It’s been quite a week at Rangers where, on and off the pitch, we have threatened to blow every bit of goodwill built up last season. The Champions League is gone and now all focus must be on recording European qualification, in the form of the Europa League group stages, as financially it will help soften the blow just a little. Domestically our unbeaten run is also gone as is our apparent dynamic form which brought league success last season.
Whilst it would be extremely easy to go on a rant and slate everything, such is the annoyance of the last week, I believe it is more important to look critically and in context. I have always tried to be honest on this blog and that won’t stop so if the following is too harsh, or indeed not harsh enough for some, then I have tried to do my best to articulate the major talking points.
First of all, on the pitch. It hasn’t been good enough and a number of factors have contributed to that. A number of issues pre-season such as Injuries, international duty and suspensions have meant we have been restricted in our preparation and that is clearly showing on the pitch.
The manager spoke directly that players are not doing what we done best last season like playing through the middle. That mirrors what I have seen and that’s my biggest issue. Loss of form and poor performance can happen, in all honesty at our level it’s probably expected. What is worrying is reverting to a style of football that is reminiscent of what has troubled us previously, such as passive play, to lots of unnecessary touches, slow build up and eventual cross into an area manned by six foot plus defenders or skelping it off the first man.
The dynamic play that saw Rangers being fast in build up and the press, playing between the lines and being more aggressive in the direct pass to the feet of the front men, seems to have been forgotten. So that’s my biggest problem because even in defeat if we were trying to do the right things it would be easier than watching the turgid philosophy that has failed previously.
I fail to believe that this is the master plan of the management team and given he has made a small reference to it, I expect Gerrard feels similar. The challenge will be to ensure that it doesn’t manifest itself back permanently.
As for player form, that will come and naturally everyone looks worse in a bad performance never mind three. But there are those that look unsure of themselves and devoid of confidence which shouldn’t be the case. There are also those who look way short on fitness and dare I say it, in attitude. To which I would say if anyone doesn’t want to be here or is angling for a bigger move, then you are welcome to leave immediately. There are also those who appear to be pondering on contracts which creates an uncertainty, even if issues are not there, the same message as above applies here also.
You are only as good as your last game, especially at this club and last season’s title was magnificent. In years to come we will enjoy every bit of looking back on it, right now I’m only interested in getting straight back on it, starting Friday.
The players and the management have to be brave and work through this. They need to be brave on the pitch and brave in selection. Gerrard has got it wrong this last week, none more so than his decision to select Balogun ahead of Helander, but that’s his job and it didn’t work. Going forward I still believe that chopping and changing Goalkeepers and centre backs brings uncertainty and another distraction when results aren’t going your way. Get your spine of the team and stick to it. The players need to take responsibility and when I talk about being brave that means moving it quicker, taking shots and trying the difficult passes instead of reverting to lazy easy play which I think has been evident.
But that’s just the rants of a frustrated fan and I’d never pretend to be a tactical genius nor would I question the management either. All I ask for is maximum heart and effort. I believe in these players and I believe we can turn it around pretty quickly, but it needs to start immediately and it needs to start Friday.
Secondly, off the pitch, the situation with access the other evening is completely unacceptable for a club our size. No way should we have had these problems and no way should there have been twenty four hours silence following.
Mistakes happen, I get that and we all make them every day at our own works, but it’s how you react and when Stewart Robertson talks about better customer experiences and improving things for the fanbase, then things like this must never happen and we must act to resolve it properly.
That’s the problem when you ask fans for things constantly, we will put our hands in our pockets for tickets, merchandise, shares, Edmiston house rebuilds, commemorative walls and all things Rangers, but don’t take that for granted.
We are supporters and we will support, but all we ask is you treat us like that and not like customers. Not that this is the intention, but when things like that happen and you don’t address things quickly, it is how it comes across.
A small point, if we really want to improve relationships and service to the support, put someone in place to deal with social media and the ticket office. The current set up isn’t of the standard for a club our size and even on my blog I am inundated with requests for ticket, hospitality, season ticket, car park access help etc. Surely a liaison position to help fans with this area could be considered?
Then comes to recruitment and accusations we haven’t spent money. This is where I won’t criticise but offer an explanation and defend our board.
We haven’t spent money this summer but this board has self funded thirty million pounds of recruitment in three years and they have covered a significant level of losses over these years also. That includes a season with no income and a world Pandemic.
I can’t criticise this board for that and our overall health is more important, if funds aren’t there then I understand but we will find that out as the window closes. We could absolutely do with a fresh face or two further, but given time I am sure all three additions will make a big impact if we give them time to settle in.
People will say that isn’t good enough and we have to strengthen, it’s a fair criticism but I am merely looking at it pragmatically in that I’d rather we didn’t take financial gambles if it isn’t available and I don’t see why Directors should keep funding huge deficits. We have to be realistic and if players do go then hopefully we could reinvest some of that funds. I have every faith in Ross Wilson and the team if that is the case.
I won’t slate the club but there is no doubt we can make improvements and provide a better experience for our support. Sometimes it feels like the sacrifices the board have made are forgotten and equally it sometimes feels like the sacrifices we supporters have made is forgotten also, if we can align and kick on together it will be a lot better for everyone and we will be stronger in the long run.
Finally fan media and the constant attacks on the clubs new media stance. This affects me greatly but my experience is one I am extremely grateful for.
As everyone knows the press will now be charged for access and this has caused some waves with the entitlement of the press been made clear in various articles. This access includes press conferences and management or player interviews.
There is various packages available apparently ranging from £10k-25k which various outlets have taken up. The press still have access to matches, they are still welcome at Ibrox and they are still extremely well looked after with match ticket, programmes and food all provided by the club.
Rangers have allowed press access for many years and suggestions this will harm relations is one which troubles me because we were hardly best friends before this. It also troubles me when self proclaimed media experts tell us the manager will never be grilled by anyone of ‘substance’ and take pops at fan media who are in that position.
First of all this narrative that the press are some sort of ‘attack dog’ which would grill the manager is an absolute nonsense, I must have been sleeping the previous three seasons when those ‘grilling’ questions were apparently being asked. The truth is they were nothing more than ‘Bad result today Steven, how do you reflect on that?’. Spare me this bullshit they hold people to account and you won’t hear the vital answers now they won’t pay, it never happened in the first place.
Secondly the accusation that fan media won’t hold the club to account are also wrong. Fan media has paid for access to this and both Follow Follow and Heart and Hand aren’t being given freebies to be there. Both have always been critical when needed but don’t attack them when they don’t storm the press conference shouting at Gerrard for not picking Helander when (even if we don’t agree or are mad) his reasons for selection are obvious (Baloguns pace allows us to play higher etc).
For years we have complained about our media treatment and rightly or wrongly the club have listened and embraced fan media. The club have been brilliant with me and continue to allow me press access on match day which means I can do an alternative match report, the difference being I swap my season ticket for a seat in the gantry. Hopefully more fan media sites will get that opportunity in the coming years and that’s a brilliant thing. I’m extremely grateful for that access and realise I am in a really privileged position.
There are lots of good people and good journalists that work in the industry but unfortunately their publications haven’t given us fair coverage. Just look at the coverage of our title celebrations in comparison to other events and when presented with facts surrounding it they have carried on another narrative. I am of the opinion that Rangers deciding to charge for our access, which makes them money behind paywalls etc, isn’t completely unreasonable.
Will they attack us more now? They would have before anyway and people like Stewart or Jackson would find a reason anywhere, they aren’t worth our time. I’ve never asked for a biased press, just a fair one and whilst all the criticism is there it’s worth considering who’s fault it really is that publications are now in this position?
Rangers have decided to try and change things, whether it works or not we will see, but they won’t get criticism from me for trying to change a landscape that is so stacked against us and has been for years. Would you let someone profit from you if all they did was attack you?
It’s been a hell of a week and we have no choice but to kick on and get it right on the pitch again. That requires a huge effort from everyone at the club and it also requires a huge effort to get it right off it. We are all angry and we are all pissed off, but come Friday we will be back and ready to go again.
That’s the thing with Rangers and our club. We all love it and no matter what, we all want the same things. That’s titles, trophies and glory.
Worth remembering this club delivered an important one last season, don’t write them off this early and just yet.
This is Rangers, no time to feel sorry for ourselves, time for everyone to get up and get going.
Ignore the nonsense, the irrelevant and the noise