A tale of two wingers


When Barrie McKay arrived on the scene in 2012 at Brechin’s Hedge, he showed a maturity that transcended his years and was by far the standout talent on Rangers’ maiden match of the journey.

His deft flicks, running, skill, pace and vision with the ball defied his 17 years and the lad looked to be the kind of player Rangers manager Ally McCoist would build his entire team around.

Alas, that did not happen, and the winger found himself farmed out on loan for the majority of life in the lower divisions, and it was not until Mark Warburton arrived on the scene that he finally got his true chance at Ibrox. And oh how he took it!

An integral part of the Championship-winning side of 15/16, McKay not only excelled as one of the Club’s players of the year, but his performances earned him a call up or two to the national squad as well.

It was firmly expected that McKay would blend effortlessly into the SPL once promoted and continue to dominate defences like he had for a season, especially under the free-flowing system Warburton employed.

Only, the truth is, he simply has not. McKay has failed on every level to adapt to the SPL, with his limited game being completely exposed at the country’s top tier, a game which seems, against better opposition, to be restricted to running at the left back, cutting back and passing inside or backwards. Against the lower quality in Scotland’s second tier, McKay got a huge amount of joy, but the step up in class seems, at the moment, to be too much for him, and his inability to beat a man or cross the ball has left him frustrated.

Fans were crying out for him to be dropped, with no improvement in sight, and the manager finally relented against St Johnstone.

And up step Michael O’Halloran. The ex-Saints winger has endured a frustrating time since switching McDiarmid Park for Ibrox in January for big money, with a flashy transfer deal and hype not translating to minutes on the pitch. Rarely starting more than one match in a row, not helped by last season’s cup tie, O’Halloran was on the opposite side of the spectrum to McKay – while Barrie was tearing up Championship defences, O’Halloran was more often than not on the bench.

This season’s poor form by the former, however, highlighted fans’ frustration that the January capture was still not being given a chance, and most canvassed for the speedy machine to get a nod.

With two impressive performances under his belt in a row, including a MOTM display against Killie, it is now easy to see why Rangers paid big money for O’Halloran. Why it took so long for Warburton to finally cave in and give him a run at the team is anyone’s guess, but now that he seemingly is, O’Halloran is taking his long-awaited chance with aplomb.

To say he terrorised the Killie defence and Steven Smith in particular is an understatement, and his pace is a huge tormentor of opposition rearguards. He has shown more than enough in his Saints days and the past two matches to have earned his place on merit. But he certainly had to wait long enough.

Meanwhile McKay has a lot of work to do to re-earn his place back. The youngster just has not stepped up, and while he traditionally plays left wing compared to O’Halloran on the right, the contrasting fortunes of the two players makes for much food for thought.

If McKay can develop his game to adapt more to the challenges ahead, he will surely regain his slot. But for now, O’Halloran has earned his with distinction, and will conceivably cement his place in the XI on a regular basis.


  1. I'm not being disrespectful to Barrie, but he really needs a rest in order for his passion and spirit to come back. MOH and Dodoo will inject fresh pace and direct penetration and skill in the final third.
    We are WAY too predictable otherwise. Teams read us like a book… A book written by Dr. Seuss! I reckon if we play the same/similar team we played against Kilmarnock then Ross County are toast.
    Dodoo for a start!

  2. McKay is a great player to have on the bench. He can play either wing and can sometimes be even more effective in the middle in a Windass style role. Disappointing he hasn't hit the ground running but coming on with fresh legs he could be a game changer and maybe that will give him the platform to gain some confidence at this level and develop.

    I'd also be reluctant to read too much into his poor performances because he relies more than most on a team which is playing good flowing football. Rangers haven't done that this season and once they hit that level I think he'll flourish again.

    When Rangers aren't dominating possession and playing flowing attacking football, O Halloran is a much more effective player. It's incredible that Warburton hasn't seen his potential in a counter attacking system against Celtic this season too. He didn't even attempt to create a counter attacking system, he somehow thought he could get away with fielding an attacking side even at Parkhead. I suppose counter attacking often requires a dreaded long ball!

    • Well said. MW must not be beyond criticism. We don't live in North Korea. We are Rangers supporters. We have watched the best of the best playing at Ibrox throughout our lives. Rangers players and opponents.
      We will back our manager if he is doing the business, but we will not be taken for granted and we will speak our minds when we think we are not getting the best out of the players we have.
      We MUST abandon the 4-3-3 formation immediately. You CANNOT play 4-3-3 without quick skillful centre backs. As we have a choice of 4 slow centre backs we MUST play 4-2-3-1. That formation will give them some needed protection. If the right players are selected and playing instructions are given, of course.
      With the defence shored up by TWO DM's, who are quick and can tackle, playing in front of the CB's we will be much more secure. We will also have the speedy players capable of taking advantage of the huge spaces teams like Celtic leave in behind them when the surge forward in numbers.
      It was criminal for MW to leave O'Halloran on the bench with our best player this season, up until he was inexplicably dropped, Harry Forrester.
      We must stop starting games with slow players in the starting eleven. Either in defence, midfield or up front. The CB's must be replaced ASAP. Until then we must play the only one who is good in the air, Senderos, and the best on the deck, Wilson.
      Here is our best starting eleven in 4-2-3-1 formation:-

      Tavernier, Senderos, Wilso, Wallace:
      Rossiter, Crooks:
      O'Halloran, Windass, Forrester:

  3. It is about time for McKay to get a rest the lad looks like he needs it. I do agree that we need a change of system horses for course's as they say . Some teams the 4 3 3 works but that was last season it ain't working this season . We're just to predictable teams know what were gonna do.

  4. Everyone is going on about crooks has he even played a 90 minutes, how can anyone justify him being in the first 11 he came from Accrington Stanley ffs, Rossiter is injury prone, why you think no one in England, wanted him when he was up for grabs in summer, No one wanted Senderos God WB didn't even want him this guy is a laughing stock down England a nomad, Wullie your deluded !!

  5. Our best player before he was dropped, for no obvious reason, the direct "run at them" Harry Forrester, left out again. So nothing down the left. Ross County doubled up on O'Halloran on our right. Imagine that?
    Halliday useless again. In games were he gets pressured he's useless. When he gets plenty of time on the ball he plays square, but mostly, he plays back. He even manages to do that at a snails pace.
    This allows opponents to filter forward to mark players and stop this insane obsession for ALWAYS playing out from the back. Rangers must have wasted about 20 minutes of this game trying to pass their way up to the half way line.
    Holt seems to be getting a "Halliday Disease". Normally nippy with good one two's he seems to be the one selected to hang back to try and cover for Halliday.
    In a game like this we could have started with a 4-2-3-1 shape then, when needed, switched to a 4-4-2.
    I'm now sick of Warburton's selections, formations, and his tactics. His substitutions tell me he has no real grasp of what is happening during a game.

    Crooks must play. If Rossiter is always going to be out, bring young Thompson back from Raith Rovers. Tell Raith we'll pay them if they take Andy Halliday.
    Waggy has never recovered from that injury. Time to let him move on.
    Kenny Miller must only be played off the bench and late on.
    Our only good defensive player in the air is Senderos. He must play all the time. If Crooks is played in DM he has the goods to help Senderos out.
    We need a left side AND a right side. O'Halloran and Forrester should be starting. McKay on the bench.
    We must start with 4-2-3-1, with the the correct players playing. Those picked must be able to play 4-4-2 if and when required.

    Best 4-2-3-1:-

    Tavernier, Senderos, Wilson, Wallace;
    Rossiter, Crooks:
    O'Halloran, Windass, Forrester:

    If Rossiter can't play or we really need a goal, we go 4-4-2.

    Tavernier, Senderos, Wilson, Wallace:
    O'Halloran, Windass, Crooks, Forrester:
    Dodoo, Garner:

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