05 December 2013

Jon Daly: Dublin Lad, Rangers Man

by David Fyfe | Guest Contributor

There were many who questioned the arrival of Jon Daly at Ibrox during the summer transfer window, none more so than the Scottish media who seemed keen to raise the old issue in what they regarded as the “elephant in the room” which was an Irishman playing for Rangers.

As we all know this has been a total non-issue particularly due to the fact that he is not the first player from the Irish Republic to have represented Rangers and even if, for a moment, we were to pretend it was, the striker's performances so far this season would have gone a long way to blowing any critics out of the water.

The big Dubliner had a fairly slow start to his Rangers career on the goals front, not netting in a competitive match until the 6-0 away win against Airdrieonians on the 23rd August, his previous goal coming in pre-season against Dutch side FC Emmen in a 1-0 win. 

Since then at the time of writing Daly has gone on a magnificent run of form on the goals trail scoring 17 in total, including a hat-trick at Methill against East Fife and a superb four-goal haul against Stenhousemuir in an 8-0 win at Ibrox.

If anything the criticism which came Daly’s way initially had little to do with religion or nationality but more from a footballing point of view amongst sections of the Rangers support. Many saw Rangers as signing a target man which would culminate in us playing a brand of football which would accommodate the high ball, something which we tired of seeing last season and at times was increasingly found out by sides in the Third Division when we succumbed to defeats at home to the likes of Annan Athletic and Peterhead. The other argument was that the signing of Daly, aged 30, made little business sense in terms of developing potential and generating sell on value for the club.

Both of these arguments have a great degree of credibility, particularly the latter. I generally believe that the way forward for our football club is to generate young talent either through Auchenhowie or through an organised scouting network when we can pick up players and sell them on at a profit. At the moment with the current boardroom issues this seems a long way off. 

Long term we should be looking more to signings such as Nicky Clark who we can hope to develop and bring success to the Club, but with that you need an element of experience alongside them. Daly has provided this in abundance so far this season. 

Behind Lee McCulloch, Daly can almost be seen as the second leader on the field: See him constantly talking and encouraging the less experienced players round about him. In case you’ve never noticed, watch him the next time when off the ball–his leadership is almost second to none. 

The big man can even fly.
Courtesy rangers.co.uk
All of these things matter and are vital to the organisation of the side. With the injury to Andy Little we are most certainly likely to see Clark being given a run in the side and with Daly beside him hopefully some of his talking rubs off and begins to get in about the goals again like he did so often last season in this division with Queen of the South, or as we saw in his spectacular performance at home to Forfar.

Ultimately, Daly, for where we are at this moment in time, is a good option and on a free transfer is good business if you also take into account his versatility. There has been talk of the return of Kenny Miller but his two spells at Rangers have came and gone and there is little requirement for his return. The manager has gone on record as saying Miller would help the younger players but he has already said that we have that in the big Irishman. 

Ok, perhaps up until this season he may not have been all that a prolific goalscorer that Miller was, particularly in his second spell, but Miller's signature at this time would surely prevent the breakthrough of the younger players which is something we cannot allow to happen. Experience is fine in small doses as long it lies in the key areas of the pitch which we now seem to have.

Looking back at one of the arguments against however, there is the concern that we do tend to have an over reliance in using the long ball which can be hard to watch for the supporters. Daly is one of the best headers of the ball in Scottish football and was a constant thorn in our side particularly when we came up against Dundee United in the SPL. I am also a keen advocator of playing to your strengths, in this case his aerial ability, but truth be told I consider Daly to be a lot better with the ball at his feet than he is generally given credit for. His movement and dropping deep to bring others into the play has been excellent this season. It could be argued that it has maybe tailed off a bit recently but this is maybe because he has become that little bit more selfish that strikers need to be to grab the goals the team requires and his goalscoring stats have undoubtedly proven that. 

We must be wary of this however, when things go against us it is in our nature to continuously play the long ball instead of trying to play through opposition and we ultimately become one dimensional to the benefit of our opponents and to the detriment of the fans. We must get into the habit that although Daly stands 6' 3" he also has two decent feet and a good footballing brain. 

Nevertheless, it could also be argued that this season, more than any in recent memory, we have become a bigger threat at set pieces which can only be a good thing. It is good to know that for once we are able to mix it up and are ultimately capable of doing this when the circumstances in certain matches call for it. This will hopefully become all the more apparent as we attempt to embark on a decent Scottish Cup run when we are inevitably drawn against a better standard of opponent.

What is sure is that whenever Rangers score the first player on the Ibrox faithfuls' mind is Jon Daly as his consistency in finding the score sheet this year continues to impress. Let’s hope that big Jon can continue on his tremendous scoring form to help us wrap up the SPFL1 title sooner rather than later and allows us to prepare for Stage 3 of the recovery process which will be in the SPFL Championship next season.