Friday, 18 November 2016

Where on earth is Matt Crooks?


If one thing was sure last season, beyond the lack of a reliable defence, it was the lack of a reliable defensive midfielder.

Indeed, one of Mark Warburton’s first acts as Rangers manager was to dispense of the services of the only dedicated DM Rangers had in young Andrew Murdoch, and slot Andy Halliday in that position, something many fans protested about.

While Murdoch’s rather modest subsequent career has arguably vindicated that particular decision, following the farce of the John Eustace episode, the defensive midfield conundrum was well and truly solved this summer when three brand new ones were secured, in Joey Barton, Jordan Rossiter and Matt Crooks.

Barton and Rossiter were seen as slightly versatile in being able to switch between DM and DM together, and it was expected that Crooks would be used more sparingly in that slot as a result, possibly even filling in in defence.

And with Joey Barton’s ignominious departure and Rossiter’s continual injury concerns arguably threatening his career, not to mention his season, Crooks would have truly felt his chance was there for the taking.

Yet, instead of the one solitary dedicated DM Rangers have being used in his natural position, Warburton has elected to rewind the clock 12 months and revert to Halliday out of position again.

And while the former Bradford midfielder is not having a truly awful season, his colleague on the bench must be wondering why he is sitting on the sidelines with no start in sight while Halliday remains out of position in his place.

It is another puzzling one; Halliday has far from disgraced himself, but he is an auxiliary, and better used higher up the pitch. Mark Warburton surely knows this, so why on earth is he not using the 6 ft 4 colossus Crooks there instead?

And he cannot get a look in in defence either, with Clint Hill seemingly snapping up one of the berths while old favourite Robbie Kiernan has regained favour in the other slot.

Crooks, shall we remember, was voted in English League 2’s Team of the Year (not quite Ballon D’Or but still a decent accolade) and Warburton’s desperation to sign he and his good friend Josh Windass was so much that the saga went on for months and even caused acrimony with Accrington, before the pair finally arrived in Govan on a pre-contract.

But Crooks just wastes away on the bench while ill-suited alternatives play in his position instead. And the player himself cannot be the only one wondering why.

Why, without the Hollywood signings Rossiter and Barton in the picture can Matt Crooks still not get a look in for the defensive midfield slot?

Is he poor in training? Has the lad failed to settle in Scotland? It took him two months to gain match fitness but since he became healthy he has had to contend with being a sub and having precious few appearances from there.

I will not speculate as to why he is not playing, whether there is a rational reason or whether it is a question of (poor) judgement from his manager.

But it does emphasise the quite dreadful business done last summer that so few of the new acquisitions have made an impact on the team, with December just around the corner.
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