31 March 2013

Significant Title, Significant Captain

by Andy McGowan | Contributor

In March 2012 the prospect of Rangers never winning another title had become a real possibility. Craig Whyte had done a runner, Duff and Phelps had set about upsetting everyone from supporters to players to potential saviours and our playing and coaching staff were doing their level best to hold it all together and on a fraction of their wages at that. 

Fast forward a year and we are celebrating our first title on the road back to the top of Scottish football, or to the top of English football if you believe our chief executive. It’s been a difficult season, the route to the title has been more like a trek through the jungle than the stroll in the park we all expected and even on the day we were crowned champions things didn’t get any easier.

We played out another poor 0-0 draw away to Montrose and the title party was yet again delayed but this time it was only for a few hours, thanks to our old friends Elgin City. In the hours that followed we heard from our manager and a few of our players and staff via Twitter and none seemed prouder than our captain Lee McCulloch, who took the time to give the fans a quick thank you on Twitter: “Means so much to captain the famous Glasgow Rangers team to another title, been ups and downs but we got there! This is my favourite one yet! Fans are the best.”

We owe a great deal to all of the players and staff who took a pay cut last season, all of them and the ones who stayed we will be eternally grateful to, each and every one of them is a Rangers legend in my book and none more so than our captain. When the playing staff had to sacrifice their wages to save jobs Lee McCulloch was one of the first to stand up and agree to do so, even offering to play for free at one stage and was instrumental in making the cuts happen across the board.

While other players were secretly arranging moves to England and beyond McCulloch was openly pledging his future to Rangers - Oldco or New. There are most likely only a handful of players in football today who could match the loyalty Jig has shown us.

In six seasons with the club he has played as a winger, a striker, a holding midfielder and a defender and if we asked him to play in goal I’ve no doubt he’d ask for a pair of gloves without hesitation. He hasn’t always been the fan favourite, but he is now.

In his 200-odd appearances he’s given us some great moments - from the bullet header in the incredible 3-0 win in Lyon, to the goal of the season at Ibrox against Aberdeen, and to THAT goal at Parkhead in the 2009/2010 season in which for my money Jig was the best defensive midfielder in Scotland.

And when it came time to start all over again? Lee McCulloch scores the extra-time winner in a 2-1 win away to Brechin City, who else was it really going to be? Having signed a new deal that keeps him with us until 2015, the likelihood is that Jig will be one of only a handful of players who has won every single honour, major and minor that Scotland has to offer.

So when the time comes to step up and collect the 3rd Division title it’s only natural that Jig will be the one stepping up first. He’s been stepping up first for Rangers his whole career at Ibrox and there’s no captain in world football I can think of who deserves to lift a trophy more than our captain this season.

The 3rd Division title hasn’t been the most exciting or the most prestigious, it won’t add to our 54 Premier League titles and it won’t be a season we look back on with a great deal of joy, but it is certainly one of the most important and significant titles in the club’s history, as Peter Ewart put to us.

In many ways this makes it even more fitting that Jig will be the one to collect it. In years to come when fans debate their best XI or talk about the Coopers, Laudrups and Gazzas of the world, Lee McCulloch probably won’t feature much in the conversation.

He is nonetheless one of the most important and significant Rangers captains of all time. He was good enough to take the time to thank us so if I may be so bold I’d like to thank our captain on behalf of the Rangers support for everything he’s done for us over the years and especially in the last 12 months. 

To paraphrase Alex Caldwell (@alexcaldy93) Lee McCulloch - I'd let you shag my wife if I had one big man #Legend.

Away Days

by @pamelaRFC | Guest Contributor

Congratulations to everyone involved at Rangers on winning the SFL3 league title. To the players, the staff and especially all the fans who have supported them at home and away games.
There's enough written about coaching and the youth by yours truly in my previous blogs, so this blog is dedicated to the supporters.

I always smile when I see the #awaydays hashtag on twitter. Supporters travelling through and across the whole of Scotland to follow Rangers whilst on their jaunts. Travelling to places called Elgin or Annan (where?) both miles away© from Glasgow.

Circumnavigating for three or four hours to see Ally's 'Blue and White army' playing on pitches situated in a little village or between houses or in someone's back garden. Hey, if they play on the streets we'd watch them there and we know it. Right?

World records, small grounds bursting at the seams, bouncy's that last for 90 minutes. It even infected Jenny the mad-dancing Elgin burd. Remember her? I think Chuck Green calls it 'Rangersitis'. She might have been something else though but I digress...

Standing, jostling, bumping and supporting and what's more singing out into the ether to anyone who'll listen (usually ESPN viewers). Soaked, hated, vilified and cold; but through thick and thin, in the best of times and the worst of times. The fans were there. 

We are the greatest fans in the world, let the facts and experiences tell you so and do not let the angry mob tell you differently. I think, despite the poor performances we have endured, we also can say that it was sometimes an exhilarating experience being in SFL3.

I live literally hundreds of miles away© from Ibrox but I have never been prouder to be a Rangers supporter nor felt closer to it in the realest sense. I bet I'm not the only one. With my support I have to rely on internet; as in reading blogs, being active on Twitter and listening to podcasts. Which takes about eight hours a day

Rangers is our club, the people's club. We Are The People. Not some of us, but WE ARE THE PEOPLE. All the fans!

CROpod SFL 3 Champions Edition

Here's your CROpod SFL 3 Champions round, with Shane, Andy, Alan and Peter. We cut through the clinching of the title, the disappointments of the campaign, players of the year, rip the fuck out of the SPL, and whatever else comes up along the way.

As noted at the end, this week we will have a pair or youth season books to give away for the final three games. We'll have details up soon on the site, Twitter and Facebook so pay attention. We'd love to send a kid to their first trophy presentation at Ibrox on 4 May.

Flash Player

Podcast Powered By Podbean

30 March 2013

Champions, but the champagne seems flat

by Robbie Devine | Guest Contributor

And so the first hurdle has been overcome, but has any championship win been greeted with less fanfare?

The mood amongst Bears traipsing out of Montrose on Saturday was a mixed bag of frustration, anger and a collective sense of acceptance of supporting one of the worst sides in the clubs history.

Three hours later though a defeat for Queens Park meant the Third Division was secured and to be fair it is only correct to congratulate Ally McCoist, his backroom staff and the squad of players on their success.

It is difficult though to pinpoint any major highs on Rangers road to the title win. Victories were achieved with more grit than anything else and perhaps what will be remembered in years to come will be the losses at Stirling and at home to Annan.

On the park only Lee Wallace, Lee McCulloch, Andy Little and David Templeton can come out with real credit whilst the emergence of Lewis Macleod and to a lesser extent Barrie Mackay and Robbie Crawford have been positives.

Of course it is strange to criticise a man who has just led a side to a title but for a large proportion of the fan base this season has been a missed opportunity.

Yes ultimately the main objective of 2012-13 was to win the championship, especially when you remember that it was less than a year ago that there were real fears Rangers FC would ever play a football match again, but the manner it was done has been far from pleasing on the eye.

With a squad of full-time professionals working at the best training complex in the country Ally McCoist has had at his disposal the tools to create the template of a team that should have produced a fast flowing, passing style of football that would have easily dismantled their part-time opponents.

Unfortunately that has not been the case, watching Rangers this season has been a struggle and whilst fingers must be pointed at underachieving players it falls on Ally to get the best out of them and he has failed to do so.

Its concerning that questions continue to be raised about his tactics such as playing players out of their best position and sending sides out with just one lone striker.

And there his track record in the transfer market which can be described as patchy to say the least.

Only Bocanegra, Wallace, Aluko and Templeton can be considered as good acquisitions, there have been far too many poor signings which raises questions about his trust in the scouting abilities of the now estranged Neil Murray.

It hurts Rangers supporters to find faults with Ally, he is a living legend and the way he has handled himself during the turmoil of the Craig Whyte fiasco, administration, liquidation and the rebirth of the blues has to be admired.

But in the opinion of this scribe sadly he is not the man to take the team forward.

However I’m confident he will be offered the opportunity of rebuilding the squad this summer with the likes of Jon Daly and Nicky Law likely to be part of a team challenged with winning the Second Division. 

No doubt this year Ally will have learned a lot about himself, his assistants and the players so the hope is that next year if the team are to have taken another step toward the top of the Scottish game it will be celebrated with more gusto than the muted response that has greeted this Third Division win.

More Than A Title

by Peter Ewart | Contributor

It may be today, after beating Montrose (well, on the way back down the road afterwards), or it may be at Hampden, or back at Ibrox. We could even be playing Linfield in a friendly when we clinch SFL3, but clinch it we will. Yet another trophy will be in the bag for the greatest club in the world and it is time to enjoy the party.

It hasn’t felt like much of a party lately. To roll out the football clichés we are stumbling, even falling over the line. Our home form has turned ropey and there are question marks over the tactics and style of football. So much so that it has put some fans at loggerheads.

I understand why people will defend Ally to the last. He saved the club. But I also understand that that’s not an excuse for playing bad football with an inflated loss-making wage bill and poor tactics and results given the opponents we’ve played. We have however blooded a lot of good young players (in McLeod’s case a great young player). There is great potential but massive room for improvement and a number of ways that improvement can be achieved. What needs to be remembered is that everybody wants the same thing and Rangers back at the top in the shortest time possible. Not everyone realises it, but everyone is pulling in the same direction.

There is a lot of nine-in-a-row arrogance present in both the fans and the current management at the minute. The fans are spoilt and impatient for success. We can do more to back the team vocally too (you don’t have to be in BF1 to sing) And the management don’t seem to take on board any criticism – they always know best and seem content to stumble through.

But all that is in the here and now. At the end of it the title will be won and current problems can be addressed. In future generations they won’t be talking about the piss awful home defeat against Annan or playing 4-5-1 against Stirling Albion. You’ll be telling your grandkids that it was the trophy that was the first stepping stone back to the top. It started an irresistible momentum to claim back our rightful position.

There’s a lot of debate over what number trophy this is – is it league championship 55, trophy 116 or something else. It doesn’t matter what number it is, it will rank as one of the most important in the club's illustrious history. When you see big Jig lift the trophy in May, remember the spring and summer 2012 when the club’s future was in the balance. Remember the suggestion of a "year out playing friendlies". Remember the repeated attempts from some to kill us off all together. Remember the lies, vitriol and hatred sent (and still being sent) our way. It is victory over all that.

Success and trophies are a very large part of Rangers history. Just look at the trophy cabinet. Our great history form the greatest motivation for future Rangers teams, to wear that royal blue top and drive them on to succeed. Look at how we defended our league titles to the hilt against the venomous and groundless attack from the SPL. It’s why Integrity FC wanted titles off us so badly, it would have been a huge body blow.

They form an immense pressure to succeed every game, every season. It’s not a total surprise that some of our ‘big’ summer signings from the SPL have struggled from the transformation from big fish in small ponds to Ibrox. The weight of history and expectation can hang heavy – ‘Websteritis’.

For some it will be the first trophy they remember, for those us lucky enough to have been associated with this great club for many years, it will be one of many and will bring back memories of successes from the recent and not so recent past. And for it being SFL3 it’s not a bad piece of bling either.

It sums up the ludicrous nature of Scottish football that we don’t know what league this league win will put us in. We could even be playing to win the same trophy next year, which would be a very cynical attempt by the authorities to create apathy in our support, but we’ve proved it doesn’t matter who we play, we’ll be there to back this great club. Not everything is perfect and there is much to be done, but there is even more to celebrate. 

Enjoy it when it comes.

29 March 2013

Rangers' SFL Targets

by Alan Clark | Contributor

Out of contract players are the name of the game for Rangers this summer, as the last stretch of the registration embargo is played out until September 1st. 

Ally McCoist has already strongly hinted at a big re-building job for next season and players who have their contracts ending this summer will be assessed and potentially signed up on pre-contracts.

Rangers could then use some of the signings as trialists in July and August, before signing them as free agents on September 1st. It won’t be an easy procedure, but it’s one that McCoist and his assistants will have to deal with.

The uncertainty over reconstruction in Scottish football and what league the club will actually play in is another big hurdle in the way of McCoist planning for the next step in the journey back to the top-flight, but it is believed he has already started searching for new additions.

Indeed, Dundee United’s Jon Daly and Kilmarnock’s Cammy Bell have both featured prominently in the media with regards to being transfer targets for Rangers, with McCoist confirming that both very much are.

As you will have seen from fellow CRO member Andy McGowan’s article back in January, there are various players that Rangers will be looking at whose deals run out soon and also currently play in the Scottish Premier League.

However, the SPL players that Rangers brought in in that nightmare period last year have performed far from what was expected of them. Ian Black, Francisco Sandaza and Dean Shiels have looked shadows of the players we all seen at Hearts, St Johnstone and Kilmarnock respectively.

The marquee signing, as it were, hasn’t been brilliant either in the form of David Templeton. The winger signed from Hearts on deadline day in August has scored a decent amount of goals, and some crackers, but inconsistency and injury has ensured that expectant fans aren’t quite sure of him yet.

Some supporters, while scratching their heads at unacceptable Third Division results and performances, have queried why the club didn’t bring in players who have vast experience and/or ability in the lower leagues of Scotland.

Here are a few players who we think are out of contract in the summer, and have impressed in the lower leagues. Disclaimer: Tin hat is firmly lodged on. These are not long-term solutions, but they are cheaper and perhaps better options than some SPL targets.

Nicky Clark – Striker - Queen of the South 

The son of ex-Ger Sandy Clark, the Second Division top goalscorer has had an amazing campaign at Palmerston Park. An astonishing 33 goals in 39 appearances has contributed massively to the Doonhamer’s nearly flawless season as they wrapped up the title last night. He scored the openers in the Ramsdens Cup win against Rangers and the League Cup triumph over Hibernian.

Previous clubs include Aberdeen and Peterhead, with the 22-year-old moving from the latter to Queen of the South in July 2011. First season appearances were limited but this season the forward has been on fire. Queen of the South’s promotion back to the First Division is now secure, and Clark is on track to be the most deadly finisher in all four senior divisions in Scotland.

With Kevin Kyle released, Francisco Sandaza likely to leave and Kane Hemmings out of contract, bringing in a striker should be a priority alongside centre backs for McCoist. In all likelihood, Rangers will be in the ten-team Second Division for next term under the status quo and a proven SFL2 player like Clark would fit in well.

After just earning promotion, would he accept staying in the same league? I think he probably would once he seen the wage Rangers could offer him. It wouldn’t take much to entice Clark, as at Palmerston he’d be on peanuts compared to at Ibrox, and that would be considered a ‘low’ wage in Rangers’ standards.

Lyle Taylor – Striker – Falkirk

The First Division’s top marksman Taylor is another forward that would fit in well with the Rangers squad for the Second Division campaign. Like Clark, the Englishman has time on his side at 22 years of age. 25 goals in 35 games for a Falkirk side nowhere near the top-end of SFL1 is a pretty revealing statistic, and his debut season in Scotland has been very impressive.

Taylor spent his early career playing for various English lower league sides including Millwall and was sceptical about moving so far north when he joined the Bairns. But the risk has paid off and he been prolific for them in all competitions, with a Scottish Cup semi-final against Hibernian to look forward to. The 34 goals in 42 matches for previous club Concord Rangers obviously attracted then manager Steven Pressley into looking at him.

As with Clark, the wages would not be anything near a problem for the club to offer him a deal. Bringing in Taylor and Clark instead of one player like Daly would probably cost slightly less per week. According to transfermarkt.co.uk, Taylor's deal expires in May of this year.

Jordan McMillan – Defender – Partick Thistle 

The ex-Rangers reserve captain has been a name mentioned by fans as he is another SFL player who was out of contract come May 2013. But with Dunfermline Athletic’s plunge into administration, the club made their captain McMillan redundant on Wednesday. Subject to clearance, McMillan signed a contract with Partick Thistle till the end of the current season.

Released by Rangers at the end of January 2012, the young defender never really got a chance at Ibrox. When he did make a rare appearance at right-back, he impressed and looked rather solid in his role. A substitute appearance away to Bursaspor in the Champions league was about his lot.

Many supporters were disappointed to see him join Dunfermline, expecting a loan deal for the player and not a free transfer. With the team’s defensive problems, having Kyle McAusland back from his loan spell at Ayr United and re-signing McMillan could be a good piece of business by McCoist.

As with all the signings Rangers will bring in for the new season, 24-year-old McMillan would need to be registered as a trialist for the first few games of the season, or wait till September 1st to officially sign on the dotted line.

Your Ideas

On Berwick Rangers’ 18-year-old Dylan Easton:

Robert Cartwright ‏said (@Robert_1872): “He looked like he had some things that we lack. He looked comfortable on the ball and could go by a player. Also, was direct from midfield!”

Scott Paterson ‏tweeted (@ScottyPaterson6): “Easton ran the show at Ibrox a couple of months back in my honest opinion.”

On Daniel Moore, Rangers-daft left-winger from Elgin City:

Scott Paterson ‏also tweeted (@ScottyPaterson6): “He is a fit and athletic boy. Would provide a decent combination with Lee Wallace at left-back and balance the team if Andy Little continues to play wide right.”

Other SFL picks include Queen of the South captain and central defender Chris Higgins – hitman Rory McAllister of Peterhead - Stefan Scougall, midfielder for Livingston and ex-Ger Archie Campbell of Greenock Morton.

Under the spotlight with Rangers Ladies #10 Lisa Swanson

by William Cahill | Guest Contributor

To take us away from the usual stories and blogs about league reconstruction, I’ve managed to get one of our rising stars in the Rangers Ladies side who’s taken time out of her busy schedule to talk to the CRO about what it’s like playing in the famous blue jersey.

Lisa Swanson, 21 of Saltcoats, North Ayrshire has been with Rangers since the Ladies team first came into existence. This will be her sixth year at Ibrox since leaving Kilmarnock to follow in the footsteps of many Rangers legends.

"I always wanted to play for Rangers, even before they had the Ladies side,” says Swanson, and when the call came from Ibrox in 2008 for her, it was just too good to refuse.

Ever the professional, she relies on drives from team-mates and public transport to travel up the West Coast to attend training four nights a week in Glasgow. A bit of a struggle at times, but she reckons it will finally pay off in the end.

However, this does not dampen her spirit and desire to do well in the blue jersey. Camaraderie is at an all-time high in the dressing room and manager Angie Hind may just lead our girls in blue to success this season.

Swanson was keen to give praise to her coach for her own personal development as well: "I am constantly learning and improving as a player due to the high standard of coaching at the Club,” she said. "Getting to train at Ibrox and Murray Park is amazing and the facilities are by far the best in Scotland."

Not only does “Swanny” wear our number 10 jersey, but she also holds a season ticket at Ibrox, watching our men’s side in action every other week. Lisa has also had the privilege of meeting many of her heroes in person thanks to her status as a Rangers player.

Lisa has many great memories in a Rangers jersey, both as a fan and player, but nothing comes close to scoring a winning penalty in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Old Firm rivals Celtic. A moment I think we all would love to experience and cherish forever.

She has, on many occasions though, been in the stands with us celebrating our Club’s never-ending success. Swanny describes the 2008 UEFA Cup Semi-Final victory over Fiorentina a one of her favourite triumphs as a Bluenose.

I think we all, as Rangers fans, get a wee bit nostalgic when discussing that particular game.

Forever dedicated to the cause, Swanny plans to stay at Rangers until she retires and hopes to win the
Scottish Women’s Premier League and all the other accolades on offer as a Blue Belle, adding, "I want to be at Rangers as long as possible and hopefully win the Treble."

Coaching and possibly management is also an aim of Swanny’s, once she hangs up her boots and calls it a day. Something, we hope that won’t happen for many years to come.

It’s a sacred honour to wear the blue jersey and it’s even sweeter when you grow up supporting the Club. We would all sweat blood for Rangers, but unfortunately it’s just a dream for the vast majority of us.

"No person in particular inspires me to do well. The only inspiration I need is the blue jersey I pull on for Rangers every week,” says Swanson.

“I want to do well for the Club, my teammates, the coaches and the manager, and of course, the fans."

Lisa Swanson is Rangers ‘til she dies like the rest of us and has been given the grandest stage in Scottish football to demonstrate her talent and skill.

Use it wise and use it well, Swanny. Give them hell.

You can find Lisa on Twitter at @Lisa10__

If you're interested in sponsoring a member of Rangers LFC, you can find more information here.

26 March 2013

CROpod Baker's Dozen

It's the thirteenth full on edition of the CROpod, bigger though not necessarily better than ever!

This week, Shane, Andy, Peter, Alan and Chris are joined by special guest, from the Heart and Hand podcast, David Edgar, to discuss how piss poor we've been lately, why footballers should stay off Twitter, international football, Fran's mishap, and the usual bit of other crap. Pay extra close attention for a guest appearance by an award winning journalist.

Flash Player

Podcast Powered By Podbean

And don't forget to check out our interview with Andy Goram, as well.

Looking for the root of the problems? Better keep on digging

by Andy McGowan | Contributor

Another week has passed and we’ve witnessed yet another round of anger, negativity and pessimism surrounding Rangers Football Club and its manager, Ally McCoist. Pouring over the Stirling Albion performance is futile. It would simply be a rehash of what I and every other CRO blogger have said in the last 8 months or so and, quite frankly, my worry is that our problems are much bigger than the superficial issues that have been all too evident this season.

For a long time now many supporters have been asking for certain concessions from an overly stubborn Ally McCoist. We’ve called for the return of a 4-4-2 formation, or at least for the end of the lone striker system that has clearly been a failure for us. We’ve called for players, such as top scorer Andy Little, to be played in their natural and best positions. We’ve questioned the players’ fitness levels and attitudes, something which should never really have to be done at Rangers, and we’ve become increasingly frustrated at the lack of response from the manager who is either ignoring the issues or is incapable of addressing them. 

Since the turn of the year, and in the last month particularly, it’s become increasingly concerning, not that Ally won’t make these changes, but that they simply won’t make a difference anymore. Compared man-for-man on paper, it is almost indisputable that Rangers have a squad which any SFL club would desire and I’m sure which even a few SPL clubs would struggle to match at full strength. But the theory doesn’t always accurately reflect the reality of the situation and, when the debate is on grass rather than on paper, we fall short by a considerable distance. The question therefore has to be asked - the question that the majority of fans are reluctant to ponder - whether or not signing another batch of players is really going to change anything. 

On the surface you could argue that new players may fit into the formation that Ally is determined to play or that they will provide him with the quality he needs to change things to a more palatable playing style. These assumptions though are purely hypothetical. Is there any reason why we haven’t seen improvements already? Our squad and management have had almost a full season to tweak and tinker with our formation and selection but yet are still unable to perform in the fourth-tier against part-time opposition. 

Rangers are the only full-time club in the Third Division which means presumably that we are training at least twice as often as our competition. And after all, let’s not forget that “there is no problem with the amount and level of training” and that the players work “exceptionally hard”. Despite these words the supporters unfortunately are anything but reassured about the quality and intensity of training but let’s just assume for a minute that everything is just as Ally has informed us. In my opinion, if anything, that makes our current situation all the more troubling.

If the players are training properly, are fit and learning what McCoist wants them to on a daily basis then why do they look so lethargic, unimpressive and completely lacking in professionalism on a match day? Our team displays a basic lack of positional awareness week after week and our set-pieces, both offensive and defensive, are nothing short of shambolic. At corners and free-kicks for example we continually struggle to beat the first man and, when it comes to defending them, it becomes a completely chaotic and ineffective mess. 

We could of course simply attribute such faults to the playing staff and argue that they aren’t good enough to perform such tasks but, even allowing for everything mentioned earlier about our squad on paper, we can go one further and look back to last season when a far more talented group of players had problems disturbingly similar to this group. From Ally’s debut match against Malmo to the latest embarrassment against Stirling Albion there have been consistently reoccurring problems. I take on board and fully acknowledge the unbelievable set of circumstances that Ally has had to contend with since taking over however even they fail to explain a great many of our problems. 

Craig Whyte isn’t the reason that Rangers look sluggish in opening halves of football matches. Nor are the SFA to blame for the team looking unfit and unprofessional. They banned us from signing players, not from coaching the ones we already have. Adding 5-10 players on top of what we currently have may temporarily mask the symptoms but it certainly won’t cure the underlying problems.

Many fans are wondering why we need the likes of Jon Daly to win Division Two in addition to the group we already have. Supporters are also questioning whether or not Ally’s solution to everything will simply be to sign more players. He’s already been blessed with the luxury of bringing a gun into a knife-fight for our current campaign. Should we really need to go looking for more ammunition? 

If Ally brings players in and there is no improvement to the attitudes, performances and results, then the frustration which has bubbled over into anger at Ibrox will inevitably become relentless and unbearable. The flip side of course is that we sign these players and it pays off. We may very well get the performances we should already be getting and, very soon, this season will seem like nothing but a bad dream, a minor speed-bump on our journey. But until we address the fundamental problems which have plagued us under McCoist’s entire tenure as Rangers manager, it is unlikely we will be able to simply buy good performances by bringing in players.

Charles Green has backed Ally publicly in the last few weeks and indeed has since he walked in the door at Rangers. The vote of confidence is often a dreaded kiss of death for a manager but Green is a man I think the majority feel can be taken at face value and, if that is the case, then Ally McCoist will still be the Rangers manager next season. And if Ally does indeed continue to manage the club then we undoubtedly need a massive overhaul of the coaching staff, as CRO Executive Editor Shane Nicholson has pointed out on more than one occasion, and McCoist himself must find a way to change the attitude of our under performing players. 

The most important signings the club can make next season may well be the additions, if any, to the non-playing side of things. And the most vital change on the pitch won’t be our formation or team selection but instead the addressing of the standards expected of our squad as professional footballers and more specifically as Rangers players. The Club also needs to instil a sense of humility that is sorely lacking off the park, something which seems to be increasingly manifesting itself on the park with each passing week. 

It’s already been suggested here at the CRO that Ally needs to drop the Mr Nice Guy act and I completely agree. Sugar coating things, as he tends to do in press conferences, only serves to insult the intelligence of the fans and increase the anger felt following a poor performance. If we are also to believe even half of the stories coming out of Rangers then the soft approach has earned Ally nothing but a lack of respect from his players, something which certain members also seem to have for the fans.

Changing the mentality of our current crop of stars should be the number one priority before we even consider adding more members to the dysfunctional, disjointed procedures that are in place at the moment. There are an increasingly large number of supporters who want Ally McCoist to step down or be sacked, and the players are certainly doing little to suggest that they desperately want to keep him in his job.

Our current situation is certainly far from being unrecoverable however Ally has to act quickly and decisively to show the players and the fans that he has the stomach to deal with the issues currently facing us. Doing so will certainly go a long way to restoring my faith in our manager. Sadly though for Fran Sandaza, he may well find himself to be the man of whom an example is made if Ally does decide it’s time to get tough and more public with his approach when dealing with the players. Although Sandaza’s fate won’t be entirely up to the manager, it is probably safe to assume that Ally will have a big say on his future at Rangers, should it be decided the club has legal grounds to terminate his contract. 

We already know that Ally is the type of manager, and type of man, to shield others and step into the firing line himself. Now however may be the perfect opportunity to take a step back and make these men accountable for their actions and to start looking out for number one before Charles Green decides he needs to find a new manager. Put the rule book before the cheque book please, Ally, or we may find ourselves feeling an overpowering sense of déjà vu next season and at a much greater cost to our bank balance.

The CRO talks with Andy Goram

CRO Contributor and pod regular Alan Clark rang up Andy Goram for a chat about a wide range of topics. A little CROpod special edition for you.

Flash Player

Podcast Powered By Podbean

24 March 2013

No More Excuses, Ally

by Andy McKellar | Deputy Editor

Rangers’ entry into the SFL Third Division was exuberantly heralded as the opening of an exciting and thrilling new chapter in the glorious tale of our Club’s history. In the aftermath of a hateful and turbulent summer the loyal supporters rallied behind our fallen institution in what was to be the beginning of the quest to restore Rangers Football Club to its former glory. It was utterly remarkable, quite bizarre but beautifully heart-warming to witness the strength and passion of our fans. We boldly set sail into uncharted waters filled with joy and optimism. Somewhere down the line however we appear to have run aground.

The procrastination, incompetence and negligence of the football authorities meant that preparations for this campaign were far from ideal. Rangers started the season with just six players, were denied any sort of pre-season and were hamstrung by the uncertainty that surrounded our league status. Eventually though things began to come together. With season-tickets hastily being sold in record numbers, and in record time, we were able to assemble a squad which pleasantly surprised the fans and which was set to begin its ruthless assault on the lower leagues of Scottish football with considerable style. 

While I’m sure the vast majority of supporters would rather be challenging for the SPL title and competing against the top talents from the continent in the Champions League, there was a realisation that we had been inadvertently presented with a uniquely glorious opportunity to rebuild, rebrand and revamp the Club in a less demanding, less cut-throat environment. It was a chance to improve our scouting, our youth development and our training methods. It was a chance to bravely move our club forward, to produce a football philosophy and ethos that would lay the foundation for decades ahead. Unfortunately though it is one which we are letting slip through our fingers and I’m not even sure some people at Rangers realise it. 

The latest calamitous performance and result came yesterday afternoon against Stirling Albion. Once again the team left the field of play to a chorus of boos, something which has been overly regular this season, and to a display of disillusionment from the supporters in the stands. The Union Bears, normally the most positive influence within the stadium, even felt the need to voice their concerns at the current state of affairs with a banner which read: “Less time tweeting, more time training," and who can blame them?

The display should not be interpreted as literally as it reads. The supporters aren’t really concerned about players taking a few seconds to send a tweet, although the content could sometimes do with more consideration, but more the lack of fitness, hunger and desire which has been evident recently. There is nothing to suggest that we have taken a step forward this season or that we have are making progress and are moving in the right direction. In fact I’d go as far as to suggest that, if anything, we have went backwards. 

Let’s add some perspective to our current situation. Rangers currently operate with the second-highest wage budget in the country, train at the best facilities and play in front of the largest crowds. We have highly paid, experienced full-time players competing in a part-time league. There can be no excuses for some of our performances and results this season. There can be no justification for our lack of fitness or even basic organisation. We have woefully underperformed. It’s about time some people accepted that and stopped hiding behind the “but we’re going to win the title” argument. 

The manager has quite rightly come in for considerable criticism for a number of reasons. We’ve had to endure the constant deployment of a formation which quite simply isn’t working. We’ve watched as our best striker is shunted onto the wings and we’ve had the misfortune of continually witnessing perennial underperformers retain their place in the team for no apparent reason. Unfortunately however such criticism seems to be met with deflection, denial and complete disinterest.

Following the humiliating defeat at the hands of Annan Athletic a couple of weeks ago we were reminded of our lack of pre-season (this is March by the way) and told that we had a young, inexperienced team (we didn’t). This week Ally McCoist has told us that everything we do at training is excellent, that the players work “exceptionally hard” and that everything will be fine because we will eventually “get over the line.” The excuses are becoming as tiresome and depressing as the performances and they show a complete lack of respect for the same fans who pay their disproportionately high salaries.

It saddens me that our standards have fallen so dramatically that our management and some supporters are willing to accept the constant dross that we’ve witnessed this season as long as we win the league. Some people need to open their eyes and look at the damage that is being done as a result.

At the start of the season the stadium was bouncing, the fans were happy and the matches were played in a cacophony of noise created by the supporters. Compare and contrast that with our last couple of games. The number of blue seats is visibly growing with each passing match, as is the displeasure and boredom of those in attendance. Yesterday the vast majority of the crowd, our lowest at a league match this season, simply could not be bothered. They were there in body but their minds wanted to be anywhere else. And with season ticket renewals due to be issued in the not too distant future, that has to be a major concern for Charles Green and the rest of the Rangers boardroom.

It is abundantly clear that something has to change at Rangers Football Club. The fans are losing interest and the team is going nowhere. The supporters are without doubt the most vital component in the rebuilding project that is currently underway and it would be foolish and negligent to ignore our concerns. Many have already decided to vote with their feet and that trend is something which can’t be allowed to continue.

As much as it saddens me to say it, I’ve yet to see anything which suggests to me that Alistair Murdoch McCoist MBE is the right man to take our club forward. He may be a club legend, he may have been one of our greatest ever strikers but, for me, he isn’t a football manager.  

Judging by previous comments from Charles Green however it would appear that Super Ally will at least get next season to prove me and his growing number of doubters wrong. And do you know what – I hope he rams my words right down my throat and makes me look foolish for ever questioning his ability. I’d love nothing more than having to say sorry for getting it completely and utterly wrong.

But please, Ally, stop hiding behind pathetic excuses and insulting the intelligence of the supporters who are paying to watch the rubbish put in front of them. It's not doing you any favours.
Rangers fans unfurl banner 'Less time tweeting, more time training'

23 March 2013

This is Rangers

by Blues and Twos | Guest Contributor

"Ally's got one objective this season - that's to get us promoted."

Or so some would have you believe.

Like a great many of us I embarked upon the trip to Brechin, aware that a new day was dawning on the tumultuous Rangers story. Lingering was still a serene bearing of disbelief that this was our distinct, new reality and as the car I was a passenger in edged closer to Glebe Park I witnessed, close at hand, that incalculable amounts of Rangers fans shared my fazed expression. 

The game itself was an aberrant blur. Little put us ahead early on but as the rain thumped down we seemed to decrease in effort, grind too much in possession and ultimately make the simplest of footballing skills look like we were trying to decypher the universe. I kinda put it down to the unconventionality of it all: That despite their positive showings, having Macleod and McKay in was a factor in our fractured performance due to their tenderness. That the occasion was the real match-up and, of course, that we had no true pre-season on which to prepare. 

I couldn't shake a nagging feeling on the drive home. I didn't really want to recognise it so I shoved it away and we all talked about the great many road trips we were gonna encounter in the coming months.

On arrival back at our watering-hole in deepest, darkest South Lanarkshire a few new faces appeared in the company. Talk amongst the regulars seemed to be of the 'journey' ahead and of the rehabilitation of the club. We moved and back and forth between Borussia Dortmund's flirtation with bankruptcy in 2005 and the problems that pushed Feyenoord Rotterdam to the precipice. In between, where those clubs found themselves then and where they were positioned now was a fill of great foresight, forward-thinking, research and application. All pre-requisites for us, we agreed, if this slide to the edge of oblivion was going to really mean something and be the start of a revolution; however defined.

It was then one of the newer faces uttered the opening line of this piece. One of the other newer guys nodded his head meekly, my friend whipped his phone out and started to pretend-text whilst the rest fell silent. I took it on:

"Yeah but surely we've got to implement some kind of vision, a long-term strategy of the likes we've never had before in order for us to come back stronger than ever. Overhaul the scouting and target players earlier."

"Promotion is the only thing that matters, mate. All that can wait. This is Rangers."

"Wait?" I motioned to speak but it was no use. We were strangers to one another and a heated discussion after a long road-trip with an unknown was the last thing either of us desired, I'm sure.

The continued convalescence of the team as we have dodged through the game-by-game minefield in SFL 3 always brings me back to that crowded afternoon. How many of our supporters actually think like that? Am I in the minority and what if he's/they're right? The CEO of any corporation sets the agenda for the business, what the targets are and how they are going to be achieved. It might be pertinent to point out that Charles Green probably thought only about promotion, at the start of the season, because it allows for expansion.

However, his comments the other week detailing his disdain for the style and standard of football on display struck a chord with yours truly. There are three sets of expectations at a football club: There are the expectations of the fans, the manager and the power-brokers. They will conflict more often than not and if success is measured by the disparate groups differently, then managing expectations metamorphosizes into how to maintain harmony in the face of growing discontent on all sides and the use of illusions or buzz-words is redundant.

Green, we know for sure, is no respecter of reputations - this is calculated business for him, no matter how much I'm sure he enjoys being in the limelight at the top of our illustrious club and fans love hearing about how he's fallen in love with the place. What Green is good at is getting people on board so it seems. His PR team work diligently and successfully but have branded him in such a fashion that in order for him to stay relevant he has to be seen and heard constantly and to continue his reputation for the straight-talking.

When Ally talked earlier on in the season of managing expectations I pondered Charles Green in all of this and his expectations. It probably doesn't matter to him if Ally's on-board or not. Remember, Dave King revealed that Green was prepared to let McCoist go because he was, as he saw, on too much money for the lowest division in Scotland. (And please while we're at it - forget any notion of Rangers fans reacting angrily to any letting go of Super. Fans, en masse, will react how the club instructs them to act.)

Not one Rangers fan I know, including myself, enjoys saying the words, "Ally's not the man for the job." So if you think the polar opposite, dispense with the abuse. It dumbs down your argument and what must be said is that those who do angrily spit that McCoist deserves better have one key defining feature - their lack of ability to conducively argue the case for him staying other than saying anyone who isn't loyal to Ally, isn't loyal to Rangers.

However, loyalty, or on this occasion, disloyalty; is in the eye of the accuser. If you use the word loyalty to the point where you fail to invoke critical thinking, then you are going on blind faith and ignoring evidence. The evidence of us working on our weaknesses in training and progressing is not present. Saturday afternoon's dreadful performance against Stirling Albion provided me with new clarity on my feelings regarding Ally's tenure. He has to move on so that we can move on. Move onto how our club prepares for what is still an uncertain future instead of having to constantly reassess the manager's position.

With a quirk of fate I ran into the aforementioned newbie post-match for the first time since the come-down of the Brechin game. There was a cosmic sense of timing that our next meeting would come after witnessing such ineptitude. Anticipating that I would be gunning for him he grinned across the L-shaped bar at me, raised his pint and with a glint in his eye and bellowed, "One objective, mate."

This is Rangers.
What they said.

22 March 2013

How it could be...

by Peter Ewart | Contributor

So the story goes we have eight players out for the Stirling Albion game. At first glance that looks pretty horrendous given the supposed lack of depth in the squad we have.

But with the exception of Andy Little away for the Northern Ireland v Russia game (the game that may never be), the now back in training Lewis Macleod, and David Templeton, whose absence is a worry, the rest are frankly no great loss. 

The other ex-SPL summer signings have been a collective disappointment. From Sandaza who has been disinterested when played (with the one exception of Queen’s Park at home) and is now suspended for being a fucking eejit. The club may well be looking to get rid and I doubt there would be many tears shed if that happens. 

Then there’s Dean ’12 goals’ Shiels, who hasn’t quite found a role for himself before a very nasty injury. The underperforming Ian Black, who has played the most games but struggled to impose himself for the majority of the time. Of course Kevin Kyle has left the club. Will anyone notice apart from the Auchenhowie canteen staff? For those that think that’s too harsh, how many pre-match discussions will go along the lines of ‘We’ll miss [Sandaza/Shiels/Black’s] [leadership/guile/commitment]’. No? For supposedly senior players, you don’t expect their absence to badly affect things, it could actually be quite positive. 

Instead the long absentee list gives us chance to look at what could be at the Club – a young promising team with a few experienced heads out there – Alexander, Jig, and the 25 year old fullback tandem of vice-captain Lee Wallace and the Greek, Argyriou.

Chris Hegarty could be turning into a pretty useful central defender and at 20 time is on his side for that position. Jig may well partner him again which has worked well before, although we will be looking for central defensive options in the summer. 

Kyle Hutton gives you lions in midfield, providing us with a bit of steel in the centre. I’d like to see him paired with Robbie Crawford again for we saw it much too briefly. Crawford has had a few decent cameos in the first team and brought goals with it, as well as having been very impressive in the Swifts. 

Down the wings it is time for the vastly underplayed Barrie McKay fresh from another apparent excellent show for Scotland U-19s and Aird Force One, with all the speed and great potential, from the half hour he ripped Motherwell to shreds to a late winner at Hampden. He too is a player we should be seeing a lot more of. 

Kal Naismith has been played out of position and falls into the trying too hard category lately, hopefully he can get his ‘A’ game on. 

Kane Hemmings we have not seen nearly enough of. He’s spent time on loan at Cowdenbeath scoring four in seven before being recalled. Ally, you recalled him; give him a chance up front. If you're not going to, what was the point of bringing him back?

It’s not to say that these youngsters are going to go on there and gel immediately. A bit of patience is required. But patience with kids is much easier to bear than patience with highly paid ex-SPLers.

If I can borrow Andy McGowan’s preferred starting XI—which I agree with 100%—if we put out Alexander, Argyriou, Hegarty, Jig, Wallace, McKay, Hutton, Crawford, Aird, Hemmings, and Naismith then the average age would be 23½. Take Jig and Alexander out and it’s 21, and that is more like it for the Club’s current position and to build a bright future. It should be the rule not the exception. 

The fans mood in general doesn’t seem that great, and that’s understandable given the dross served up over the course of this campaign, but I’m really looking forward to it tomorrow. With youth getting its chance it would be fitting if they got the win that will see us as champions by the next time we play at Ibrox. That’s not just how it could be, that’s how it should be.

21 March 2013

Sponsor The Blue-Belles!

Rangers Ladies FC are looking for any Rangers fans or local businesses that may be interested in sponsoring individual players.

Sponsorship for the full season costs just £250 and the package consists of:

  • A news release on the official Rangers FC website.
  • Presented with a home shirt signed by the players at the end of the season.
  • Your name/company logo beside player profiles on the official Rangers FC website and in all matchday programmes.
  • Season ticket to Rangers women's home games (Petershill Park, Springburn, Glasgow).
  • Player availability for PR games.

If you are interested then please write to RFCLadies@gmail.com, or follow them on Twitter and tweet to: @RFC_Ladies.

Alternatively, you can call Rangers directly on 0871 702 1972 to enquire further.

19 March 2013

The £100 million question

by Ross McAdam | Guest Contributor

Brian Stockbridge, Rangers’ Financial Director was reported as claiming the club was hoping to have a turnover of £100 million once we return to our rightful position at the top of the Scottish game. Is this achievable, or is Stockbridge miles away?

Firstly, in 2010-2011 only six clubs in the English Premiership, the world’s richest league, had an annual turnover of greater than £100 million: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd & Spurs. In stark contrast, in our most recent accounts, seven month turnover was £9.5 million. For simplicity, if we double this, we arrive at a maximum £19 million turnover for the year which is still a long way away from £100 million. Even at the peaks of the Murray regime, our turnover capped around £60 million.

What is clear is that Charles Green is an astute businessman. He has demonstrated that he had big plans for our club. We have recently agreed sponsorship deals with Puma, Blackthorn and if media reports are to be believed the naming rights to Ibrox are about to be sold to Sports Direct, whom we have a commercial partnership with, and none of which are included in this year’s turnover. 

We have been told of the G51 project, where potentially hotels and leisure facilities could be installed. Furthermore, the club shop – four times bigger than at present – will soon be part of the recently purchased Edminston House. 

A further revenue stream which we are continually told will be exploding is the use of Rangers TV. This season we have already had away games shown live on RTV in the U.K. which the club has described as ‘profitable’. Of course, being in the SFL gives Rangers more control over our media rights which may not be as applicable when we return to the top tier. ‘The Rising’ was an incredibly well put together documentary which shows the capabilities the club has in this area. 

If we compare with Everton in 2010-2011, they had a turnover of £82 million of which £53 million came from ‘TV and Broadcasting’. It is clear that we as part of Scottish football could never get anywhere near that figure. A recurring theme in Green’s recent interviews is exploring the opportunity of options outside our borders. 

Many believe that in the perhaps not too distant future these will be commonplace around the world. Should this be the case, one would assume that large TV deals would be executed and Rangers would be able to fulfill the potential they currently have and our turnover would exceed £100 million. 

More importantly however, what can Rangers do now to improve its income? We can never underestimate the size of our support worldwide. Let’s be honest, Rangers are a bigger club with a bigger following than Everton. We have been poor in trying to engage with developing and existing overseas markets.

I was not shocked to hear Shane say on the CROpod recently that he wouldn’t be able to buy a Rangers top in Chicago but could easily purchase a Celtic top. Whenever I go on holiday across Europe it is the same scenario. Go into a sports shop and there is no sign of a Rangers top. This is the real area Rangers need to improve.

Hopefully, through a combination of Puma and Sports Direct we can start to make a change to this. Make no mistake about it; we have a huge following in North America. Our rise this year has been worldwide news which we must take advantage of. 

As has been stated previously, a much larger club shop will soon be in place and a lease has been signed for a shop in Glasgow airport. A further store is being looked at in Belfast so it clear that the club are looking to expand this area of the business. As Stockbridge pointed out, before the JJB deal, Rangers retail operations at its peak brought in £20.5 million with a profit of just over £5 million. 

With correct advertising and the right people behind the scheme (Mike Ashley in particular) there is no reason why Rangers can’t push on and attain even better figures than this. 

Of course, it goes without saying that Champions League money is an essential component in achieving such a high turnover and as things are looking on the park that is a very long way away. However, off the park things are very promising and there is a massive scope for large amounts of growth. 

One can only hope we begin to take advantage of our size and then Stockbridge’s assertion may very well be within our grasp. 

18 March 2013

20,000 missing Rangers Supporters: A case of Journalistic Integrity?

by Derek Miller | Guest Contributor

Rangers fans have been subjected to the publication of non-stop propaganda about their club the past couple of years. This past weekend was no different.

Fans awoke on Saturday morning to FRONT PAGE claims from the Daily Record of an exaggeration of the club’s matchday attendance figures so far this season.

For anyone that missed it:

Apparently both Old Firm clubs are over-stating their attendance figures this season by up to 20,000 per game.

Celtic’s massaging of attendance-figures this season has been no secret. But I was rather shocked to hear that the Seville-Calculator was also being deployed down Ibrox way.

So just how accurate are these claims by the Daily Record?

Before we go into that I would like to make one minor observation regarding the article that initially appeared on the paper’s website.

The original article contained this picture below of a half-empty stand:

The more eagle-eyed amongst you will notice two problems:

The badge on the scoreboard shows that the match was against Dundee United – a team that have not appeared at Ibrox this season. The player is wearing last season’s strip.

The picture is actually from last season’s Scottish cup match at Ibrox on 5th February 2012. A match that we lost 2-0 as the scoreboard indicates.

The Record clearly struggled to find any photographic evidence of a mass of empty seats at Ibrox this season.

This chronological error was pointed out to Daily Record editor in chief Alan Rennie on twitter and the picture on their website was later changed to this:

On the face of it this may seem like a genuine oversight on the part of the Record editing team. What matters most are the attendance figures contained in the article. Are Rangers really overstating their average attendances by around 10,000 as the article claims?

Without obtaining a full FOI request from Strathclyde police I cannot say for definite. Documents that the Daily Record claim to have yet have failed to publish incidentally.

However, the match against Queens Park is specifically scrutinised by the Record.

Their article states:

“When Rangers played Queen’s Park at Ibrox in October, the attendance figure published on the Scottish Football League website was 49,463. But the real number given to police was just 34,481 – a difference of 14,982.”

I would like to know exactly which source within Strathclyde police the Record obtained these figures from.

The actual FOI request, as published on Strathclyde police’s website, gives the attendance figure for this match as 46,622. Almost 12,000 more that the Record is claiming to have been advised by them.

The difference between the attendance figure given to the police and attendance figures reported by the SFL is a mere 2,841 and not 14,982 as the Record claims.

Their article though does rightly state:

“The only fans who aren’t counted are the small number in hospitality.”

This point was also clarified by Charles Green in an interview on the Keys and Gray show on Talksport last October. When asked whether he was massaging the attendance figures at Ibrox he explained that the difference between police and club attendance figures was down to a few thousands matchday hospitality guests.

Even more worryingly this misreporting of Rangers activities appears to have jumped over to the broadsheets too. Tom English wrote an article for Scotland on Sunday echoing the Record’s sentiments.

His article states:

“Yesterday’s release of the official attendance figures for both clubs as given to Strathclyde Police – as opposed to a product of the imagination of the Old Firm’s respective press departments.”

Are Rangers really the ones guilty of having an imaginative press department, Tom?

Did Mr English actually do any research, like contacting Strathclyde police himself, to check whether these figures were accurate?

Or did he merely copy and paste the figures from Saturday’s record?

I’m guessing the latter.

Anyone who has witnessed a game at Ibrox this season, be it on tv or at the match itself, could surely tell that these figures may not be completely up to scratch.

Mr English then goes on to tell us:

“Rangers’ officially recorded a combined attendance of 515,250 when in fact it was 407,909, a difference of 107,341. So the average number of people going through the doors per game was not 46,841 but 37,083. These are the statistics that Rangers have given to the police, so you have to accept that this is the true position.”

Really Tom? Are these the actual figures given to Strathclyde police? Have you done your job and actually checked this?

Mr Traynor’s advice that the only way to stop these sort of articles being written about our club is to stop buying the newspapers that print them sounds more and more attractive by the day.

On the grounds of journalistic-integrity if nothing else.

16 March 2013

The CRO Elgin City v Rangers live blog

We're back for another go at this, as Rangers take on the mighty and massive Elgin City. If and when we're lucky enough to win today, you'll have all your coverage right here.

Alan's gonna be leading the festivities today, with Shane chiming in with the odd snarky remark. Click their names to send them a tweet or fire one off to @CoplandRoadorg with your thoughts on the match, the ground, the pies, what kind of black stallion is appropriate for a given social situation, whatever.

Team News:

ELGIN CITY: Malin, Niven, McMullan, Crighton, Duff, Cameron, Gunn, Millar, Leslie, Nicolson, Moore

SUBS: Harkins, Morrison, Beveridge, McLean, Black

RANGERS: Alexander; Hegarty, McCulloch, Cribari, Wallace; Little, Black, Faure, Crawford, Aird; Sandaza

SUBS: Gallacher, Hemmings, Naismith, Argyriou, McKay

REF: David Somers

Of course the early news is that the attempts to destroy Andy Little's (top goalscorer) confidence by playing him on the wing has not stopped. This should be fun.

Ally McCoist has rung in the changes for today's trip to Elgin. Skipper Lee McCulloch moves back to centre-half, Chris Hegarty moved to right-back, Andy Little (again) moved to right wing, defender Seb Faure is in central midfield (what), Fraser Aird re-emerges from the shadows for a start as does Robbie Crawford. Fran Sandaza is back in the starting 11 for the first time in a good number of weeks.

Kane Hemmings and Kal Naismith will both be looking to come on and impress at some point in the game - Barrie McKay must be disappointed at being on the bench again.

"A chance for Fraser Aird, Seb Faure and Robbie Crawford to shine", says McCoist to the Sky Sports cameras.

Shane: McCann gives us the "cup tie" defense. McCoist tells us the peril of have fully "six or seven" men out. No mention that we have a 28 man first team squad.

Seventy2 Magazine editor, @JamesyD1, says: "glad to see @jiggymacc6 at the back to give vital leadership and hold shape. Also happy to see @robbiedc93 given a chance too"

Elgin playing a 4-3-1-2, clearly going to attack us from the off.  4-3-2-1, or 4-5-1, for Rangers today.

0.00 - And we're off at Borough Briggs! Rangers wearing an all-blue kit in Moray.

2.00 - Early free-kick from Ian Black sees skipper Lee McCulloch force a corner after some space opened up at the back post.

CRO contributor Andy McGowan says: "if we'd played hemmings ahead of sandaza and went 4-4-2 instead of 4-5-1 id have been pretty happy"

4.00 - Sandaza forces a great save from city 'keeper Malin, from around the penalty spot. Rangers look hungrier already today than last week.

Eddie checks in: "@crims73 I see we're already suffering from first man corner syndrome again.."

7.00 - Elgin's Paul Millar, standing at 6ft 10in, will cause Hegarty  few problems today I'm guessing!

9.00 - Ooft! Robbie Crawford smacks the bar with a left-footed drive. Very unfortunate to not score there. Much better from the Teddy Bears so far.

That man again @JamesyD1 says: "@robbiedc93 is such an intelligent footballer for his age. Will be the main creative force today."

11.00 - Sandaza does well on the left-side of the box, squaring for Little who puts his shot just wide. Fair few chances already here.

Danny Grant liking Sandaza so far: "@D4nny_G13 Wonderful performance so far from Fran-Dan. Taking his chance big time."

18.00 - Rangers seem to have lost the steam from the early passages - Elgin now settling into the game.

Shane: Seb is wondering if offending the giant is a good idea.

@FinbarOffended don't like dem chickens - "@CoplandRoadorg maybe ally should ve bribed the players with the reward of nandos at h/t f/t for getting result"

27.00 - Pretty much sums it up - "@JJMNJ Started brightly, fell away."

Shane: From one chance on frame and some decent movement to back being the man who's only scored two goals for us this season. At least Sandaza has found the form we're all used to, and in only 25 minutes.

31.00 - Seb Faure has contributed only in fouling the opposition so far - just what he's doing in the starting line-up never mind the middle of the park is completely baffling.

Dutch Bearette @pamelaRFC relying on the CRO blog! "I'm locked outside my house waiting on someone to bring a key so depend on your live blog! Ty"

36.00 - Rangers-daft Daniel Moore comes close with a left-footed free-kick, just inches over the bar.

Shane: Does our chalkboard say "Try like you give a fuck for the first 10 minutes then just sleepwalk it until the half"?

38.00 - The snow has begun to fall yet again in Edinburgh. Miserable weather outside - not much better football-wise between Elgin and Rangers.

Breaking News: Kevin Kyle has left Ibrox by mutual consent. He told BBC Radio Scotland that injuries and a new direction for the team are the reasons his contract has been binned. He is still training at the club for fitness levels.

I wish him all the best, he' always been unlucky with injuries, and quite honestly he looked decent in the few games he started and scored. Cheers Kev.

Billy boy with an Elgin player scouting report: "@billybingham1 That lad moore for elgin is a proper baller. Left footed left mid who's decent at set pieces. Wonder how he'd do at right back?"

HALF-TIME: Elgin City 0-0 Rangers. Aside for the first ten minutes, Rangers have been very average. Need to pick themselves up for the rest of the game. Three points is a must after a difficult week.

Don't blame you! - "@scottieparker @CoplandRoadorg I was havin a nice long kip and got up to watch this!! Might go back to bed at half time!!"

Half-time fan views:

@RossP2011 @CoplandRoadorg DISGUSTING.

@jaykay0606 @CoplandRoadorg won't take long

Ruaridh ‏@ruaridh1 @CoplandRoadorg pretty much what expected

@xDoZeo @CoplandRoadorg Shite.

@FinbarOffended @CoplandRoadorg nandos isnt working bring in the lions

@WATP_84 @CoplandRoadorg agree with the blog. Good first 10 mins. Utter rubbish after that.

@jonmar37 @CoplandRoadorg :-) once again no reaction from last wk utter rubbish apart from first 10 min

@craigbrownshb @CoplandRoadorg utter shite!! Get andy walker to fuck haha

@Hans_Blix Good too see Ally proving a point today that everyone doesn't have a clue #useless

Shane: Who in their right fucking mind thinks Sandaza is or ever should be the "main man for Rangers"?!?!? There's a guy out on the right wing now with 25 goals, scored in six straight, being fucking wasted.

The players are back out. Second period about to start. Come on RANGERS.

McCoist: "Should've been ahead. Our tempo definitely dropped. We need to start with the same tempo and continue with it."

@ewanmcqueen_91 "Lack of tempo or urgency worrying. No need for Faure to be playing. 4-4-2 in second half please."

@FukinMilesAway "Need a goal? Why not play the top scorer in the country as a striker?! no? okay then"

51.00 - Between the fourth and 50th minute, Rangers failed to register a shot on target.

52.00 - No improvement from the first half. Did Ally even give them a team-talk? Or was it more post-match meal talk?

@pamelaRFC "Im in now. Just caught a glimpse of Frandaza.....he looks like he been running a marathon. #condition"

56.00 - Charles Green sporting a Rangers bar scarf at the game. That's staunch.

59.00 - Ian Black has a pop at goal. Comfortable save from Malin, but at least Black was showing some desire there. Aird trying a leg down the left but to no avail so far.

63.00 - This has nil-nil written all over. Another shockingly average display from the Gers today. Not acceptable.

66.00 - Cracking cross from Little, Sandaza goes for the diving header and completely misses it. Sums up his game.

"@JohnDCGow Ally should take Faure off and put McKay on. That'll allow Little to play alongside Sandaza and create more width with Barrie."

68.00 - Fran Sandaza is replaced by Barrie McKay.

71.00 - PENALTY! Wallace is fouled in the box.

72.00 - GOAL! Lee McCulloch slots home! Elgin 0, Rangers 1.

73.00 - Follow Follow rings out from the travelling Bears - they'll be expecting the team to press on and get a killer second now.

"@pamelaRFC Big compliment from me to all the fans who travelled to Elgin today. Some more then 4 hours! You guys deserve better. COME ON RANGERS !!!"

82.00 - Eight minutes of regular time left, looks like right-back Anestis Argyriou is going to come on. Are we really going to just defend the rest of the match out?!

"@JJMNJ Cannot understand either why Kane Hemmings isn't getting a chance. *shakes head*"

@scottieparker @CoplandRoadorg as the chant goes up around my living room - "We're so shite it's unbelievable!!! good to see it's all nice and happy and jokey on our bench FFS!"

85.00 - Defence has been a lot better with McCulloch back there. Let's hope that doesn't come back to haunt me.

87.00 - Ian Black receives his second yellow card and is sent off. Definitely a foul, but a tad harsh to order a player off for that. Rules are rules though.

Shane: Send that thick cunt home for good. Fuck off, Black.

89.00 - Fraser Aird comes in with a late challenge, gets a yellow for his troubles. Why is it the referee is card-happy when a Gers players commits the foul, but not the other way? Far too many examples of terrible challenges not punished this season.

90.00 - Regular time is up. Now into added time.

90.30 - Little coming off, the Greek Argryiou on.

91.30 - 4 minutes of stoppage time. One and a half played already.

93.00 - A minute to play. Rangers just about there.

94.00 - Added time finished. We're still playing.

95.30 - Why is this still on?! Ref is taking the piss.

FULL-TIME. Elgin 0, Rangers 1.

Today's attendance at Borough Briggs was 3663.

Post-match fans views: 
‏@ewanmcqueen_91 "I can honestly say that I'm embarrassed to watch Rangers now. That was an utterly atrocious performance despite the 3 points."

@rangersfctrust "We're gonna win the league!"

@scottieparker "@CoplandRoadorg so this how you bounce back from a bad defeat. Play shit, scrape a 1-0 thanks to a penalty #notgoodenough"

@paulduncan1984 "Our goalkeeper is time wasting in SFL3! That's how bad things are #rangers"

@MartyMc732 "Bloody awful, toiled & lucky to take 3 points."

Player reaction:

McCulloch: "The game was scrappy, and the pitch was heavy. It made it harder to pass the ball. We're three points closer to where we want to be.

"Today a clean-sheet was as good as a goal."

More fans views:

@JamesyD1 "Cribari was 'miles' better today next to big Jig, hopefully that can continue for the rest of the season."

@alexo93 "Up at 5:30am. 3 points aye, but that performance was awful. Again."

@BryanMcGill81 teeth pulling material

Opposition view:

Elgin gaffer Ross Jack: "I'll have to see the penalty incident again. There's no point putting in a performance against Rangers like that, and not to continue it next week. Fourth place is up for grabs now."

Rangers are now 20 points clear of Queen's Park as they inch their way closer to the Third Division title. A maximum of five points are now needed to clinch SFL3.

A win against Stirling Albion next Saturday in the noon kick-off at Ibrox, followed by a Queen's Park defeat to Annan later on at 3pm, will confirm Rangers as champions.

If Queen's Park win, then a win away to Montrose the following Saturday will ensure the trophy.

Hope you enjoyed the CRO's live blog coverage of the game today. Wasn't the best of games but three points closer to the championship.