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A Rangers Revolution.
Published : 03 Mar 2011 22:20:11Rss feed
Its tempting, understandable sometimes, to feel like the world is conspiring against you. A bad decision here, a twist of fate there and suddenly the deal you're getting from life seems a little rawer that it’s supposed to be. Last night? It was a bad decision to book Whittaker early on. It was an unlucky training ground injury to our star striker. It was also, sadly, a reflection of the state of our club. We've now played six Old Firm games since Lennon took charge at Celtic Park and our record makes for unhappy reading. Played 6 – 1 win, 1 draw and now 4 defeats. This is no team of world beaters but they have a core of footballers who apply themselves and a manager who has instilled a will to win that we just haven't been able to match. They have a midfielder in Kayal who ragdolls opponents and who effectively dominates the midfield. Ki gives them creativity that we've so far failed to counter. Izaguirre offers an attacking option on the left of the park, something Smith has continually told us simply isn't available in the transfer windows through which he's had the chance to operate. It’s clear that whilst Lennon is an unproven manager and a distasteful human being, he appears to know how to get the best from his main assets. Can we say the same of Walter Smith? His titles since returning to the club suggest that we can and there is no doubting that he got some big performances from key players, particularly in our run to the Manchester final. As his time as Gers manager is coming to the end, is it really fair to ask questions of a loyal servant? Unfortunately it’s not only fair but necessary. The parallels between this season and our failed attempt at a 10th successive title shouldn't be ignored. In both campaigns we were reliant on a core of players who had served us well in the past. Those players were either edging ever more quickly towards the end of their careers or offering diminishing returns compared to previous seasons. We had a high profile attacking midfielder who saw his future away from the club – Laudrup's contribution that season was far poorer than at his peak with Rangers. We had a strong challenge from Edinburgh that year and that familiar old foe will once again have an eye on challenging both halves of the old firm. Its easy to blame a lack of finances and losing the likes of Alan Hutton has been a major blow – it's every fan's hope that a team can be built around a core of true blues who have come through the ranks at the club. That said, we were healthily recompensed for the player and Smith was hardly denied money to rebuild. We've spent more on Kyle Lafferty than most clubs can dream of spending on their entire squad. We paid a king’s ransom in wages to attract Pedro Mendes to Ibrox only to sell him for almost half his purchase price barely 18 months later. We went through a barren spell with funds denied us and yet the first summer we were able to resume spending saw us pay £5million on only 2 players – the lion's share on a striker who has spent most of his Gers career sidelined by injury. The financial limitations are still there, perhaps this summer more than ever, but it’s only the most naïve or steadfast of fans who believe we've spent wisely these past four years. The result is largely the same as the last time Smith stepped down. We've got an ageing squad and key talents who are increasingly looking like they see themselves elsewhere. When Dick Advocaat came to Ibrox, he kick-started a revolution not seen in Scotland since the appointment of Souness years before; he spent big money on European players who brought both talent and a new level of professionalism. The Dutch trio of Mols, Van Bronckhorst and Numan were as technically gifted as any Rangers player of my lifetime and we saw the club take on the world with a renewed sense of self confidence. Advocaat was responsible too for the development of a raw Barry Ferguson into an accomplished midfielder and for the facility at Auchenhowie in which so much of our faith must now be placed. He implemented a stricter discipline regime and a structured approach to youth development that saw us appoint a dedicated development director of no small repute. We expanded our youth coaching and soccer camps, we brought in the BBC to showcase our commitment to youth development and we laid the foundations for a handful of kids to go on and have very decent careers. Unfortunately we did all that by spending a fortune and taking the club to the brink of bankruptcy. Our debts under Advocaat (and in his immediate wake) topped almost £80million and caused such a stir that David Murray felt compelled to flee, inviting a patsy to take flack for unpopular cost-cutting. McCoist has never been my ideal choice as Rangers manager but he's the man who has the job and he's the man who'll be expected to work miracles on far more meagre means. That's not to say that the job is beyond him but he may be forced to make some difficult decisions if he's going to have a chance of managing Rangers to a glorious future. That starts by engineering a coup. Smith's position must surely be untenable – unable to get the better of a management novice and so set in his ways that he's doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. McCoist's confrontation with his prospective opposite number at Celtic Park may serve to be the spark that drives us forward and the incident that finally forces him to shed his nice guy image. He needs to have the respect of the players; not just as a coach but as the man who'll ultimately pick them or drop them in the biggest of games. He needs to identify the players he believes have a future at Ibrox and put in place a means of disposing of those who will no longer feature. He needs time to make his mistakes and learn from them. He needs to be able to mould his own side in his own way and to build a new Rangers side that's beyond the shadow of his mentor. That of course needs money and with credit difficult to come by and no new owner in sight, it means considering the prospect of ripping apart a Rangers side that is at the end of its road and setting an entirely new one squad on a new journey. Ally, like Advocaat before him, can count on the precocious talents of a midfielder who looks destined for big things. He may not have the immediate financial might that Advocaat had but in McGregor, Bougherra and Davis he has the ability to bring significant money to the club. He has a high class striker and a potentially rejuvenated partner for him. He has youngsters of the calibre of Wylde, Hutton and Cole who have tasted big time football already in their short careers. The world is a bigger place too since Advocaat's revolution. Football is thriving in the Americas and Europe has expanded to encompass the technical strengths of former Eastern bloc nations. Those markets may offer us a source of technically sound, and more importantly affordable, players who have the potential to improve our squad. Clubs from Europe's more modest leagues have certainly shown recently that they may finally have the ambition and the ability to make their mark beyond the comfort of their own borders. There are positives there and if McCoist can harness them then he has more than a fighting chance of doing very well in the Rangers hot seat. There have been occasions in the past where a group of Gers players have reached the end of the road. Football moves on – the players to new clubs and the manager to another role away from Ibrox. It’s vital to ensure that the club not only endures but prospers. McCoist would never be my choice of Rangers manager and it's a risk we're taking by appointing somebody with no prior experience, given the size of the job, the rebuilding that's needed and the modest resources with which he'll be expected to go about it. What I can say for certain is that this season we've witnessed one indulgence too many – a season too far for David Weir, a chance too many for Kyle Lafferty and now sadly a season too long for Walter Smith. Its time for another revolution at Rangers and if McCoist is to have any chance of success then he must be allowed to kickstart it sooner rather than later.
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