At the end of the season, whatever happens between now and mid-May, Rangers fans and players can look back on the campaign after enjoying a GOOD 2014-15 season.
This is not a statement intended to cause opprobrium among the Bears support, rather it is an honest appraisal of the club’s season in a league I felt they would struggle to find their feet in after two seasons amongst the likes of Peterhead and Montrose.
Those two seasons didn’t provide much of a test for Rangers, and the unbeaten run in last season’s campaign proved nothing, only providing a sense that they could simply walk into the Championship and run away with it. Hibs? They couldn’t beat Hamilton in a play-off. Hearts? Lost too many good players.
No club has risen through the ranks so quickly as Rangers, taking just two seasons to get from the fourth to the second tier. Inverness Caledonian Thistle spent five seasons in the SPL feeder league before being able to battle it out with big boys; Ross County took 18 years from their entry into the professional structure to get into the elite league. Taking the logical club comparison, neither Airdrie nor Livingston have managed to get near where they once were after suffering financial collapse.
However, Rangers have recorded some remarkable wins in the Cups this season, beating Hibs in the Challenge Cup, Caley Thistle 1-0 and Scottish Cup champions St.Johnstone by the same score in the League Cup on their way to the semi-finals, and swatting aside a third Premier League side Kilmarnock 3-0 in the Cup. These are remarkable wins for a team in the lower leagues, regardless of the end result in the competitions.
Inevitably, any review of the season will centre around their league form. The reality is that, despite all the boardroom turmoil, Rangers have found this league much stronger and tougher than they expected. Talk of entering the Premier League next season, following (presumably) automatic promotion, and the SPL title after just one season up there, was the talk of a heavyweight bum suddenly thrown a world title bout, and trying to sound like a credible contender. It fooled no-one except themselves, and herein lies Rangers’ problems.
They talk a good fight, as perhaps they should do with the best paid players in the league and the biggest fanbase outwith the east end. Their on-field problems are generally related to the above: ‘we’re too good for this mob’.
If they had settled on gradual progress, finding their feet in the Championship and working to carve out a team built on youth, they wouldn’t have such impossible-to-meet expectations. It’s still a sensible working model. Dave King isn’t taking note, he wants Rangers to compete with Celtic as soon as they can.
Steady boy, steady. Take a deep breath before you say this stuff again.
Buying Kenny Miller and Kris Boyd was folly, neither are as good as they were in past Rangers teams, and it is clear that Miller is past his best. Lee McCulloch relies on brute force rather than pace, Ian Black is vastly overrated, and none of the current side would walk into the Rangers sides of old. And what is a Bilel Mohsni actually good for?
Promotion this season could be a curse: the team needs to be cleared out. If this side was used in the top flight, they’d go straight back down again.
A cup semi-final, three wins over Premiership opposition, and with the play-offs to come, that to me sounds like a pretty decent return for their first season in the Championship.
Written by Pat Seskia