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20th February 2011 is the line in the sand.
No more excuses; no more plodding on. Those who claim that this is 1998 all over again may be a bit off in terms of the quality of player involved but they are certainly correct in one key respect - the first time Smith decided to retire and announce it in advance it didn't work, and the same problems with players' motivation and performance seem obvious once more. Rangers might still win the treble, even the quadruple. That's what some will tell us over the next few days, perhaps even beyond next Thursday and all the way up until the Scottish Cup tie. We'll be implored to 'keep believing', told to be optimistic and positive. No Surrender, etc. That's fine and good - and isn't a bad attitude to have, in all honesty. But here's the rub: the manager and a number of players don't share it. They have chucked it - Walter is off at the end of the season and a significant number of the playing staff have only a few months left as Rangers employees. Some of them - not least Walter - have done a good job. And we thank them for their efforts over the term of their Rangers careers. But the future isn't immediately bright. Ally McCoist once (twice) turned Rangers down before a career with the Club that any of us would have dreamed of and all of us would have swapped for our own careers. He probably feels he had to accept the promotion. But unless things change significantly Ally is on a hiding to nothing. It's not that he is some form of 'rookie' - many, from Souness all the way up to the present demented lead leaper at Celtic, have shown that force of personality + cheque book can = success from the start. It's simply that the level of required turnover of players at Rangers cannot possibly be matched by the Club's present turnover - and although we may need to sell some top performers it is clear that we have to move on some others. And it may be the case that it is for the greater good of the Club that we realise market value on some players we'd really rather not be selling. People speak optimistically about giving the chance to youngsters; of filling the team with boys and presenting the case that they deserve the chance and could not do much worse than the senior pros. How many would you like in the team? Four? Five? How about six and a couple of veterans and loan signings? Sound like a lip-smacking prospect? Walter's walk isn't far away now. We have to arrest recent decline and hope to finish the season with a proper challenge in the SPL, hopefully win a cup or two and avoid immediate elimination in the Europa League. And all that will have to be achieved by the under-achieving and limited squad at his disposal. When he goes it has to be part of a wider plan and a greater exodus. Walter, players and Sir David. New ownership of the Club is vital. New ideas, new investment, new hope is essential. It's simply not on to expect another sap to the fans in the form of Super Ally to carry on in this fashion. If there's no real change, then this line in the sand will be washed away by the tide. And if it's coming in, it does so only to submerge our ambitions and our immediate prospects of success. We need to rebuild: we need proper foundations for the long-term. As one era ends let's look to the next.
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