Things have not gone quite as expected at Rangers this season, with many fans hopeful of a strong showing in the league that would see the club test their local rivals Celtic in a bid to mount any sort of title challenge, ultimately putting a stop to the Hoops’ quest for ten league titles in a row.
Some strong performances, including a decent run under Graeme Murty which saw the club go unbeaten in six games, conjured some hope that the gap at the top of the table had begun to be bridged. However, a couple of Old Firm derbies later and Rangers’ season has crashed back to reality.
Not only is the prospect of winning silverware gone for another year, the Gers run the risk of slipping down the table and away from a second-placed finish, with Hibs, Aberdeen and Kilmarnock hot on the Ibrox side’s tail.
As the season nears its end, we look back on Rangers’ campaign and pick three major lessons learned from 2017/2018.
The majority of the squad are out of their depth in a Rangers shirt
Rangers’ current squad has a lot of quality but, as a collective, they seem incapable of meeting the demands that come with playing for a club of this magnitude.
The Scottish Cup semi-final was clear evidence that the majority of the team are incapable of putting in a spirited and passion-driven performance and, as Barry Ferguson rightly pointed out on the PLZ Soccer Show on 18 April 2018, the expectation that comes with wearing the shirt is simply ‘too heavy’ for most of them to bare.
In the coming seasons, the Gers must bring in stars who have experience of playing in front of a large crowd, and must understand that it will turn hostile at times when things do not go their way. All fans are capable of hostility, but as a player it is how you deal with that and go about transforming that from hostility to positivity that really counts.
Stop discussing the need to win titles and appoint a manager who will be allowed the chance to build
To put things into perspective, Rangers have not even spent two years back in Scotland’s top flight yet. To expect the club to be challenging Celtic, who have been developing as the country’s most dominant side since 2012, is simply ridiculous, despite the prestige of Rangers as a club.
The sheer gulf in terms of financial strength alone is enough to suggest that Rangers are far off the Hoops, therefore the comparison between the two teams should stop being made. The Gers need to concentrate on themselves and be selfish, look to build a strong spine worthy of the shirt and build some momentum under the same managerial figure, rather than continue to chop and change.
Graeme Murty has been scrutinised heavily since taking over, but it is difficult to achieve anything for a man with no prior experience as a first-team boss, inheriting a squad built by another man and given minimum funds during his first transfer window.
Had Rangers stuck with Mark Warburton, you could argue that they may be in far more stable a position now, and this is something they will need to be put right in the summer.
At times like this, use your most experienced players, rather than chase them out the club
Earlier this month, news broke that Lee Wallace and Kenny Miller had been suspended by Rangers, and that both looked unlikely to ever kick a football for the club again. To treat two club legends like this is simply astounding and, as two highly passionate individuals who clearly love the club, following a defeat and performance like the Scottish Cup semi-final, it is understandable that the duo were irate.
Having the likes of Miller and Wallace on the pitch may not have added a wealth of quality, but in derby games it is experience of the big stage that often gets you through. Miller knows better than anybody what it means to play for the badge and would have undoubtedly given his all, and that in itself should have been enough to inspire the rest of the XI to put in a slightly more spirited performance compared to the embarrassing display that followed.
Rangers may not have won that semi-final with Miller in the starting line-up, but you can be sure the striker would not have allowed such an abysmal performance to be played out had he been on the pitch.
Instead of utilising a player of such experience, the Gers have gone the opposite way and cast him out, which seems absurd when the club have been crying out for characters and leadership within the dressing room.