No, it’s not the Nineties again. Mark Warburton could become the first Rangers manager to win his first nine games in a row. In 1920/21, Bill Struth won eight before a 2-1 Glasgow Cup semi-final defeat away to Celtic stopped the iconic Rangers boss’ winning run.
Struth’s men then went on a run of 14 wins in 16 games before another defeat, this time losing 2-0 at home to Celtic. The Light Blues only lost one more game that season (the Scottish Cup final) as they ran out comfortable First Division champions.
In the eight games so far this season, Warburton has had his side playing some of the best football I’ve seen from a Rangers side in a long time. Most importantly, these performances have been rewarded with good results. The constant passing, quick movement and higher defensive line has really put pressure onto opposition midfielders. The cover offered by Andy Halliday sitting in front of Wilson & Kiernan allows the two midfielders further forward more opportunities to find pockets of space to move into, or even allow Halliday to break beyond them as he done against Queen of the South to score, and support Martyn Waghorn.
James Tavernier has been a fantastic signing by the new boss. The ex-Wigan man has given the side an attacking option that wasn’t there previously and his goalscoring has been incredible. The boy hasn’t scored a bad goal yet. Defensively there hasn’t been any major test yet although there’s still a few questions about Wilson and Kiernan together. Both seem to prefer playing on the left-hand side of the defence and have conceded almost identical goals a few times now after being caught out from a long ball over the top. As they continue to play together their partnership will improve and hopefully it’s just been their inexperience together which has cost them.
Off the pitch, former owner Craig Whyte and former chief executive Charles Green, along with Duff & Phelp managing director David Whitehouse, were arrested as the investigation into the alleged fraudulent purchase of assets from oldco by Sevco Scotland. If it is proven in court that Rangers were the victims of a criminal conspiracy then there must be serious questions asked of the governance of Scottish football. The Scottish FA, and the SPFL (formerly the SPL) will need to take a hard look at their fit & proper persons test firstly. Dave King appears to have been the first prospective director of a club quizzed by the SFA before taking office – previously it was a self certification – and hopefully the governing body carry that practice forward.
There must also be some form of compensation paid to club from the SPFL & SFA to make up for the sanctions which could end up being shown to have been because of a criminal act carried out AGAINST Rangers, not by them. It’s like punishing someone for having their car stolen or their house burgled. There’s still many, many twists and turns to come in this whole, disgusting saga but criminal convictions will only be the start of possible action against the game’s rulers.
The saddest thing about all of it is that it cost people their livelihood at the club they loved. And I don’t mean players. I mean people you’ve likely never heard of. People who went to work and earned a living but it just so happened they were doing it for Rangers. There’s also the creditors who lost money when the oldco went into liquidation. All because of a group of conmen and chancers who found a good target. The last four years have been a shameful mark on the club’s history. Hopefully the next four start to make up for it.
There’s one thing that’s been notable about Mark Warburton as a manager, which is his strong relationship with a number of Premier League clubs in England. Through this he’s secured a number of players, at both Brentford and Rangers, and has brought Dominic Ball, Nathan Oduwa and Gedion Zelalem north of the border from Spurs and Arsenal respectively.
Despite the ridiculous furore over Oduwa’s attempted rainbow flick a few weeks ago, all three have settled well and have impressed when called upon so far. Zelalem has received dispensation from United States Under-23 coach Andreas Herzog to stay in Scotland so he can feature against Raith on Saturday. Having ousted Nicky Law from the starting XI, the young American will be desperate to retain his place and should be thankful his national boss, rightly, saw first team football better than an international friendly against the England Under-21s.
Oduwa has been regularly appearing from the bench, with starts in cup games, and has been a magnet for fouls. At one point even Spurs fans were sharing images of Queens of the South’s twitter timeline full of “(player) fouls Oduwa” tweets. Ball hasn’t been as regularly spotted, however in the games he has played he’s looked comfortable on the ball and seems to read the game well. He’ll be an important player following the departures of Darren McGregor and Marius Zaliukas on free transfers and Luca Gasparotto joining Morton on loan.
Finally…now that the transger window has closed, although John Eustace could still sign in the longest trial I can remember, what’s your ideal starting XI? Tweet it @jamesablack