Once our status in the Third Division was confirmed in the summer, many people viewed it as a great opportunity to give something back to Scottish Football and to allow our own youth players to flourish and develop in a less pressurised environment. Of course there was also optimism surrounding our football philosophy in the hope that starting at the bottom would see the birth of slick, attractive, attacking football. Unfortunately the latter has been far from forthcoming.
Admittedly I am writing this as Rangers sit proudly at the top of the league with an impressive seventeen point lead, having recently won a number of consecutive matches. Saturday’s match against Elgin City however was a wake-up call which I think has been coming for some time and another example of a sluggish, lethargic performance which failed to excite the supporters.
In my opinion it is completely unacceptable for our side not to be comfortably beating a bunch of part-timers who were reduced to ten men for the majority of the match. It actually worries me that certain people were trying to play down the embarrassing result and point to our league position as a balancing argument. I don’t however want to take anything away from our opposition who probably deserved something from the match for their effort and desire alone.
Anyway, if I may, I’d like to take you back to our first home match of the season when East Fife were the visitors that day. Despite having a new-look side with little pre-season preparation, there was some absolutely terrific football on display. It was also notable that Neil Alexander passed just about every ball out from the back and resisted the temptation to hoof it up to Lee McCulloch or whatever player happened to be in an advanced position.
Somewhere down the line however, most probably as pressure mounted due to our poor away record, this philosophy was cast aside. The long-ball approach unfortunately returned and any noble principles of retaining possession and such like went emphatically out of the window. I would of course be wrong to ignore our impressive string of results but many performances have been far from electric, not that I am foolish enough to expect champagne football every week.While the Third Division is a tough and unforgiving environment at times, as several of our players will testify, there is no reasonable argument which can state beyond doubt that our team is not capable of playing an attractive style of football. We have some excellent footballers in our team including the likes of Lewis MacLeod, Barrie McKay and David Templeton, and in my opinion we should be looking to make the most of their ability. Punts up the park simply won’t do that.
I remember watching one of Barcelona’s matches in last season’s Champions League. They had already qualified for the last 16 of the competition and fielded a very young team in their final group game in the Nou Camp. Had their first-team stars not been so immediately recognisable you would not have noticed the difference as their young guns entertained the crowd and went on to win the match in style.
While I would not like to make any comparison between Barcelona and ourselves, there is nothing to say that we cannot adopt a similar type of approach whereby there is a brand of football which is promoted and preached from youth level to the first-team. It seems rather ridiculous that our players are brought up playing a certain way only to be told that there is no place for parts of their game in the top team. That sadly seems to have been the case at Rangers in recent years.
The players of course have a chance to make amends for the poor result on Saturday when Berwick Rangers come to town next weekend. There must be more desire and hungers shown from the boys in blue and a bit more composure in the final third wouldn’t go amiss either. In the long-term though there is also work to be done and hopefully Ally McCoist will address several issues which currently negatively impact upon the team. Many of you will have your own list of such things I’m sure.Apologies if I have come across as a bit of a sour puss in this article but recent performances against Queens Park and Elgin City merit such comments in my opinion. At Rangers it is important that we continually strive to improve, especially as our journey back to the top allows the time required to make such changes, and I hope the management staff at the club share those sentiments.
I suppose all I can suggest is that time will tell, that the proof will be in the pudding or indeed any other clichéd phrases which convey such a message. There is however no time like the present and so let’s hope we are treated to a few goals on Saturday and a performance to match. That after all will save me from moaning and groaning this time next week, something which I’m sure many of you will be glad of!