Going into the January transfer window, Rangers’ form had been patchy at best. At its peak it managed to crush an admittedly poor Hibernian side 4-0, but at its worst, defeats to the likes of St Mirren and Kilmarnock saw the side drop valuable points during a time where its arch-rival Celtic had begun something of a renaissance and had not only clawed back the gap between the top two, but overtaken the Govan men in the process. There was no doubt that the state of the playing squad was starting to run on hot air, with the previous massive loss of Steven Naismith compounded by the absence of Kyle Lafferty, while top scorer Nikica Jelavic’s future remained in huge doubt.
With the upcoming January window around the corner, many Rangers fans would be forgiven for imagining a number of acquisitions would arrive to boost an ailing fleet. Right wing had remained a problem, there was a lack of quality central midfielders, and with only two fit strikers (Jelavic and David Healy), up front was a critical priority as well. Furthermore, with the Croat Jelavic looking likely to depart, that would leave just Healy as the sole forward; while this author is something of a fan of the Ulsterman, even he would not be so optimistic as to burden all our striking responsibilities with the Northern Irish international.
|David Healy scoring his first Rangers goal.|
The problems with this window started to emerge when the calibre of player the club was targeting revealed itself as trialists. Jaager, Claros, Muslimovic, Uchebo, and others came to Murray Park to advertise their talents in January, and not one of the above became a Rangers player. The only player who signed on the dotted line during this period was Swedish U21 international forward Mervan Celik. And the outlay for him was a meagre £250,000.
Further issues became transparent when Motagua president Pedro Atala criticised the bid made for his midfielder, the aforementioned Jorge Claros, as ‘absurd’. It is not the first time a club has gone on record as expressing distaste for a bid received from Rangers, but it is the first time in recent memory that said player has then been nicked by a vastly inferior Scottish side, in this case Hibernian. While Claros ended up on loan at Easter Road, the mere fact that Rangers had been effectively beaten by a much smaller team was, frankly, an embarrassing state of affairs.
There was also the controversy of the trialists who cut short their stays at Murray Park. Uchebo departed early after his agent claimed of a ‘poor first impression of the club’ while Rangers cited they had not been impressed by the player. And of course there was the extremely disappointing scenario of Muslimovic who abandoned his trial after one day, instead departing to Sunderland instead. Jaager managed the full stay and was offered a contract, reportedly demanding a wage of only £5000, but said contract did not apparently meet this
Trialist after trialist came and went, following the saga in December of Indian trialists Sunil Chhetri and Jeje Lalpekhlua who departed Murray Park citing their stay in Glasgow as ‘a waste of time’.
Furthermore, the manager made the mistake of announcing interest in Polish striker Brozek, because the predictable swoop by Celtic followed soon after, and Rangers’ plan B to cover the potential loss of Jelavic had been hijacked and the player now wears green and white.
|Something none of us wanted; Brozek at the wrong club.|
January was proving to be an incredibly frustrating period for both the fans and manager, with Ally McCoist seeing target after target either disappoint during their trial (allegedly Uchebo) or leave before truly watched. This irritation was compounded by a distinct lack of bids being made for any players. While the summer window had seen quite a few bids being placed, this time their absence was conspicuous. The reason for this appeared to be the abject lack of cash McCoist had at his disposal, something which could be remedied by the long-running saga of Jelavic, and his undisguised desire to play in the English Premier League.
The first club to make a concrete bid for the Croat star was Championship side West Ham, offering £7M. This was rejected, the implication being Rangers, or should that be Craig Whyte, wanting more. They withdrew their interest as Premier League side Everton introduced theirs. The problem was Everton, like the club they hoped to do business with, had almost no money, and were relying on the cash they had received from the sale of their Russian midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov. The fee was undisclosed but it was believed to be in the region of £5M. Which was just about all the Toffees could afford. In gambling for a bigger bid, Rangers had lost. Between the club’s desire to sell Jelavic and his dream to play in England’s top flight, a compromise had been reached and the striker signed on the dotted line around 8pm, 3 hours before the window shut. This led to a modest profit for Rangers of merely £2M maximum, and little time for McCoist to replace his star man.
|We saw it coming – Jelavic poses with an Everton shirt at Goodison.|
However, the final nail in the coffin of this abysmal window was hammered in when the manager met with the board and owner to negotiate how much of this transfer fee he could use to bring in a replacement at this late stage. The answer was crippling; ‘none’.
The pictures of McCoist leaving Ibrox on a cold, rainy, dark January’s night at around 8:30pm, looking every bit as gloomy as the weather, told a huge story. The message seemed clear – Whyte and the board were not going to support him and give him essential cash to boost a withering squad, and critically, to replace the loss of Jelavic.
McCoist looked so furious that there was even a question of him considering his position as manager, something he was quick to play down and quell.
Where does this miserable episode leave the club?
Celtic, having signed a modest number of players to boost an already healthy squad have full momentum in the title race. They have the points advantage, they have few financial problems, and there is currently a general lack of negative press about their affairs.
Rangers, on the other hand, are in the mire. A threadbare squad which currently has one fit striker, financial woes which refuse to go away, page after page of negative press, especially about their owner whose questionable past is being scrutinised daily, all the while the massive tax case looms large. Add to this the manager struggling with what he has, while barely being given any encouragement by the owner, and it is clear that Rangers are not in a good place right now.
The only hope is the manager can turn things round on the pitch and the squad grasps some long-term form, despite all the obstacles facing them.
Here’s hoping they can manage it.