25 June 2013

Ally: you can't have everything in the aisle

Pic from rangers.co.uk

by Iain Nicol | Guest Contributor

32 players.

That’s how many we currently have in our squad, even after removing players with expiring contracts, Goian and Bocanegra. That’s how many we had when our manager, Ally McCoist, told us again today that we need more “bodies”. 

Not players – “bodies”. (I suppose that’s about all you can describe Craig Gordon and Andy Webster as, but that’s probably another discussion for another article.) 

Last season, it was widely reported our annual wage bill was somewhere in the region of £7.5m. Now, comparing that to Rangers sides of the past, that seems relatively low. Compare it to our opponents, every other team out with Celtic in Scotland and our current level of income, however, and you see the true picture: - financial lunacy. With the upheaval and uncertainty of last summer, a bit of leeway can be given to the club, but only on the presumption that we’ll get things right next time around.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the better SPL sides’ wage bills in comparison with ours (all figures taken from 2012 PwC Annual Review of SPL).

· Motherwell - £3.5m


· Inverness - £2m


· Dundee Utd - £3.8m


· Rangers - £7.5m


We were totally outclassed by Inverness and Dundee United – losing both games 3-0. We managed to beat Motherwell 2-0 in what I can confidently state was our best performance of the season.

Ally’s answer to the serious lack of quality last season was, quite rightly, a need for new players (only after fully exhausting the ‘no pre-season’ excuse, of course). Where his logic began to fall down though, was the constant stream of new contracts offered to players he continually told us weren’t good enough. This isn’t a new phenomenon with McCoist either – in fact it draws alarming similarities to his first season in charge.

In his first months in charge of Rangers, McCoist sanctioned new contracts for Gregg Wylde & Salim Kerkar and also sanctioned the signing of Matt McKay. We started the season with Sasa Papac at left-midfield. We also went on to sign Sone Aluko and Mervan Celik – although that never dulled the chances Lee Wallace received at left-midfield as the season progressed.

At right-back, we handed Steven Whittaker a new contract, had Kirk Broadfoot, signed Juanma Ortiz and had Jordan McMillan in reserve. That never stopped Kyle Bartley and Ross Perry being played there though – nor did it stop McCoist’s public pursuit of Enar Jaager (another right-back). This eventually led to the departure of Jordan McMillan, who seemed justified in his decision.

Let’s remind ourselves of the first statement on this article then; 32 players. Does it look like Ally has learned any lessons from his past dealings? Our current squad numbers, coupled with his continually-stated desire to bring in even more, would suggest he hasn’t. It all leads to one conclusion: Ally McCoist should not be in charge of transfer policy for The Rangers Football Club.

This argument is presented from only one perspective too – financial. I’m sure if you assessed the historical quality of his signings, you would reach a similar conclusion. So, what are the alternatives?

Well, the most obvious answer would be to bring in a Director of Football and a highly-skilled and highly-qualified Head Scout. This is something I’m a strong supporter of anyway, and this is just one of the obvious reasons for hiring them. If we’re looking at the salary Ally McCoist receives (£700k), it’s not too difficult to assume you could essentially fill all three positions (Manager, Head Scout, Director of Football) for that level of money.

Another alternative would involve the implementation of a squad structure, tiered wage system and strict wage budget for the squad. This would, most likely, require a firm hand from executive board members like the CEO and Financial Director – but, is asking them to do their job too much to ask? I certainly hope not. As things stand, this is the most readily achievable solution. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect something resembling order at Rangers.

In such a system, the structure and finance can be quite easily determined – even for people like me. Basing our spending on being able to compete with the best-of-the-rest, a logical spend for the first team playing squad alone would be around £4m. This allows a tiered structure, as follows:

· 12 experienced first team players; six players at £7k per week, six players at £3k per week


· 12 young players, predominately from Auchenhowie, at £1.5k per week


That, in my opinion, strikes the perfect balance between prudency and having enough quality to entertain fans. Even Rangers should be able to win Division Two playing attractive football with those levels of investment. That level of investment should also allow us to be competitive in cup competitions too.

Now, having had this debate on forums, the number one argument for the current level of spending at Rangers seems to be “we want to win the cups” – although I share that dream, for me, that’s an unrealistic target as things stand. My counterpoint is normally just one question; would you sacrifice another title to Celtic just so we can win a cup in the next couple of years? Because, let’s face it, that’s really the question here. That’s what it all boils down to. 

We’re supposed to be rebuilding the Club and preparing for our return to the top-tier. We want the transition to be seamless. We want immediate success upon our return. All fair demands – all achievable with sound planning. Is it then, realistic for Rangers to spend vast sums of money now, trying to win a League Cup or Scottish Cup, when it will almost certainly hamper us somewhere down the line? As far as I’m aware, our resources are finite. 32-man squads with more players to come doesn’t sound like we’re giving much consideration to our eventual return, if you ask me.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not suggesting for one minute that Rangers should ever stop trying to win every competition we enter, far from it. I’m merely suggesting that we prioritise. Is our long-term success more important to us than our short-term success? No. Of course it isn’t. Spending half of what we are now still makes us the biggest spenders in the country outwith Celtic. Spending twice what we are now is still less than half of what Celtic are spending and, for that reason, it’s unrealistic to think that adding guys like Ricky Foster for several thousand pounds per week will do much to improve our chances in a cup competition.

Barring a takeover by another advocate of the recently-failed benefactor model, we’ll be out of money by Christmas. That isn’t me making a doomsday prediction, that’s me demonstrating how far beyond our means we’re currently living. There’s nobody at the club with the know how or balls to fix the problem. We have an interim-CEO determined to make it permanent – why would he want to upset fan-favourite Ally McCoist? We have a Financial Director, who’s currently struggling to distance himself from the Green-regime – why would he want to upset fan-favourite Ally McCoist?

I feel sorry for Ally at times, because he’s not had the same chance to manage the club that previous managers have had. His public mentions of the £10m promised by Green were bordering on embarrassing. He was evidently upset that Green was trying to mislead him and the fans, and was clearly still upset by the lack of signings made last summer. Ultimately, Rangers aren’t here to satisfy Ally McCoist – Rangers are here for us.

We need somebody to sit Ally McCoist down and explain our situation to him. He doesn’t need experienced cover in every position. He doesn’t need to spend every penny the club has. And he certainly doesn’t need to hand new contracts to every player already at the club either.

We can only watch and hope that these issues are resolved over the course of the summer.

7 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. An excellent summary of what most of us are thinking. Green was a loose cannon at times, but his business sense was pretty sound. It's only a matter of time before Walter gets his way, and hoynds Mather and Stockbridge from the board, which in my opinion will be a bad day for the club. What exactly have they done wrong? Invest money into the club?!?

    I want Ally to succeed, but not at the cost of our long term recovery. Last year would've been an opportunity for a visionary coach, to rebuild the club, under a new model, and compile a stash of money fro later developments. Our wage bill was too high last year, and it only seems to be going up, under our current manager and chairmen. Walter is a manager in a chairman's position, which is a dangerous precedent. Tell me this, does anyone think that Walter will be big enough to make the call, should Ally prove to be the wrong man? I'm not sure if I do.

    Walter always swore he could never sit in judgement of another manager, so how can we believe he would be the judge, jury and the executioner, if his old friend is in the dock? These aren't accusations, just questions that I think a lot of people have wondered at times.

    For a club to move forward, there has to be consent of opinion, but for a club to be healthy, there has to be room for all arguments, and a diversity of opinion. Walter has to see that Ally is given a fair chance, but Ally has to stick by a sensible budget, otherwise we end up in the same position as we were in before.

    Most managers work by a budget, which can slide on a scale, depending on outgoing transfer activity, and freeing up of salaries. We can't start to act like we're any different, even if certain directors think that Dave King will invest heavily or become the majority shareholder. We've been there before too.

    If Walter wants his legacy to remain intact, he has to get his business head on and ensure that business sense prevails. I want investment, but in the right areas of the club structure now. We have to offload a few faces now, because there is a lot of dead wood around. A squad of 24 would be ample, and 26 would give some insurance, but no more.

    If any manager, can't comfortably win the 2nd Division in Scotland for Rangers with those resources, then they should go and work elsewhere.

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  3. All we needed was a good strong 24ish center half and a right back this season, then added more next term

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  4. I can enhance upon the theory behind my suggested squad structure:

    Firstly, the main benefit of such a system, is that no one man is overvalued – the team always comes first. If somebody outgrows the structure, they won’t be given a contract (Holiday Daz would be a perfect example here).

    Secondly, upon our return, it allows another tier to be added to the squad directly above the current top tier. Assuming our revenues massively increase at that point – which they will – adding a £14k/week tier would be achievable. Over time, and as our revenues grow, you can expand the spending in each tier.

    The hope would be, at that point, that 6 of the players from the youngsters category will have enough quality to replace the players in the £3k/week category – these are your Jon Daly, Foster and Stevie Smith-type players. They can all contribute as things stand, but by the time we get back to the top, guys like Macleod and McKay should be experienced players of a higher standard than those mentioned. To keep these players, we’ll need to increase their contracts, and that’s where the other players would most likely lose out.

    Below the first team, the employment of around 40 full-time youngsters between the ages of 16-19 on around £300/week (perhaps more when we get back to the top), would be wise. These would hopefully be the players able to provide some kind of conveyor belt. An attractive bonus for making any first team appearances would add extra incentive for these players.

    A system, whereby each 16-19 year old spends 2 of the 4 seasons on loan, and 2 of the 4 seasons with the reserves would also be valuable in the development of these players - preferably with a side where they can gain vital first-team experience.

    An idea of what our squad would look like under such a system, provided we could offload some of the high earners? (?? = a vacancy in that tier)

    Tier 1: Templeton, Bell, Law, Wallace, ??, ??
    Tier 2: Daly, Little, Foster, Smith, Peralta, ??
    Tier 3: Macleod, McKay, Clark, Aird, Gasparotto, Gallacher, Mitchell, McAusland, Hegarty, Crawford, ??, ??

    Players who’d have left under this scenario:

    Cole, Argyriou, Cribari, Perry, Faure, Hutton, Black, Shiels, Naismith and, sadly, Lee McCulloch (his wage is unjustifiable, IMO – but if you want to, you could include him in tier 1).

    Players on the fringes of the first team squad who would be there to support that squad if there were injuries would be:

    Alan Smith
    Ryan Sinnamon
    Andy Murdoch
    Charlie Telfer
    Danny Stoney
    Ryan Hardie

    GK:
    Bell
    Gallacher
    Smith

    RB:
    Foster
    Mitchell
    McAusland
    Sinnamon
    Murdoch

    CB (would clearly need strengthening, just like it does now):
    Hegarty
    Gasparotto
    McAusland
    Daly

    LB :
    Wallace
    Smith
    Foster
    Mitchell

    CM:
    Macleod
    Peralta
    Law
    Crawford
    Mitchell
    Murdoch

    RW:
    McKay
    Little
    Templeton
    Aird
    Law
    Clark
    Stoney
    Telfer

    CAM:
    Templeton
    McKay
    Law
    Macleod
    Clark
    Crawford
    Telfer

    LW:
    Templeton
    Aird
    McKay
    Clark
    Law
    Stoney
    Telfer

    ST:
    Daly
    Clark
    Little
    Stoney
    Hardie

    Clearly, there are some areas which would need strengthened – but you’d have 5 vacancies in the squad to do so – 2 being top-tier vacancies.

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  5. generally a good article, I completely agree with the main point. Our squad is far too big and we need to sell at least 10 players. Kids like Stoney, Walsh and Gasparroto who McCoist was full of praise for at the end of the season won't get a chance this season because McCoist is filling the squad with senior pros, players like Smith and Foster are of course far too good for D2 and we should win the league with ease, but they won't be good enough to help us win the SPL when we get back in 2 years. We completely do not need to be wasting that money.

    McCoist only wants new "bodies" in because the players he signed and the players he trains are massively underperforming. Dean Shiels was a SPL POTY candidate until McCoist brought him three leagues lower and then... he can hardly kick a ball? The problem isn't that all these players have simultaneously regressed, it's that they're playing under a manager and coaching team that doesn't have a clue.

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Keep it civil, lads.