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What makes Rangers’ new signing a game-changer?

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On the 24th of May, Joseph Anthony Barton or ‘Joey Barton’ as he is more commonly known signed a two-year deal with Glasgow Rangers in the Scottish Premiership. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Barton 33, described the decision to leave behind another Premier League challenge at Burnley as the “toughest decision of his professional life”. Going on to suggest that his reasoning was to embark on more challenges by way of gaining silverware than for playing at the bottom of the Premier League with Burnley in his last seasons in the game.

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But why do Rangers want Joey Barton? Rangers are a team that has changed its philosophy over its transition through the leagues. Younger players such as McKay, Halliday and Tavernier have come to the fray at Ibrox with the Kris Boyds of the world shown the exit door. So why have Rangers gone back to an early thirties ‘been there and done that’ type of player?

Firstly, his grit. Over the last 15 years, Barton has become one of the most notorious English midfielders in the game for his antics both on and off the field. Barton has received prison time for two assault charges, spending 77 days behind bars in 2008 after an incident in Liverpool city centre. He has always been portrayed as an aggressive footballer, with 110 cautions and nine red cards throughout his career. He could be described as an old school ‘gritty’ footballer. Starting his career as a more defensive player before slowly moving up the field to a more midfield role, Barton has been known to be a ball winner more than a goal scorer with only 36 goals in his career (that is one goal for every three yellow cards).

The grit that Barton has possessed on the field of play has led him to be an effective leader in almost every team he has played for. Appearing in over 200 English Premier League games for the likes of Manchester City (pre-champions era), Newcastle and QPR, Barton has had to go toe-to-toe with some of the best footballers in the world, against a lot of teams better than the ones he was in. His dogged nature has led him to be effective and lead by example to the rest of his team with robust tackles and challenging the officials on every decision. His grit will also lead him to success in Scotland.

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Joey Barton is about to embark on a season which will lead him into the ‘Old Firm’ derby, one of the most notorious games in all of British football. This grit, if channelled, will be the perfect match for someone such as Scott Brown on the other side of the ‘ugly sister’ match up. Mark Warburton’s decision to bring Barton to the club, even if it was for just that game, appears to be a master stroke. For the first time in Joey Bartons career, he is playing at a club that demands silverware, the grit, and determination he has shown thus far in his career will galvanize Rangers to help fight for the trophies that such a historic Scottish club, have the right to earn.

Another effective talent that Barton possesses that has helped him achieve his persona and will also help Rangers achieve silverware is his passion.

Every football fan in Britain has their opinions on Joey Barton. You can love the man, you can hate the man, you can call him old fashioned, you can call him deluded, but one thing nobody can doubt with this man is his passion for football.

Barton has become somewhat of a social media guru in the footballing world through platforms such as twitter. He has an opinion on every story in the game and being the character he is, he is not in any way shy to voice those opinions. This was made prevalent during his first England call-up on the 2nd of February 2007, when Barton’s club football successes were illustrated when the ‘wolly with the brolly’ gave Barton his first senior England call-up (he had a goal and two caps at U21 level) for a friendly against Spain at Old Trafford. Barton had publically criticised many of the England players that he now called teammates for releasing autobiographies despite a very poor 2006 World Cup in Germany.

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Joey Barton accused players such as Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard of ‘cashing in’ on the national teams lack of success. Gerrard went on to praise Barton for his honesty, however, in contrast, Lampard went on to criticise the comments made. It can be argued that these comments illustrate Barton’s passion, believing that when representing your country, players should do better and conduct themselves in an utmost fashion.

Barton’s passion can also be illustrated in recent comments made to the Daily mail with regards to why he decided to move to Scotland than to have another shot at the Premier League having achieved promotion with Burnley. Barton went on to suggest that football is not about the finances involved but about the ‘challenges’ that football brings and Barton’s ability to ‘focus’ on them. Joey Barton is seen by many as a dying breed of an old style footballer. Some people may argue, and do, that Barton has too much to say about everything and should know
when to back out.

However, the fact that he has an opinion on everything in the game illustrates his passion for the game and speaking as someone who is very passionate about football with an opinion on most things, it’s arguable that passion can only be a good thing in football.

The passion that Joey Barton will bring to Rangers could lead them to silverware in domestic competitions such as the League or Scottish Cup or maybe even help Rangers drive to challenge the likes of Celtic and Aberdeen to be champions of Scotland once more.

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Passion is something which Rangers have arguably lacked within the squad in recent times, it could be suggested that the lack of passion is the reason it took Rangers four seasons to get back to the elites in Scotland, not the desired three. This might have been different had Barton been there.

Alongside grit and passion, something else that he will bring to Rangers is leadership. Joey Barton is a very intelligent footballer. In unison with the Diego Costa’s and Pepe’s of the world he is a footballer that unless a member of your team, people love to hate and this is due to Barton’s footballing head.

Barton has been around the game professionally for 14 seasons now, appearing in over 350 games, the vast majority of those in the top flight of England, with European, French League 1 and English Championship appearances mixed in as well. He is a very experienced team leader, he knows how to irritate certain players, officials, and fans.

This can be illustrated by ‘tongue and cheek’ comments Barton made on Celtic fans being unemployed and how all the pressure is on Celtic to retain the Scottish title. Barton could be described as a Mourinho on the pitch, someone who tries to master ‘trash talk’ by defending his team in comments and applying pressure to rivals and opponents. Disliking Barton is exactly what he wants you as a fan and players to do so they are distracted from successfully carrying out their tasks on the field of play.

If Joey Barton was not disliked, it could be suggested he would not be as influential of a player as he is today. His leadership and passion make those around him perform better. This is a priceless and very effective asset to have from any footballer and it is arguably the most prevalent skill that Barton has.

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The first signing for Mark Warburton this summer may very well be his best. Joey Barton is exactly the sort of player that Rangers, a supposed underdog to their bitter rival’s Celtic need to galvanize the dressing room in the old firm and in must-win games to apply pressure to the hoops. His experiences in the game will help the younger members of the squad gain confidence to perform on the big stage. Rangers may not win the league this season, but a better challenge and the possibility of silverware by way of a domestic cup grew a lot bigger with the signing of Joey Barton. He is a disliked footballer but is effective in three crucial assets of the game and it is why he is known by every British football fan, and why he will continue to be a success.


Featured Image – All Rights Reserved by Fulham FC.

Aspiring sports journalist and currently a 4th year undergraduate to a Broadcast Journalism Honours degree. Avid sports fan, particularly football where I am a full licensed semi-professional official.

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Greg Docherty – Realising a childhood dream with Rangers FC

After completing his dream move to Rangers, midfielder Greg Docherty sat down with The Boot Room to look back at his career to date and the excitement of his time ahead at Ibrox.

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Photo: Rangers Football Club

Last Saturday, Greg Docherty fulfilled a childhood dream by stepping out at Ibrox.

But this time, unlike his four previous visits to the home of Rangers Football Club, he was stepping out of the tunnel and onto the pitch as a home player following his January switch over to Glasgow.

Docherty’s home debut might not have gone exactly to plan – with Rangers falling to a narrow loss against Hibernian – but nevertheless, it was an afternoon that he is unlikely to forget anytime soon.

His move from Hamilton Academical, a Scottish Premiership side where he had plied his trade since joining their youth academy as nothing more than a nine-year-old with dreams, was perhaps as anticipated as it was justified considering his head-turning performances during the past 18 months.

For lifelong Rangers supporter Docherty it’s been a whirlwind start to 2018, and talking to The Boot Room in an exclusive interview he recounted the moment he discovered the transfer was in motion.

“Believe it or not I was actually on my way to the Hamilton game against Hearts [on January 24] and I received a phone call to say that the deal had been done and that I was now a Rangers player.

“It was all a bit mad. I still wasn’t sure if I was going to be playing that night but after the phone call I quickly had a chat with […] who said obviously you won’t play because we’ve signed all of the forms, and it’s up to Rangers now to do their stuff.”

The confirmation of a completed deal before the end of the transfer window would have come almost as a relief for the 21-year-old, who admitted that he first heard of Rangers’ interest courtesy of speculation across social media platforms.

“To be honest that’s where you first find out most of it, because social media is so popular these days for breaking news. You hear something then ask around a bit to see if it’s true or not but it’s quite funny how you read news about yourself.”

Fortunately for Docherty this proved to be one social media rumour that came to fruition, and little more than three days after being officially announced as a Rangers player he was taking his place in caretaker manager Graeme Murty’s squad, coming off the bench in the 74th minute in a 2-1 win at Ross County.

A winning start in a Gers shirt was undeniably the perfect way for Docherty to settle any lingering nerves following his well-documented winter transfer, and reflecting on his debut he praised the supporters who immediately back him that night.

“It was special. The reaction I got from the crowd was great – it was an incredible following considering the distance from Glasgow – and even when I was warming up the whole stand and a half that Rangers had been allocated were clapping and saying my name.

“It’s something I have dreamt of for a long time and for that to actually happen was incredible.”

But when one door opens, another one has to close, and Docherty’s move to Rangers signalled the end of his 14-year spell at Hamilton.

The Scotland Under-21 international spent the young days of his career working through the ranks at Hamilton’s esteemed academy – an academy that has seen the likes of James McCarthy and James McArthur graduate and switch to the Premier League – before making his first-team bow at just 17.

After getting a feel for first-team football in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, Docherty fully broke into the Hamilton side a year later and it’s fair to say that, from that moment, he never looked back.

He became a stalwart in the Accies’ midfield, going on to make over 100 appearances for them across all competitions, and he insisted that his decision to leave the Club was one that was ultimately made with a heavy heart.

“[I’ll miss] the people. I made a lot of close friends – some of my best friends are still there – and I’ll miss seeing them every day. It was a great place to be, a great place to work, and a great place to play football.

It was a joy for me, it was never a chore or anything like that, and I enjoyed every minute. It gave me a chance. I’ll just miss being in and around the dressing room, because it was a great dressing room, but it was time to move on and push on to the next challenge.”

There’s little doubt that Docherty will always be held in high regard by the home supporters for his efforts during his tenure at the Club, not least for his crucial goal that helped Hamilton edge past Dundee United in the two-legged Scottish Premiership relegation play-off in 2017.

It’s a moment that Docherty himself looks back on with fond memories, too.

“Scoring the goal to keep them in the league, that was it for me.

“Hamilton had shown a lot of faith in me through the years so for me to repay them with that goal to keep them in the league, that was special. Football’s funny sometimes with how it works and for me to score the goal after coming through the youth system was nice for Hamilton.”

It won’t be long before he’s back in familiar territory though, as Docherty and Rangers travel to New Douglas Park on February 18 in a match that’ll be rife with emotion for the academy product.

Football is often known to be an ironic sport at times, and there’s a certain amount of irony about the fact that the youngster from Milngavie all-but sealed the deal when playing against Rangers for Hamilton earlier in the Premiership season.

It was in Hamilton’s 2-0 win at Ibrox back in November – a match that gave the Accies their first victory at Rangers since 1926 – where the youngster excelled, earning an assist and generally catching the eye with a powerful midfield display, and it’s this that could have swayed the board of directors at Rangers into signing on the dotted line.

“In a way I hope so. I wanted to play well because it was against the team I support – it’s funny like that – but I wanted to prove that if I was to play for Rangers then I’d be more then capable.

“After that game I received a lot of nice messages from the fans congratulating me so I knew right away that they had taken to me a little bit. Then once the news came in that Rangers were interested in me the amount of support I received was incredible, and that was another factor in me signing.”

For now, though, Docherty’s time at New Douglas Park is a chapter of the past, and his firm focus remains on pastures new at Rangers – and more predominantly, getting them back to the very top.

Their return to the summit of Scottish football last season after four years of climbing back up the ladder has seen the club back where it belongs, and considering the plight that they have been recovering from since entering into administration in 2012, a third-place finish was an impressive feat on their return to Premiership football last season.

And whilst it seems that Celtic are once again set to reign supreme come the end of the 2017-18 campaign, Docherty is confident that Rangers will be right back on their heels again before too long.

At just 21 years of age Docherty has arguably already reached the pinnacle of the Scottish game by virtue of playing for one of the two notorious Glaswegian giants, and he admitted that he could already see himself spending the majority of his footballing career at Ibrox, aiding the club’s revival.

“You never know. If that was to be the case then I wouldn’t be disheartened by that at all.

“Rangers need to get back to the top, and one of my aims is to get them back there and competing at the highest level – and I’m sure the Rangers fans do too. There’s every chance of that happening over the next few years, I don’t see why not, you’ve just got to believe.

“If I was to stay here for the rest of my career then that would be brilliant but you never know in football and you want to play at the highest level possible.”

After achieving his dream move by the time he even turns 22 it’s clear to see that there’s a long and successful career there for the taking should Docherty avoid serious injury, and there is already growing talks that he could be in contention for a berth in the Scotland squad as the year progresses.

It is a testing time for the Scotland national squad at present, currently without a manager and with friendlies against Costa Rica and Hungary looming in March, but with three Under-21 caps to his name – and with a big move under his belt – Docherty is well-placed to push for a first senior call-up.

Asked about his national team aspirations, Docherty replied:

“Absolutely, I don’t see why not.

“Obviously I’ll take each game as they come but I think that if I start off playing well for Rangers I can’t see why I can’t push into the international team. I’ve already completed one of my targets to get signed by Rangers – but first and foremost I need to establish myself in the Rangers team.”

And this could begin with a first start in a Rangers jersey when they travel to Scottish League One outfit Ayr United in the fifth-round of the Scottish Cup on Sunday, with a quarter-final spot at stake.

It would be a full debut that would no doubt be received well by Rangers fans if social media talk is anything to go by, with Gers supporters urging their new signing to be given the chance to impress in midfield.

If anything, that shows just how highly-rated Docherty is – he’s something of a hot commodity right now.

But he insisted that he’s aware of the competition for places and strength in depth at Ibrox, adding that he feels he is at the right club in order to develop as a young footballer.

“I feel like I need to score more goals, and I need to contribute more. I need to be a more all-round box-to-box midfielder. I think I’ve got the fitness and the strength to do it but I just need to be a bit more aware when I’m on the ball and speed up the play.

“I think that’ll come at Rangers though and I think that’s something they are good at – they’re a very fast-flowing team – and that’s why I’m excited to be playing with them and see what it’s like to play in a game with such high intensity.

“It’s always been difficult to play against Rangers. The movement is always good and they’re always very switched on with what they do – that was another factor in joining, as I wanted to be a part of that. They’re a great side that are building momentum at the moment.”

It is this concept of building momentum that couldn’t be truer on the blue side of Glasgow at this moment in time, with their current position a far cry from the desperate predicament of late 2012.

With Docherty and fellow midfielder Sean Goss arriving in January there’s real potential for a partnership to be grown – one that could be the backbone of this Rangers side for years to come.

The signs are good for the Gers as they strive to compete for a 54th league title, combining energy and youth with some seasoned heads that lends itself to some pleasing football.

As for the immediate future, it may just take another few games for the enormity of the move to fully sink in for boyhood fan Docherty, but it is a scenario that just goes to prove the old-school cliché that dreams can be achieved if you are prepared to work hard enough for them.

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Reflecting on Pedro Caixinha’s turbulent 229-day reign in charge of Rangers

Martyn Cooke

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The sacking of Pedro Caixinha last week will have come as little surprise to those that follow the ebb and flow of Scottish football, but his departure further signals the growing chasm that currently exists between Rangers and their Old Firm rivals Celtic.

Whilst Celtic have flourished under the stability and leadership provided by Brendan Rodgers, who has successfully rebuilt his reputation since moving north of the border, Rangers continue to be undermined by uncertainty, instability and, in Caixinha’s case, just rank bad managerial appointments.

On the same weekend that Celtic equaled their own one hundred year record of going 62 domestic fixtures unbeaten, Graeme Murty once again found himself filling in a caretaker manager for Rangers, just as he did prior to Caixinha’s appointment in March.

The different atmospheres that surround the two clubs could not be further apart.

A stab in the dark rather than a well-calculated move

When Rangers announced the appointment of Pedro Caixinha in March it came as something of a surprise and raised plenty of eyebrows around Ibrox.

The 46-year-old did not possess an impressive track record having previously worked for clubs in Qatar, Mexico and Portugal without achieving any accomplishments worthy of note. At the time his appointment appeared to be more of a stab in the dark than a well-calculated move and, on reflection, the most remarkable thing was that he was ever handed the job in the first place.

Caixinha oversaw a turbulent seven months at Ibrox that was characterised by inconsistency, tactical naivety, and regular public outbursts before a draw against Kilmarnock resulted in his dismissal. His 229-day reign makes him the shortest serving manager in the club’s history and he will be remembered more for his words off the pitch than the performance of his side on it.

The problem for Caixinha was that although he could talk a good game he never fully understood what it took to win matches in the physical, high-intensity environment of the Scottish Premier League.  The fact that Ranger failed to win three successive games under his stewardship emphasizes his failure to build a team capable of consistently producing positive results.

Glasgow Rangers were left stumbling along for seven months without any real sense of direction or vision, all the while watching their Old Firm rivals complete a domestic treble that saw them go the entire campaign unbeaten. Caixinha’s side were defensively fragile and attacked with little purpose, aggression or desire whilst the team often mirrored the lack of discipline that the manager demonstrated himself.

The 46-year-old was allowed to bring in 11 new players during the summer but very few have acclimatised or made the definitive impact that was expected whilst he was quick to dismiss established existing first-team players whose faces did not fit.

There was an intense irony at the weekend when Kenny Miller, who had been frozen out by Caixinha, scored twice and provided an assist after he was recalled to the starting eleven by interim manager Graeme Murty. Under their Portuguese manager, the club looked more like a collection of individuals than a united team.

The lasting memory for many Rangers supporters of Caixinha’s reign was the Europa League qualifying defeat against Luxembourg minnows Progres Niederkorn. The loss, against what was effectively a team of part-time players, will go down as one of the worst results in the history of Scottish football and was rounded off by a bizarre after-match exchange when Caixinha was pictured standing in a bush arguing with supporters.

When people look back on his short-lived spell in charge of Rangers, they will simply scratch their heads and wonder how a man of his, unimpressive, calibre ended up with the job in the first place.

A poisoned chalice?

It is worth noting that the managerial hot-seat at Glasgow Rangers is not some sort of poisoned chalice. The club remains one of the two largest and most influential institutions in Scottish football and the history, heritage and impressive fan-base will ensure that the next manager has a foundation on which to build.

Rangers may have fallen significantly behind their Old Firm rivals but the environment of Scottish football is such that clubs can make quick progress both on and off the field, as characterised by the early season performances of Motherwell so far this campaign.

The club still retains the fundamentals to at least offer a challenge for Silverware and, with the right appointment, can begin the process of building a team that is capable of closing the gulf in class between them and their Old Firm rival.

The appointment of Pedro Caixinha was a poorly evaluated gamble at best or negligence at worst, but the club must now move forward and ensure that their next manager is the right one. What Rangers need now is a man who can provide stability and begin to restore a sense of pride around Ibrox.

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Celtic

Rangers no longer offer a challenge as Celtic’s Old Firm dominance continued at the weekend

Martyn Cooke

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There was once a time when playing in an Old Firm derby at Ibrox whilst wearing the green and white hoops of Celtic was a daunting prospect.

However, after Saturday’s contest we can safely assume that this is no longer the case.

The first Old Firm derby of the new campaign confirmed two things; first, that Rangers have failed to make up any ground over their neighbours despite an active summer in the transfer market and, second, that Celtic’s dominance over Scottish football shows absolutely no signs of being halted any time soon. It also demonstrated that Brandan Rodgers’ side no longer have any real reason to fear or be concerned with the prospect of a short trip across Glasgow to Ibrox.

In reality Celtic brushed aside Rangers with relative ease on Saturday, much in the same way that they have despatched each and every team that they have met in domestic competitions over the previous fourteen months. The Hoops are now unbeaten in 57 domestic games and the green and white juggernaut will take some stopping – if it can be stopped at all.

The atmosphere at Ibrox was hostile, as it will always be when the neighbours come to town, but there was an obvious gulf in quality and class between the two teams on display. Celtic applied themselves with a confidence and assertiveness that their unbeaten record deserves and they played as if it was a home match. The Hoops rarely looked stressed or stretched and Rangers’ impotence is demonstrated by the statistics – they managed just one shot on target and one corner throughout the ninety minutes.

Pedro Caixinha’s side were resilient and worked tirelessly but simply lacked the quality to truly trouble the visitors. Rangers actually spent more money than their rivals during the summer but there is nothing to suggest that this has facilitated any substantial improvement or progress when compared to the previous season. They are some way from closing the gulf in class.

This fact was definitively highlighted by the standard of player that Brendan Rodgers named among the substitutes for Saturday. Callum McGregor, James Forrest, Moussa Dembele and Jonny Hayes all occupied the Celtic bench at Ibrox and an argument could be made that all four are superior to any player in the current Rangers squad. In contrast, injuries had exposed the hosts lack of strength in depth and 19-year-old central defender Ross McCrorie was thrown in very much at the deep end for his first competitive start.

Celtic have already opened up a clear five point lead at the top of the Scottish Premier League and their dominance is decisive. Meanwhile Rangers already trail their neighbours by eight points and you sense that the pressure is already starting to build around Caixinha.

There was once a time when Ibrox was a place to fear for Celtic, yet those days appear to be long gone and, armed with the annual financial windfall that participation in the Champions League brings, you sense that The Hoops will hold power and sway over Rangers and Scottish football for a long time to come.

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