With European football to play for and the small matter of their Rangers’ careers, Rangers’ players find themselves in a very strange situation. Post-split, the majority know their places are up for grabs, and despite their lengthy contracts, Rangers, if suitable suitors can be sought, would happily rip up the majority of those deals to free the dead wood, especially in light of manager Pedro Caixinha making it clear significant surgery is required this summer.
As such, Rangers have four matches left this season, following April’s traditional split fixtures. They started the worst they ever have post-split, with a record-breaking home gubbing by Celtic crushing morale and creating a really unsettling atmosphere in and around the club. But the worrying possibility is that Rangers might not win another match this season, with a sprightly Thistle awaiting just a few minutes’ drive away from Ibrox in Firhill, before tricky matches with the likes of Hearts and Aberdeen.
Rangers’ form is concerning of late – an ultimately decent win over Thistle at Ibrox seems a long time ago with two horrid afternoons against the best the East End has to offer still fresh in the memory, and it barely gets any easier.
Rangers’ record against each of the top four (left) teams this season is as follows:
St Johnstone: DDW
So 12 matches; seven wins, three losses and two draws. The problem now is the business end of European places kicks in – with 12 points up for grabs St Johnstone will just about fancy their chances of clawing the six points back to Rangers, depending on how results go, and based on how utterly putrid Rangers have been of late, one has to worry a little about Caixinha’s mens’ chances of securing that final Europa League slot.
Hearts and Thistle are nowhere, but Thistle have not managed a point against Rangers this season and will be desperate to avenge that. Hearts have been a catastrophe under Cathro but equally he still somehow found something to destroy Rangers in the most recent fixture and one would not want to bet on a Rangers win even at Ibrox.
The further problem is Rangers will gain access to a slightly higher calibre of player (and crucially finance) by managing to clinch third and the Europa League qualifiers, and failure to achieve that would be a disaster. But worryingly a very real possibility.
There are some fans who would actually rather Rangers finish fourth to avoid being thrown in the deep end of European competition before we are truly ready, and that is a fair view. But financially speaking it is not a good eventuality and in terms of the players Rangers can attract, it is even worse.
So while Rangers, on successful qualification for UEL qualifying rounds, will probably be papped out before the ink is even dry on our Uefa Licence (much to the chagrin of conspiracy loons everywhere who often used to post on this site stating factually how we would not be granted one), it still guarantees €215,000 (which increases by round) for making it, and improves the calibre of the player we can attract.
But getting there is not going to be a given. Far from it.
NB: it is true that Rangers only need a point, but right now form is horrible and nothing is guaranteed. And that is the point of the piece. Genuine fear we could lose all our four remaining matches.