21 October 2012

Rangers 2-0 Queen's Park: Papering Over the Cracks?

by Andy McKellar | CRO Deputy Editor

When it was confirmed that Rangers would be opening an exciting new chapter in its proud history by rebuilding from the Third Division I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was thoroughly looking forward to the adventure that lay ahead. I must confess to perhaps naively believing that we would stroll things in the fourth-tier of Scottish football but it certainly didn’t take me long to realise just how wrong such an assessment was. 

Our problems so far this season have been well documented and emphasised by the pressure placed on Ally McCoist in recent weeks both by the media and the Rangers’ support. While many fans could have accepted a slow start while our new players familiarised themselves with their new surroundings, I firmly believe that the time for that excuse has long since passed.

On Saturday Ibrox Stadium played host to the original Glasgow derby fixture as Queen’s Park entered the game as league leaders. There was considerable interest in the match in the build up as tickets began to sell very quickly during the week. Quite astonishingly Ibrox was a complete sell-out and the world record we had set earlier this season was broken by the extra few hundred who were in attendance. Utterly remarkable.

Unfortunately the passion in the stands was not matched on the pitch as Rangers laboured through a depressingly dull first 45 minutes, creating very few chances in the process. Thankfully an inspirational piece of play from Dean Shiels set up Lee McCulloch for the opening goal just when it looked like we were running out of ideas. We really should have went for the kill there and then but instead were forced to wait until the final few minutes to seal the three points. It was job done...just.

Some may argue that it was good to see the team earn three points when they hadn’t played particularly well and I suppose this is something I would have said in the past. I however can’t help but feel that we are currently papering over the cracks and temporarily masking problems that still need to be addressed.

The team selection itself was reasonable enough despite Faure being favoured at right-back ahead of Argyriou in his natural position. To make matters worse there was some confusion over just what formation we were playing. Our midfield was all over the place and we somehow proceeded to play the vast majority of the first-half without anyone on the right-wing at all. The worrying question has to be: did our management team even notice this? The issue wasn’t addressed until Andy Little made his comeback from injury at the beginning of the second half and, if nothing else, it gave a much needed balance to the team. It really should have been done much sooner though.

Certainly I have my doubts over Ally McCoist as a tactician and I surely cannot be only one who holds such views. Many even questioned Walter Smith, accusing him of being negative and slating his decision to quite often play with only one striker. One thing that can be said of every Walter Smith team though is that the players always gave 100%. Yes, inevitably there were times when champagne football was nothing but a distant memory but the effort and application was always there.

If McCoist cannot use his tactical nous to his advantage then he must find a way to get the very best out of his players in terms of effort and energy. Man management is still a hugely important part of football and I’m sure you can name a number of managers who succeed almost purely because of their ability to motivate. Ally must find his own way of building a strong bond between his players and creating the legendary team spirit that has served us so well over the years. I suppose the fact that raised voices were apparently heard in the home dressing room at half-time shows that at least there isn’t an acceptance of such sub-standard performances.

In his programme notes our manager stated that our opponents have been fired up for our games and that their endeavour has been a defining factor in some of our disappointing results. He also stated that if we match their effort levels then we would win far more games than we would drop points in but for whatever reason, when the team steps out onto that pitch, we simply haven’t done that.

It does feel rather unusual to sit down after a 2-0 victory, which incidentally sent us to the top of the league, and feel so negative about the weekend’s performance. I spoke to a few fellow Bears today and many of them shared the general view that the game itself was simply awful and so I suppose it was a relief to know that I perhaps wasn’t being too overly critical in my assessment.

I sincerely hope that Saturday’s victory was not simply papering over cracks and that it was more the clich├ęd sign of champions that saw us earn three points while not being at our best. Only time will tell I suppose and McCoist and his team can hopefully kick on if we can earn three points at both Clyde and at home to Peterhead in the coming weeks.

It was great to see Andy Little back in action at the weekend and I’m sure he will add some positivity, directness and goals to our play throughout the upcoming fixtures. If you consider that we will also have David Templeton to come back into the team eventually then I’m sure we should find a bit of form as we head into the typically busy winter months. At least, I hope that is the case.

Our players must step up and make themselves counted and prove that we have undoubtedly the best team in the division. There has to be a strong winning mentality and a refusal to accept anything less than three points each and every week. We do have a new team and it can take time to adjust to the pressure and demand of playing for Rangers. Hopefully they will come to terms with those issues sooner rather than later.

Oh and Coisty, get the suit back on!

Andy is the Deputy Editor of our half-decent blog. You can find him on Twitter at @AMCKEL or via email: amckel@thecoplandroad.org