What a week to finish a memorable season.
I’ll stop short of saying successful because that is the fine margins of our adventure. Seville was a dream that we should remember fondly even if part of us all know, even if we won’t admit to it, that it was an opportunity missed.
For any team to lose their manager and figurehead half way through a season, in which they were already suffering erratic form, then still go on to achieve what we have is a magnificent accomplishment.
But the reality is that we all know a single Scottish Cup victory isn’t what demonstrates a successful season. It was however an extremely important step for the club, our first cup success since Walters side lifted the League cup in early 2011.
The Scottish cup was a small reward for the team and management who delivered some big moments. The Europa league performance a complete success and sure we can all have our thoughts on what we would have done in that final, changes here or changes earlier for example, but you can’t deny they gave it their everything and the fine margins were exactly that, that’s how close we were.
Ibrox now alive as a European arena to be feared, with some considerable evidence behind it to support such a statement. Dortmund, Red Star but more significantly Braga and Leipzig can testify to that. Memories that will last a lifetime. But the bottom line is Rangers should never ever celebrate failure.
We lived the dream, We move on.
The league was a failure. Gio got a tune from the players but the all so familiar post Christmas failures and weaknesses in the squad came to the fore so readily again. I still think it’s possible to see enough in the management to trust that if he gets what he wants this summer then things under Gio will prosper further. I also think it’s possible to think this squad is ready to be freshened even with a strong backbone behind it.
The fact is when we needed strengthening this January what we got was nowhere near what was required. That failing isn’t on the management who had only been in the door five weeks. A succession of ‘underperforming’ windows and a squad with players running down contracts means that eyes have been focused on Ross Wilson more than normal. Of course hindsight is wonderful but we needed more.
A succession of poor decisions from the club including Sydney, rump statements and lack of fan consideration, have meant headlines off the pitch which shouldn’t happen. Poor choices have been made and without delving back into things I have discussed before, Rangers have to improve. We have been told directly from Stewart Robertson that Customer service is clubs priority yet we see countless issues from supporters unable to even get the basic needs from the club, like upgrading match day ticket.
That means questions have been asked of others that wouldn’t normally have been considered. We have to be better off the pitch and again it’s not terrible, similar to the fine margins on the pitch, but at Rangers this is what makes the difference.
When you don’t address small issues then they become big ones and people overreact.
We have work to do this summer on and off the pitch. Off it we have to learn lessons and try to become a quietly well operated football club. Efficiency needs to improve.
On the pitch the manager has to be backed. The squad has urgent positions to address and contract scenarios mean we have decisions to make.
Financially our position should be brighter. We had £4.5m sitting there from Steven Gerrard’s departure. £9.5m was instantly available from Nathan Patterson’s sale also. That’s before Europa League money which the club have already said will benefit more than Champions League qualification would have. Now it’s all very ‘cigarette packet’ accountancy and not accurate, but could the Europa League run then be worth £30m income to the club?
If you factor in costs of the run, bonuses, money spent in January and then the money to ‘settle’ the ‘Mike Ashley case’ (Which I’d guess at being same as what we got for Gerrard leaving) then let’s say that we could have profited all in around £20m this season. That’s a considerable amount. Now again to reiterate I am not a finance guy, this is fan speculation and we’ll never know until the accounts are released.
But I’d hazard a guess that the manager being able to command a transfer budget of between £10-12m might not be so far away. Again that’s only my own thoughts.
Then you factor in sales which he may be allowed to reinvest. With Alfredo Morelos, Ryan Kent and Joe Aribo going into their last contractual years then big decisions will be made surrounding them. I’m not aware of any situation surrounding any of them so it is a wait and see scenario.
This is then when it begins to get a bit tricky because this is purely my own opinion on this squad and others may disagree. I think our squad needs freshened.
With Goldson, McGregor, Davis and Balogun all out of contract then that may happen naturally anyway. I’d be open to offers for many others and that includes the three ‘big’ going out of contract next summer, if Morelos, Kent or Aribo won’t renew then they must be sold. If money came in for Kamara, Roofe or Barisic then I would consider it also.
I wouldn’t look at a new GK, Jon McLaughlin is more than good enough to be number one whilst Robby McCrorie is an able back up. It wouldn’t shock me to see Allan McGregor continue for another year either. In defence I’d look at a new left back if we now consider Calvin Bassey a CB. Bassey and Souttar may be a good partnership but injury concerns means I’d like to see another brought in. Leon King more than ready to push the first team also. Filip Helander has a year left and his injury situation makes him expendable for me also, as unpopular as that may be. Or somehow he stays fit and he’s more than capable also, but evidence suggests that’s unlikely.
In midfield I’d like to see a new dynamic brought in. Our players are all very similar, Lundstram, Jack, Kamara, Sands. We need an attacking threat who is capable of getting 10 goals a season. In fact we might even need two. That’s a tough ask because these guys are so hard to find. Could Ianis Hagi be one of them? What we don’t need is more players capable of doing the same job, we have enough of them. We need goal threats and creativity from the midfield.
The left side we have Ryan Kent and Fashion Sakala. Kent’s situation to be resolved, Fashion is a player who frustrates me as I’m not sure he’s good enough at the basics. But a goal return that’s decent for minutes tells me on rotation he is still useful, even if I’m not sold completely. On the right we have Scott Wright but a proper starting winger is required. Now I like Wright, he’s not a consistent starter though, we need a Ryan Kent right sided version to really strengthen us.
Then up front? Well we need Alfredo, fit refreshed and with proper support. Sign a new deal and he’s still our main man. However he needs support. Ideally Kemar Roofe but his injury history means, given the wage he’s on and general availability, I’d be willing to let him go (again probably unpopular) Cedric Itten can go also meaning firepower has to come in. We need a second striker who can fire in 15 goals easily and push Alfredo.
What Gio has to do is find three or four £3m players that will go straight into his starting eleven and make all the difference. Now it’s not football manager, I don’t have the answers and I’m only giving my opinion on what I think the team needs. For me, a left back, a centre back, a central midfielder and right winger are vital starters IF no one leaves before that. That’s what I think we need now.
I also don’t think the team needs rapid surgery. There is a base and sure contract scenario will decide a lot, but I trust that if Gio gets his players we will be strong. Tavernier, Bassey, Lundstram, Kent, Morelos, Aribo, Hagi are all stars to add quality, do that and we will be ready.
Whatever happens this summer I think we have saw the last hurrah from a squad that has given us so much. A league title and Scottish cup are welcomed, a European final beyond our wildest dreams. They should be remembered well as a group.
A fun few weeks ahead and the manager has confirmed most will now have five weeks off to prepare for next season which includes August champions league qualifiers.
Season 21/22 has been memorable and a journey in itself, but it’s over now and season 22/23 awaits us.
We have to be ready. Ready to do it all again.