by Alan Clark | Deputy Editor
Sunday's Ramsdens Cup Final defeat to Raith Rovers was an extremely hard kick to the gonads of every Rangers supporter.
Despite the cup not being an important one in the grand scheme of things, it was one that everyone expected Rangers to win comfortably – especially given the fact that Queen of the South knocked them out at the quarter-final stage last season, denying a clean sweep of the trophies whilst the club is in the lower leagues.
Performances in League One in the past few months have been dire to say the least. Most of the squad seems content to turn up at the weekend, saunter about the pitch without putting in the required effort expected in a blue jersey and then go home again. Why? There's two parts to this answer.
Firstly, the majority of the players' places are safe. They know that the manager will not field a youngster in their place, so despite the 'competition for places' mantra from the start of the season, rotation in the squad is few and far between.
For example, Jon Daly has been out of shape and out of character for months. He has no pace to him and the link-up play the fans got accustomed to in the early parts of the season has vanished. Yet he still starts every single game, he is never replaced by another striker or, god forbid, a free-scoring young forward (ala Calum Gallagher or Danny Stoney).
Secondly, you have to assess where the club is at the moment. Specifically who they are playing against. In League One, Rangers have won 29 games out of 31, drawing two and losing zero. An impressive set of statistics, no-one can argue with that. But teams like Arbroath, East Fife and Forfar Athletic are part-time outfits – we know this. No disrespect intended to these teams but Rangers know that they can turn up to these games and get three points without really breaking sweat. That is a huge problem.
With this in mind, the weekends of April 6th and April 12th were marked down as incredibly vital times for Rangers. If they could turn up at Easter Road, match their opponents desire and better their quality of play (despite being a league above the Gers, this should've been no problem versus Raith) then it would show the players could raise their game. And that was vital to prepare for the Dundee United cup clash.
Look what we were served up in Edinburgh. 120 minutes of misplaced passes, constant long balls, several fouls by Daly – and in the end a defensive howler allowing Raith to get the vital winner. Raith played like a Championship team – they were organised and defended reasonably well but offered little going forward. The fact Rangers with the top-flight talent in abundance couldn't take advantage of that is a shocking indicator of the state of play just now.
Never mind the off-field worries, Rangers have enough problems to contend with on the football side. Never have I wanted a manager to be successful as much as I do with Ally McCoist, but I have to concede that maybe it is time for him to depart, along with his backroom staff.
Teams know what way Rangers will set out. It's a long ball from one of the defenders, played to Jon Daly who is then expected to head it to Nicky Law or a winger, who are 99% of the time too far away and therefore possession is lost. Or Daly commits a foul and the end result is the same.
This is not an attractive or productive playing style. The fact McCoist and co haven't changed it this far into their time in charge is quite frankly unacceptable. It works against the league opposition in terms of results, but when it comes to full-time teams, it just doesn't.
Despite not scoring, Nicky Clark came on as a substitute and Rangers looked a little more threatening with him up beside Daly. The two of them have looked good as a partnership and for the life of me I do not understand why playing Daly as an isolated target man is seen as a better option.
The supporters have been crying out for the same things week after week yet it never happens. They want to see attacking, aggressive, pressing and entertaining football. For the price the fans pay for season tickets (18% rise for next year, reportedly) and matchday tickets, they deserve that at least. For the amount the club pays the players and coaching staff in weekly wages, they deserve a better method than the constant, lazy option of “let's play a high ball to Daly, he'll win a header”.
Attention now turns to Saturday's Scottish Cup semi-final. A game that is arguably the biggest for the club since they stopped Celtic winning the SPL title at Ibrox in March 2012. After Sunday's shambles, it is now dreaded by the vast majority. Except Dundee United of course, who will expect to walk all over Rangers. Who can blame them for that?
Even owing to a minor miracle on Saturday, some will still see McCoist's position as untenable. I'm almost there myself. Nonetheless, this can be viewed as his last stand. For this last-four tie, I'm drawing inspiration from Marvin Andrews...
Don't do the same old things expecting different results; get different results by doing something new.— marvin andrews (@marvellous_77) April 8, 2014
I can only hope that message is relayed to McCoist, McDowall, Durrant and the playing contingent at Ibrox. The same boring and one-dimensional tactics are doing Rangers so much more harm than good. I tweeted this a few weeks ago, but if I was McCoist I'd do something radical on Saturday. I'd go 3-5-2.
I'd play Cammy Bell in goals. Seb Faure, Lee McCulloch and Bilel Mohsni as centre backs. Richard Foster and Lee Wallace (fitness permitting) as attacking full-backs. A midfield three of Ian Black, Nicky Law and Robbie Crawford. And a striking partnership of Jon Daly and Nicky Clark.
The three central defenders would hopefully be set up in a way that would combat the attacking threat from Dundee United, of which there are many across the pitch.
With no Fraser Aird and no Calum Gallagher in that formation, the attacking wing-backs will have to bomb up and down the wings a lot. Moving into the second half, the formation can be re-jigged and pacey, hungry youngsters Aird and Gallagher can be shoved on to attack Dundee United with purpose and menace.
So please, McCoist. Do something new. For the sake of your job. For the sake of the support. For the sake of Rangers.