make any sense. Maybe we all need to go out and buy clipboards and draw some formations and tactics on them to get our heads around it? In the meantime, we’re left bewildered and mystified thinking there’s a time for clearing a danger or seeing an opportunity to catch a team on the break, but not needlessly and repeatedly hoofing balls up the pitch when the success ratio of doing it is tiny and invariably we struggle to keep possession.
The long ball tactic is just one gripe from many, but it’s quite an important one to highlight because good football teams generally don’t use that tactic repeatedly throughout a game, they use it sparingly and normally only at the right times, in the right circumstances. I was going to say that maybe we’re simply not a good football team at the moment, but I’m struggling to say it because we still have a reasonably good squad of players and despite our gripes about team selections, formations and tactics, there’s definitely signs that we do actually try to play some good football in amongst the turgid stuff.
The team need to try to step it up a gear and do it more consistently though because it’s clear to see from all of the various issues at the Club (both off and on the field) that our fans aren’t happy at the moment and have been becoming more and more disgruntled with every passing week and month. As we’ve seen with season ticket renewals for the coming season clocking in at their lowest number for years, there comes a breaking point.
It might not be a massive attendance by Rangers standards and it might only be the smallest of the 3 Cups we’re in again this season, but the Challenge Cup game against Hibs at Ibrox tomorrow night is certainly a massive game for the Club, the team, the fans and possibly most of all, for our manager Ally McCoist, whose support as our manager amongst the fans appears to be at one of it’s lowest ebbs.
Ally really needs a victory tomorrow night, preferably a convincing one and even then, a convincing victory probably won’t change the minds of most of his detractors, many of whom passed the breaking point long before now. In fairness, some of our fans have never fully supported Ally, but for many others there’s been a succession of breaking points along the way from when he took over from Walter up until this very point we’re at now, the night before our first competitive game of the season at Ibrox tomorrow night.
Team selection, formation and tactics will have a big part to play, but so will the motivation levels and mindset of our players. They each to man need to step up to the plate, give 100% and deliver us all a victory, not just for the Club & fans, but for their manager because excuses almost certainly will not be tolerated, no matter who is out injured and no matter who is still tired or carrying knocks and niggles from the trip to Pride Park for the Derby County friendly on Saturday.
With the official news this evening that Bilel Mohsni has been served with a two match suspension following his red card at Pride Park, Ally will no longer have him available for selection tomorrow night or for the first league game against Hearts on Sunday, so the manager will have to turn to one of his other central defenders. In fairness, even if he hadn’t been suspended, it’s perhaps doubtful that Mohsni would have started tomorrow night anyway, as there’s a fair chance he’d have been left on the bench or out of the squad altogether as part punishment for his stupidity in Derby.
The most likely direct replacement for Mohsni is our new signing Zaliukas, so I think most of us will be expecting the experienced Lithuanian to get a start and his competitive debut in a Rangers shirt at Ibrox. Whether Ally chooses to partner him with Jig or with our other new central defender McGregor is anyone’s guess and might depend on whether Foster or Faure are fit to play at right back, although from the pre-season games we’ve had a pretty good indication that Ally is likely to continue fielding Jig, no matter what the fans opinions on that are.
It’ll certainly be interesting to see how Ally sets the team out against Hibs. With most fans probably hoping for an attacking line-up and outlook to the game rather than a more negative or defensive approach, will the manager give us what we want or will he put 5 or 6 defenders on the pitch? Will a bit of managerial nouse dictate the line-up, tactics and flow of the game or will they be dictated by flooding the field with defenders and hoping Miller and/or Boyd can win long balls? Will the magic clipboard have a big part to play in whether we see a victory or witness another breaking point?
We’ll find out tomorrow night.
Please feel free to comment on the forum thread for this match preview here - Rangers vs Hibernian – There comes a breaking point.