Although I personally left the RST board the year before their 'We Deserve Better' (WDB) campaign launched in early 2009, I remember appreciating the reasoning behind it. David Murray was becoming less and less of a hands-on chairman and after five years of downsizing, there was an obvious lack of vision in the boardroom. Our work in the transfer market was poor, we weren't winning enough trophies and there appeared to be great difficulty in attracting investment. Add in issues with the media, UEFA and a lack of communication with supporters, the RST clearly had had enough and after six years of trying to be constructive with Murray, they went head to head with him to try and force positive change within the club. And, to an extent, it worked.
Rangers went onto win the league and cup Double that season and secured the SPL title again for the following two years. Murray himself was replaced by Alastair Johnston at the start of the 2009/10 season and whilst not all the concerns of the Trust were met, the WDB campaign did seem to catalyse some improvements within the club. Unfortunately, with EBTs now becoming more and more of an issue and Lloyds Banking Group less friendly to MIH than the Bank of Scotland had been, Rangers were heading for the rocks and after Murray leapt overboard in 2011, the rest is history and no Craig Whyte book is needed to tell Rangers fans who tried to sink us. It's just a pity the captain(s) didn't go down with the ship.
Clearly when one looks back at the events of recent years, the Trust's WDB statement perhaps appears somewhat hyperbolic. Yes, they're one of the few bodies that can say I told you so when it came to Murray's business gambles but arguing about just two titles in eight seasons and two domestic trophies in three years seems slightly melodramatic now. And wouldn't we all wish for some conflict with UEFA instead of embarrassing exists to mid-table teams from Luxembourg? However, no-one can deny the RST had a point; worse many of them remain valid now.
Of course the overall context is now very different. Because of Murray, Whyte and Green, the gap between Celtic and Rangers is huge - more especially in financial terms. Because Celtic have had a free run at the Champions League for the last five years, when their fans talk about gulfs between them and their CL opponents, then we're not far off saying the same when comparing the Old Firm nowadays. As such, of course our transfer work is going to remain challenging and there's no doubt what happens at Auchenhowie is going to be ever more important for Rangers going forward. Yet, some of the other WDB criticisms are less easy to excuse.
For example, nearly three years into Dave King's reign as chairman, is there really any 'discernible strategic vision, either on or off the pitch' and is there evidence of a 'long-term transfer or team-building plan'? Further, we still struggle 'to move fringe players on for reasonable transfer fees' and there's an apparent 'inability to either attract inward investment, or to convince fans to invest in any meaningful way'. I mean even SDM's failed tactic of using Alastair Johnston to yield such monies seems to be King's best strategy. Worst of all, we still have poor PR and despite the efforts of Club1872 (an amalgamation of the RST, Rangers First and other fan groups) many fans feel there remains 'a failure to engage with or interact with the support in any meaningful way'. Does Murray's use of the umbrella Assembly group ring any bells here?
In January 2009, the RST concluded their WDB statement by suggesting 'fan morale was lower than at any time in the past 24 years'. At the time, I'd argue they were right but none of us could have known just how that mood would worsen almost ten years later. In fact, it's not beyond the realms of possibility we've not reached the bottom of that particular well yet. Certainly at tomorrow's AGM the board have a lot to do to persuade fans things will change for the better. Negativity and apathy are very difficult mindsets to change and these are very clear and present dangers for King.
However it can be argued, off-the-field issues aside, the only real way to turn things around is by winning on the pitch. In 2009, Walter Smith's team went on a ten match unbeaten run to haul themselves back into title contention after a New Year Derby defeat. In fact, Rangers would only be beaten once more in the league that season - at home to a late Inverness Caley penalty - ten days before another Old Firm loss in the League Cup in March. The difference then was Smith in the dugout and players like Weir, Davis and Novo who all knew a thing about winning. Rather than allow two bad results to spoil our season, the team rallied and went onto secure a Double. Unfortunately, Kenny Miller's time in that team aside, we don't have that same mentality now.
The mentioning of Miller in this context is important. This is an experienced, international quality player now in his third spell at the club who is well aware of expectations on Rangers players. Unfortunately, whether we put it down to his age or a lack of quality around him, his contribution this season hasn't been that of previous years. Yet that need not be an issue - sure, perhaps Pedro was right not to play him due to poor form and I can also see why Murty brought him back for talismanic reasons - but a good man-manager would utilise him better and not necessarily on the pitch. Moreover, Miller himself should be mature enough to realise what he can (and cannot) bring to the team nowadays.
With that in mind, I'd hope to see Murty make further changes to the team tonight in the wake of our last two defeats. I was lucky enough not to see the Dundee game but apparently Miller was again poor so simply must make way for someone like Carlos Pena or Niko Kranjcar. Yes, both of these players are hardly the most exciting (nor reliable) of replacements but they would bring creativity to a side that badly needs such inspiration. Unfortunately, a lack of genuine depth elsewhere in the squad means that although players like Morelos, McCrorie and Candeias would benefit from a rest; injuries means we can't afford to shift things around too much.
I would expect a fit again Bruno Alves to return to the side though and he should also offer the kind of leadership to help us regain our form. In midfield is where the game will be lost and won so we'll need more from Windass, Holt and Candeias in particular if we're to dominate there. Up front is uncertain after Morelos was taken off on Friday but I'd hope the wee man is fit as neither Herrera or Hardie offer the same work-rate, mobility and strength as the Columbian.
All things considered though, this isn't 2009 and even the most optimistic of fans won't see us going on a ten match unbeaten run to turn around our season. However, we do need to see an upturn in form and much more from the board at tomorrow's AGM - both in terms of a new manager and a strategy to become successful again in the medium term. Fans remain keen to contribute and all involved with the club will need to work together to deliver that improvement. In a general sense though we still deserve better and like to see the team respond with a good result tonight ahead of even tougher questions tomorrow.
Possible team (4-2-3-1):
Discuss this article
Enjoyed this analysis? Disagree entirely? Found a spelling mistake? Whatever your opinion, it's welcome on our popular and friendly message-board.