Why Rangers need to play safe with their next manager
“Rangers are addicted to making the wrong decision.”
Tom English was blunt in his assessment of the club following their 2-1 defeat to bottom-club Dundee on Friday evening as talk, as it so often does, switched back to Rangers’ hunt for a new manager.
Prior to the game Derek McInnes gave the clearest indication yet that he is staying at Aberdeen, following weeks of speculation. The former Rangers midfielder is believed to be the club’s number one target, while an eclectic mix of names have been linked with the job. Some reasonable, some crazy, some downright funny.
The last thing Rangers need to do is go down either of the latter two routes. They need to do their best Geoffrey Boycott impression and play the safety shot, even if it takes longer than what fans and pundits deem to be necessary.
Barry Ferguson hit out at the club for its apparent “lack of class” with the managerial search before doubling down more recently, saying “four weeks is far too long”.
Is it though?
Apart from a statement which was the definition of vague, the club have kept their council, with director of football Mark Allen said to have been putting together potential appointments. It would be damning of how the club is being run if McInnes is the only option.
The club cannot rush in to a decision. At this point in their history, it is pivotal to get the right man than just any man. They could learn from the fiasco at Hearts and have Allen, as director of football, come out and assuage fans with an interview, giving an indication of the process, the progress, the path the club are going down.
But more significantly, they need to do something they have rarely done since liquidation, make a sensible decision.
Since being demoted to the fourth tier the club have acted with a semblance of hubris, attempting to impress everyone by sprinting the 110m hurdles when they could have easily strolled underneath them.
They wasted an ideal opportunity to put in place a modern football structure which looked towards the future and provided a robust foundation. The money splurged on Kevin Kyle, Fran Sandaza, Emílson Cribari and Anestis Argyriou was a waste considering the opposition the club faced.
The football infrastructure, the team, the foundations weren’t in place to succeed when the club finally faced a challenge in the Championship. The club and fans are still feeling a hangover of this lack of preparedness in the second season of their return to the top flight.
Mark Warburton did a competent job to clean up the mess of what came before. But then his dogmatic approach caught up with him and a magic hat transformed into a dunce’s cap.
He did defeat Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final. The ultimate pyrrhic victory. Not only did they lose the final to Hibernian but the semi-final win on penalties enlivened Celtic. Out went Ronny Deila, in came Brendan Rodgers and the Glasgow rivals have since followed different paths.
The Ibrox side discovered early on and first-hand the chasm which had quickly evolved between the sides.
What followed when Warburton exited was Rangers once again trying to sprint when they needed to walk, crawl even. A mammoth gamble was taken with Pedro Caixinha.
Rather than concentrate in seeing off the rest of the league, proving themselves as the second best team in the country at least, they rolled the dice and dared to dream that this unknown Portuguese manager with a mediocre track record could catapult them forward and prevent Celtic from getting any nearer ten in a row.
Except the Pedro Caixinha appointment and era was effectively ‘Go directly to Jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect £200’.
Rangers now need someone to get them out of jail. A safe pair of hands, someone who will get the basics right, build those foundations, alongside Allen, in the football department.
The current squad isn’t anywhere near the quality Rangers hope to get to one day, whenever that will be. It is currently underperforming, the penchant for the wrong decision not unique to off-field issues.
At the same time, the team is good enough to finish second, to prevent embarrassing displays like the one on Friday. Rangers have been the better team in most games this season. Celtic swept them aside with ease while Hibs enjoyed a man advantage. They have an inability to convert chances, while conceding a high percentage of goals from the number of shots they have faced.
Rangers no longer possess that fear factor, especially at Ibrox. They are not respected by opposition and rightly so. They are not ‘the Mighty Gers’. They are soft.
If there is still a chance to poach McInnes from Pittodrie they need to do whatever they can, within reason. He has been here before with Aberdeen, taking over an underperforming side with a weak mentality and turned them around to the point where they sit second despite not having played well at all this season.
If he has definitively rebuffed Rangers then there is another man who was linked to the job last season when Warburton left but has been conspicuous by his absence this time around. Tommy Wright.
St Johnstone’s recent disappointing run and their poor standard of play appears to have affected his standing. Yet, he has done with St Johnstone what is required with Rangers, made them greater than the sum of their parts.
Since promotion Rangers have been dishevelled, spare parts spread everywhere, little chemistry, little emotion. Last season they had to rely on a veteran Kenny Miller on too many occasions. This season one player sums them up: Josh Windass. Talented but inconsistent, he is capable of producing moments of quality but is ultimately frustrating.
Derek McInnes or Tommy Wright will provide the safest pair of hands. Both have the no-nonsense personality and character to stand up for their club, something all fans look for in a manager. Crucially, they are demanding of their players, eke out consistency, put a team out which knows what it is required of them and is organised properly.
Over time they will provide incremental gains in all aspects of the club, build a steady base for the club to make those bigger steps in time. Neither would be likely to go down as one of the club’s great managers but what they are capable of putting in place is a platform for future managers, potentially bigger ‘names’ to come in and take that leap which Brendan Rodgers did with Celtic.
What comes next is another defining moment in the club’s history. Will it be a direction which brings about new chapters in the evolving banter-years tome or can Rangers escape this addiction and finally make the right decision?