The recent bust-up between Dundee United and Rangers over Charlie Telfer is merely a sign of the times at the Ibrox side as another product of Murray Park leaves the club.
This is not just symptomatic of Ally McCoist’s reign as manager, but also that of his mentor Walter Smith. During Smith’s two stints as Rangers manager, he was focused towards bringing in experienced aka ready-made off the shelf players to win silverware for the Ibrox side and for Sir David Murray. Even in his second stint when the finances were becoming tighter and the club were hurtling towards financial suicide, rather than bringing through the youth players Smith continued to splash the cash on signing experienced players with around £11 million spent in 2007/08 alone.
Rangers’ life in the Third Division [now League Two]began with Ally McCoist bringing in six players before the club’s transfer ban took effect. With the one year ban imposed, Rangers were forced into using their youth players, however their performances or at least most of them did not meet up to the high expectations of the supporters and the criticism and booing followed.
This vocal criticism saw McCoist turn away from the club’s youth players to bring in experienced players on significantly more wages. Helping to pile more demand on an already bulging sack of invoices all in the quest to gain promotion to the top flight as quickly as possible and to cull the discontent from the stands.
Rangers strolled to the League One title as expected and with just the Championship left to take on before top flight action is before them, McCoist is once again looking away from Murray Park to bolster his current squad while looking to ditch some of his expensive flops he brought in over the past couple of years.
Ibrox saw the likes of Jon Daly, Dean Shiels, Fran Sandaza and Nicky Clark arrive at the club, while the likes of Kane Hemmings was shown the door. Hemmings scored 24 goals in 39 appearances for Cowdenbeath in the Championship, goals that could have helped Rangers at far less a cost than those named previously.
Jon Daly may have found the net in League One 21 times in 38 appearances, but all his goals came against part-time teams, how will he fair against full-time opposition?
How about Nicky Clark? Division Two’s top scorer last season for Queen of the South, now merely a sub at the Ibrox side played 28 games with eight goals to his tally.
Andy Little, Ross Perry and Chris Hegarty saw their contracts end and were subsequently shown the door as more Murray Park players graduates departed Ibrox.
So what incentives do youngsters such as Telfer have to stay at Rangers? The promise of maybe making one or two first team appearances before being shipped out on loan ‘to gain first team experience’ which leads ultimately to them being leaving the club either on the cheap or their contract ending. This is not just a Rangers issue, as many kids at other top flight clubs have been shown the door after being wooed by the glitz and glamour of signing for a Premiership team, only to be thrown into the gutter per say when they cannot oust experienced foreigner players brought in on significantly more money.
The question Rangers and their fans have to ask themselves, what is the point of having Murray Park? It is an expensive thorn in the side of the club and was the dream of Dutchman Dick Advocaat – a bribe to keep him at the club – but was never a dream of Murray’s who wanted to splash the cash to bring the great and the good to the club buying Domestic and European success. Which in part handed the club nicely to Craig Whyte for the princely sum of £1 as the HMRC vultures circled.
So while Ally McCoist’s (and for that matter Rangers’) cheerleaders in the press try to bring in other clubs into the equation or turn it onto the players for leaving rather than laying the blame firmly at the feet of McCoist and his fascination with SPL hand-me-downs and foreign mercs at high cost to beat part-time players.
We have already seen Kenny Miller return to Ibrox for a third time after a spell in the MLS. He will score goals in the Championships there is no bones about that. There is also the thought that Kris Boyd will return to Ibrox also, to provide goals that he has been scoring for Kilmarnock. That is two strikers set to be added to an already sizeable band of over paid strikers at the club. Of course some of the fat will be trimmed off, but we have already seen the first casualties are those players not on sizeable wages.
With money issues a significant worry at the club, why does McCoist always look outwards rather than in-house? If the millions of Murray Park cannot produce decent enough kids for League One and Two, what is the point of spending millions on youth development and Murray Park? Why not offload Murray Park to help clear some of the losses and just train at the likes of Toryglen or the all-weather pitches across the road from Ibrox?
Charlie Telfer will almost certainly face a barrage of abuse if he ever plays for Dundee United against Rangers, but the real issues are a manager knowingly bringing in seasoned professionals on SPL wages to beat part timers so he can make up for his average management ability.
Rangers fans are already seeing the one-dimensional tactical ability that McCoist offers them, this coming season McCoist will face his toughest test on the pitch to date as he does battle in Scotland’s most competitive league – made even more competitive with Hearts and Hibernian’s relegation last season.
Will McCoist’s band of brothers handle the rough and tumble of the Championship? Will they be able to handle the growing criticism from the stands if performances are not up to scratch against teams – on paper – they should beat hands down? Will McCoist’s tactical and managerial ability be able to stand up against full-time teams over the course of a full season rather than one-off games?
This season is Rangers’ most important to date and while the fans can bump their gums about a comment reportedly made by United chairman Stephen Thompson – while they plan their ‘revenge’ – they should be worrying about the state of their club on and off the park. Resorting to ageing strikers for success, spending millions on what is nothing more than a glorified training facility and a manager whose Plan A,B and C is to lump it forward.
The Ibrox side is in disarray off the park, as fans fight among themselves along with fans turning on the board at the behest of a man who plays more games of hide and seek than a five-year old kid.
On it, for the past two seasons, it has been to get the club into the top flight at all costs – that cost being to the detriment of the club’s youth policy and bank balance. Rangers cheerleader Derek Johnstone in the Evening Times claimed that Rangers’ priority was to get into the top flight, sorry DJ I disagree. Rangers’ priority is their long-term health both on and off the park – there is no point splashing the cash in the pursuit of promotion if you lurch back into the financial abyss.
Charlie Telfer is not the first kid to turn his back on Rangers for a greater chance of first team action at another club, and he certainly won’t be the last. But the millions that the Ibrox club throws as the likes of Telfer and his fellow Murray Park students is pointless if McCoist continues to follow in the footsteps of his mentor.
How will DJ and the other McCoist cheerleaders spin it if Rangers do not succeed in promotion to the Premiership at the first time of asking?