Does Warburton need to change tactic for the Old Firm?

 By Richard Fillingham

Following yesterday’s excellent Petrofac Cup success at Hampden, I must confess that while part of me thinks it would be terrific to watch our exciting, carefree attacking style of play ripping Celtic’s poor defence apart, if I am being 100% honest, that might be a bit naive when you remember what happened when we played that way against St Johnstone at Ibrox earlier in the season. We were the ones who were ripped apart three times after we gave the ball carelessly away in the middle of the park. It was a new experience for this XI because we played a Scottish Premiership organised team, who were a step up from the normal Championship sides we were playing every week at the time.

Michael O’Halloran ran riot that night and looked a great player to have in your team, but what has happened to him since he signed for us? I’ll tell you what has happened: teams play much more defensively against us, to deny Rangers the space over the top that Michael loves to run into.

Since the St Johnstone debacle, Rangers have drawn 0 – 0 with Kilmarnock at home and won 2 – 1 at RugbyPark and then followed this up with an outstanding performance against Dundee in a 4 – 0 drubbing at Ibrox to get Rangers through to the next round of the Scottish cup.

Taking on board the lessons of the St Johnstone game, I am convinced that our best chance of beating Celtic is to tweak the way we play to the extent that you prepare your defensive duties throughout the team, but still have the ability to attack their weaknesses in their dodgy defence. We are a very young team, but we are fit and have the ability to hurt teams, especially if we hit our best form.

I will suggest a few different ways to play more defensively, but with a way to still win the game. 

My first pick is with playing all three centre backs as a defensive unit, making us much harder to penetrate through the middle with Leigh Griffiths being a very dangerous centre forward who is scoring lots of goals this season and winning his way back into the Scotland team. I also feel that having taken Dominic Ball on loan for the season, it would be wrong not to play him as much as possible in his best position, to keep Tottenham Hotspur happy to give us other players for next season. He has played really well out of position in midfield and I feel it would really help our other two centre halves to have him there beside them as an insurance policy. It also makes us better to deal with cross balls with him at the back, which is another weakness in our side at times.

James Tavernier is proving to be too valuable a player to be stuck with defensive duties, and this leaves him more opportunities to explode forward much more often and score even more goals, because he is starting from further up the field playing in this new wide right midfield position. He can still keep his eye on anyone breaking down the right hand side and it could very well be the same for our fabulous Captain, Lee Wallace on the left hand side. They would benefit enormously with this line up as it excuses them from having to run back so quickly when we lose the ball, as we have three at the back, plus Andy Halliday to defend the ball at all times during this particular semi-final game. Discipline and concentration will be the key to our future defensive success.

I would give Jason Holt the freedom to run anywhere in this game with the intention of hurting them at every opportunity. He is one of the best players in the team and a fantastic buy at £65,000 from Hearts. He has an amazing appetite for the game and a great engine on him. He also has an eye for goal that I like from a midfield player. He gets all over the park and quickly – a terrific player and big asset to any team.

Harry Forrester should line up at wide right to inflict as much damage as he can on Celtic, whilst watching a young and highly dangerous left back, in Kieran Tierney, who is receiving rave reviews this season. With Forrester and Tavernier on the right side of the team, it should be more than enough to eradicate his effectiveness with dangerous crosses into our box.

I would start with our hugely experienced striker, Kenny Miller, who has been a revelation this year with his clever positional play and his many assists, plus not forgetting his very welcome goals column. He is fit and playing as well as he ever has. He seems to have a new lease of life in this great to watch young attacking team.

I have gone for Barry McKay to play wide left and hope that he can replicate this season’s form in this match. He truly deserves to start the game after experiencing the diabolical management of Ally McCoist, who wrote him off as a top player incapable of holding down a first pick role with Rangers (what a joke)! I think Ally is one of the best players ever to play for us and undoubtedly – the worst Rangers manager ever.

Only 5 subs can be named on the bench of a Scottish Cup game:

Cammy Bell, Gedion Zelalem, Nicky Law, Dean Shiels & Nicky Clark (Martyn Waghorn if over his injury) with Michael O’Halloran (St Johnstone) & Billy King (Hearts) cup tied.

A word of warning for my other Rangers fans: Celtic have a certain, young 19 year old, Patrick John Joseph Roberts on loan from Manchester City who I saw on TV scoring two brilliant goals from the right wing, he will also have to be carefully watched.

Rangers’ potential starting line up – in a 3 – 3 – 1 – 3 formation:

                                                  Wes Foderingham
                            Rob Kierman     Dominic Ball    Danny Wilson         
            James Tavernier             Andy Halliday (Def / Mid)           Lee Wallace
                                           Jason Holt  (Play anywhere to get on the ball)                     
           Harry Forrester                    Kenny Miller                                 McKay

Rangers’ potential starting line up – in a 4 – 2 – 1 – 3 formation:

                                                    Wes Foderingham
          James Tavernier      Rob Kierman   Danny Wilson       Lee Wallace
                                  Andy Halliday (Def / Mid)  Dominic Ball (Def / Mid)

                                                     Jason Holt (Play anywhere to get on the ball)                     
           Harry Forrester                    Kenny Miller                                 McKay

Feel free to comment what formation you prefer out of my choices: or can you come up with a better way to play and with what players to start with – plus what three substitutes would you use (unless there is an injury to any of our players, of course)?


  1. Don't think we can improve on your first line up mate,but after watching Wilson yesterday at Peterheads first corner I hope big Weir is working with the "defence" all week on defending corners and set pieces.

  2. Look.. everyone will naturally start getting nervous now we have old firm game coming up. I might get some stick for this but I think we should just go for it and play our natural game. Don't change for them. If we get battered then we get battered trying to do things the right way. I don't believe our personnel is at the right level just now to expect a win. Not saying we won't win. We might. Just stay true to what we believe. The second you start doing stuff your not used to. To suit your opponents then you handicap yourself's before kicking a ball. If nothing else it will show the manager what he needs for next term. Don't change it guys. Stay true and as big marv said WE BELIEVE!!


    • We should be makin them worry about us instead of the other way about I would rather get beat by havin a go at them than gettin beat and no havin a go at them.

    • Was Paul Le Guen as clueless on tactics as Ally! I did consider him, but I still think it's Ally for not being able to win the Championship with some part-time teams!

  3. Fair article – I think the pitch has to be considered greatly – playing on it yesterday will be an advantage and the state it is in will be a bit of a leveller in terms of quality of the two sides. It would be still very much in hope rather than expectation though.

  4. Danny Wilson doesn't deserve to be in the team. He should lose his place to Ball. To me Wilson has been the worst or a bad partnership with Keirnan. He is too lazy, plays half hearted as his attitude at Peterheads corners showed.

  5. it don't matter what team warburton puts on against the smellys rangers will win easily it will be a shock if rangers don't win by 3 goals.

  6. Stick with the same starting 11 Wilson get your finger out we need to play much better and want it more it's not barca we r playing they struggled against Dundee we hammered them without ohalorin n King bad spelling but this is it lets beat this mob and roll on next season WATP

  7. The abuse dished out to super ally is a disgrace I know who the monkeys are not true blues just glory hunters

    • Just stating facts – top player but joke as a manager – that's not being disrespectful its saying it as it is – what is the problem with that?

    • As much of a disgrace as his theiving a wage after his resignation?

      Can you not understand that?

      Or his abysmal managerial legacy?

      Many of us support the club, not ex players.

  8. I think Warbs will stick to 4 3 3 fuck them its what we have done all season if we click on the day we will put them to the sword,this is a good test of Warburton's ability to get them really fired up

  9. We tried 3 at the back against hibs earlier in the season, it didn't work for us and they overran us in midfield. Holt (particularly with the free role you are suggesting) and halliday on their own will not cope against their 3 simply due to numbers. It will also reduce the chance of us controlling the ball in the same manner we have all season. Personally I think we should stick to what we are good at, dictate play and make the other team adapt to our style, not the other way around. Midfield is the key, 2 against 3 simply won't cut it imo.

  10. Wouldn't mind seeing them line up 3-3-1-3 but can't see WW changing formation for them. Think they'll stick to tried and tested 4-3-3. We're the underdogs so more pressure on them to perform. They'll not sit in like what we've been up against all season, should suit our style, leaving space to get in behind their back line. C'mon the Gers!!!

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