Tom English: Rangers in crisis | Squad squeezing Murray dry

THE WEEK before last, Sir David Murray visited the club's training base in Milngavie, Murray and his manager, Walter Smith, observing the troops being put through their paces from an upper deck in the complex that bears the chairman's name.

On the pitch, it was something of a Keystone Cops routine, a first-team squad of close on 28 players not exactly lending itself to streamlined sessions. It seems that Murray picked out some faces in the crowd and wondered what his money was getting him. And it wasn't a lot.

Brahim Hemdani was one of the players in question; 14,000 a week and not a ball kicked this season. There were others, of course. Plenty of them. Lee McCulloch, Andrius Velicka, Andy Webster, Steven Smith, Christian Dailly, DaMarcus Beasley; upwards of 10 unwanted footballers draining 130,000 a week or 6.76m a year in wages from an organisation in desperate need of a downsize. Insanity of the highest order. This was where his dough was disappearing, deep into the Black Hole of Auchenhowie, the area of Glasgow where Murray Park is located.

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Something had to be done and something is being done, something bizarre. Kris Boyd, scorer of 20 goals in 21 games this season, is being offered for sale for the same price Rangers paid in the summer for the out-of-favour Kyle Lafferty; captain Barry Ferguson is seemingly available for transfer for the same kind of money than was paid a few months back for the invisible Maurice Edu; Chris Burke, deemed good enough by Smith to warrant a 12,000-14,000-a-week contract not that long ago, is now given away for nothing; Velicka, brought in for a million seven months ago, and McCulloch, for more than two million, both probably available at this stage for the knockdown price of zero pounds.

Honestly, if Murray and Smith weren't the best of friends you'd worry about their future together, you really would. You'd have to think that if an executive elsewhere in Murray's empire got his recruiting and his finances in such a tangled mess the boss would fire his ass without blinking.

Murray wants/needs to bring in 3m in transfer fees – and fast. He wants/needs to cut the wage bill quite dramatically. Murray's not a fool. He knows that cuts of this nature could come at a cost, could mean that Rangers cannot, for a period of time, hope to challenge the relatively monied Celtic for the title. The biscuit tin has arrived at Ibrox. The hubris has gone. Murray seems to be saying: "Look, right now, it's more important to secure the financial future of the club than to secure a championship." And he's right. But you have to wonder how they allowed a situation to develop where their deadliest weapon, Boyd, is effectively being chased out the door because they need the money.

Smith, for all the wondrous things he's done at Ibrox over the years, has had a wretched last six months. The clutter in the squad and the absence of European football revenue is his doing. It was Smith's team that lost to Kaunas in the first qualifying round of the Champions League, one of the root causes of the current muddle. It was Smith who spent relative fortunes on players before and after Kaunas who cannot get in, or even close, to the starting line-up. Errors like that brought Rangers to the sorry situation of last week where, despite attempts on three different fronts, the only way they could ease their huge wage bill was by giving away a player (Burke) for free, a player who was their young diamond a few years back before injury robbed him of game-time and confidence. If he gets a run of luck with Cardiff, Burke could yet prove an almighty embarrassment to his old club.

That mantle is currently being held by Boyd. Oh, the irony of it. Boyd is one of Rangers' biggest assets and yet is one of their largest headaches. His story is twisted in knots, almost impossible to unravel. He is a free-scoring player who worships the ground under Ibrox as much as any man before him. He repeatedly bangs in winners against 10 out of 11 opponents in the SPL, his goals this season the one reason why Rangers are just five points behind Celtic. So he hasn't done it against the club's greatest rival. Well, it's not a terminal condition. Of the last six Old Firm games he has played in only one of them. Wouldn't you back him to get the hang of it sooner or later?

Boyd is supposedly on 11,000 a week basic at Rangers; Birmingham apparently offered him 12,000 with another 5,000 for every game he played in. He turned it down, not because he was greedy but because it will take a lot of money to make him leave his favourite club and venture south. That might be seen as an admirable quality by some but whether that's the view of the main men at Rangers is another matter.

There seems to be more to this than mere money. Sure, the cash is critical. Murray needs an injection, that's plain. There is a shortfall in funds after the failure to do anything in Europe, particularly since after they were eliminated they went out and bought Mendes and Davis and Edu for a combined 8.5m. "When we got knocked out by Kaunas," said Ally McCoist on Friday, "it was a major shock to everybody. A lot of people would have expected us to beat Kaunas and with the greatest respect, we should have beaten Kaunas. There was a realisation that we had to freshen things up and get new blood in."

It's been whispered around the club in the past that Boyd is not exactly the favourite son. The phrase "disruptive" was used and "not a team player". Indeed, a source in the club once held up the striker's stats against Celtic and in European games as withering proof of his limitations. Included in the assessment were the two Kaunas games which was a revealing insight into the mind of the assessor because Boyd didn't start either of those games. It was said that Boyd "didn't save us against Kaunas, did he?" It's not exactly a fair trial when the man is condemned even though he only appeared off the bench both nights and only for a few late minutes in the game in Kaunas.

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If there's something of an ambivalent relationship between the striker and hierarchy then it is mirrored in the stadium for the fans are unsure about him, too. Most of the time. Recently, he's been a hero to them but Boyd is never far away from getting dog's abuse from the Ibrox crowd, more than any other player at the club, it seems. Whether he goes or stays is up to him. He holds all the aces, he's playing a game of win-win. He wins if he stays because Ibrox is where he really wants to be and he wins if he goes because he'll only depart if there's some serious coin thrown at him.

In the meantime, he plays on. McCoist said that none of this chaos surrounding him would bother Boyd in the slightest. If anything, the slight might benefit him the way the spat with George Burley benefited him. Others are bothered, though. Hot and bothered. Rangers have too many players and too little money. They have made some expensive mistakes and they're paying for them; 130,000 a week, almost 7m a year and counting. Murray must long for the day that these contracts run out and he can begin again. Mercifully for him, a fair number of them are up in the summer, by which time Celtic, logic tells us, will have won a fourth straight title.

If they're looking at more Champions League loot at that point it's really impossible to say what Rangers will be facing. Will Boyd still be there? Will Ferguson? Will Bougherra? Will Edu have started a game and will Lafferty have given a hint that he's worth anything like the millions Smith paid for him? For Rangers, life is one big long series of question marks right now.