02 February 2013

Scoreline aside, the questions remain

by Andy McGowan | CRO Contributor

There are those among our support who over the years in the face of any negative comment would staunchly refuse to admit there was a problem, but even these supporters would have to hold their hands up and admit the current Rangers squad is a shadow of what we’ve come to expect. It’s something I have made my peace with. We were spoiled over the years, and we will be spoiled in the future, so a little lean period is nothing to complain about.

The turnaround of players in the circumstances was never going to produce the great underdog story we all craved where we all felt vindicated as our third division players walked up the steps at Hampden to collect a cup. That’s something I can abide; virtuoso football isn’t something I expect from the current Rangers squad. All I desired from this current crop of players was a good time in Division 3, the introduction of young players who in the future would benefit from the game time and going out on our shield as it were in the League and Scottish cup.

Not much to ask – humble requests in this bear’s opinion: to win a semi-professional league with professional players, to see some of our young talent given a chance and not to show ourselves up when we inevitably came up against our former SPL colleagues.

Going into today’s game with Dundee United I expected nothing. Our club may be 140 years old but our squad is only a little over 140 days old and was playing away to a team who have been together for last few years and club who have a notoriously strong record against us in the cup. So I turned the television on in hope rather than expectation for the first time domestically in all my years as a Rangers fan and was content with that – a little humility now will do wonders for us in years to come, dare I suggest even improve the atmosphere around Ibrox when things aren’t going our way.

All I desired from today was that we send 11 players onto the park and regardless of the result when the final whistle came I knew my players had given us their all. I didn’t expect slick passing, I didn’t expect domination, I didn’t expect trickery – I expected desire, I expected fight, and I expected players to take on the responsibility of playing for Glasgow Rangers. Sadly that was not the case.

Dundee United may very well be a better footballing side than currently occupy the Ibrox dressing room but they had no cause to prove it over the 90 minutes. Today we weren’t beaten by 11 men who are vastly superior football talents; we were beaten by 11 men who wanted it more and for that there is no excuse. Both first half goals were the result of centre backs who refused to take the responsibly to do the hard yards and do the basic, ugly work a top defender – a David Weir – would do, albeit with a helping hand from Lee Wallace on both occasions.

All day long when the ball was lost so were we, there was no closing down, no desire to win the ball back. This lack of desire started from the back and like a virus worked its way up the park and by the end of the first half we looked ready to go home. We were, quite simply, lucky not to be embarrassed after the second goal, when what little fight we had left the building with a nod of John Daly’s head.

We showed a poor imitation of desire second half by kicking out at United players and becoming more and more frustrated as the match wore on to what looked an inevitable conclusion after the first 15 seconds had ticked off, and in the end our day was summed up when four players watched the ball in the air while one Dundee United player won it and created a third goal. He didn’t win that ball because they are bigger or stronger outfit, simply that they wanted it – they wanted that ball, they wanted every ball – and we just didn’t want to match that endeavour. In a game like today’s we needed 11 captains we had none.

Sadly yet again today our premier league imports went missing and with the exception of Templeton (who has bucked the trend and played relatively well in the SFL this season) I think it’s time we bid them farewell in terms of first team action for the remainder of the season. These players were brought in to give us all the things we lacked today and on occasions such as today they have to a man went missing. The Division 3 title is wrapped up, it was never in doubt from day one even when we were struggling, so now it’s time to allow all of our youngsters the chance to play and learn and leave some of the expensive pro’s on the bench to ponder if they really have the stomach for the fight and the mentality to play for Rangers.

I have no problem losing to Dundee United today: our road to redemption is a long one, and this game regardless of the outcome will be nothing but a footnote, and in the years to come our youngsters will look back on every victory and loss including this one as nothing more than a learning experience. I have no desire to slate Ally McCoist and demand he be sacked, I have no desire to single out players for undue negative comments other than suggesting it may be time to let the youth see out the season, but Ally has to address this glaring issue. The least that could have been expected of Rangers today is to be up for it given everything going on around the match itself. The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach our full potential are the keys that will unlock the door to past glories. Show you deserve to play then show us that you can.

We may have had nine players on the park by the end but we had no men. Desire is the essence of a man and today we played and acted like boys. We need to grow up, and fast.