10 October 2012

Players Must Step Up and Play

by Andy McKellar | CRO Deputy Editor

There has been quite a furore following the embarrassing defeat to Stirling Albion at the weekend and deservedly so. We may now find ourselves in the fourth-tier of Scottish football and without the talents of Nikica Jelavic and such likes, however nobody can excuse what happened at the Forthbank Stadium on Saturday afternoon. It was undoubtedly one of the worst results in our proud history.

The spotlight has been consequently fixed on Ally McCoist in the last few days with some fans saying he should be sacked, others urging him to resign and many defending him against the barrage of criticism that has been thrown in his direction. I’m sure the debate will rage on over the international break with many disagreements and arguments amongst our fans but while the manager always carries the can for the failures of his team, it would be unfair to ignore the players’ contribution in our early failings.

We can discuss tactics and team selection all day and all night but the simple fact of the matter is that, if our players apply themselves properly, then these issues become less important. Our squad certainly has more quality in it than any other team in the Third Division but if the players do not perform to their capabilities then all of that frankly counts for nothing.

Lee McCulloch, one of the few players who I cannot question this season, stated that Stirling Albion simply worked harder than Rangers on Saturday and, in my opinion, are only the latest team to be added to a growing list. They didn’t have international players or those who had considerable experience in the SPL but yet through sheer graft and determination they were able to record a famous victory against a team whose resources dwarf their own.

I remember Rino Gattuso being interviewed following Italy’s World Cup success back in 2006, where incidentally he played a pivotal role, and he was asked quite simply how he intended to improve as a player. His answer was simple: “I must work harder and be more aggressive”.

Rino certainly isn’t the most talented player ever to represent the Azzurri or indeed AC Milan, however his work-rate, effort and endeavour made him a key component of both sides for a number of years. It is quite amazing what a player can achieve through hard work alone and I take my hat off to professionals who make the most of their potential and make a real success of their careers.

If the current Rangers squad matched the effort and aggression of their opponents in every match this season then I’d be willing to wager that we’d win the vast majority of our matches with considerable ease. It may be over simplifying to a certain degree but we have seen our team thwarted on more than one occasion by nothing more than graft and organisation since the season began some weeks ago now. If our players aren’t up for the fight then I’m afraid they made a huge mistake in joining Rangers.

Certainly questions have to be asked in relation to the management of the team, but it would be unfair to heap all of the criticism squarely on the shoulders of McCoist and his backroom staff. These players are professionals and are on exceptionally generous salaries for the privilege of representing Rangers Football Club. Is it too much to ask for them to take some pride in their work? Is it too much to ask to expect they match the effort and fight shown by our part-time, semi-professional opponents? I certainly don’t think so.

Questions will certainly remain over McCoist for the foreseeable future and it will be up to him to prove that he is capable of managing the Club that he represented with such distinction as a player. I certainly have my doubts about his ability to turn things round but, believe me, I have never wanted a manager to succeed as much as Super Ally.

Dado Prso once famously said that “When I play, I am like a soldier going into battle. My team mates are my comrades. We will never give up, no matter the opposition”.

Some players could certainly do worse than read that quote and ask themselves if they have shown the same levels of fight that Big Dado displayed when he pulled on that famous jersey.

Prso was admired for his graft and battling qualities as much as he was for his talent and skill. The Rangers’ faithful has always recognised and appreciated players who gave their all and worked their socks off for their manager and the supporters. Our players would do well to remember that each and every time they enter the field of play wearing the light blue of Rangers.

“No Surrender” often echoes round our famous old stadium and any venue our loyal fans invade. Perhaps it is time for those on the park to mirror the passion shown in the stands and from their opposition.  Time for them to Step Up and Play.

Andy is the newly minted Deputy Editor of the CRO. You can find him on twitter at @AMCKEL or via email: amckel@thecoplandroad.org