The big surprise about the squad for Gibraltar was the exclusion on a pure ‘numbers’ basis of stalwart Daniel Candeias.
It was billed as a big surprise, the reliable Portuguese being ditched based on homegrown numbers, but let’s have a look at the exact rule:
It stipulates that Rangers (like any other side) must limit the squad to 25 players, and at least 8 of them must be Scottish-developed. No more than 17 to be from non-SPL. But this is reduced to 22 overall if the club lacks enough club-reared players.
So, Stevie said it was a numbers game – the Scottish developed players he chose were McGregor, Docherty, Jack, Hastie, Arfield, Stewart, Jones (3 years at Killie makes him eligible we believe), and Halliday. And up to half of the homegrown must apparently be Rangers’ own youth product – which is McGregor, Halliday and Stewart. Only three. And that’s why Gerrard was restricted to just 22 – because Rangers didn’t have enough Rangers’ developed players.
That’s eight players.
However, the rule is the rest are 14 non-Scottish developed players (so, 22 players total). And looking deeper only one right winger was actually selected, in Sheyi Ojo. So, Stevie calls it a numbers game, and yet selects Hastie and Jones for the left wing, and just Ojo for the right. But because Rangers lack those club-reared players, it’s less.
If we break it down further: three goalies, which is already overkill. Only need two. But let’s go three.
The rest, excluding Ojo, is 12 non-SPL players. And those were three CBs (Katic, Goldson and Ed), three FBs (Polster, Tav and Barisic), 3 midfielders (Kamara, Jack and Davis), and 3 attackers (Defoe, Morelos and Aribo).
Which, messily, all totals 22. Now the issue we have is why select Andy Firth over Daniel Candieas?
While we hardly rate Candeias as the greatest winger and he’s not a patch on Ojo, he’d still provide excellent depth on the right wing, and that was the only position Rangers didn’t have a second real option for, beyond Jones or Hastie switching side (in fairness Hastie has played plenty on the right wing). Instead, just three wingers, and an unnecessary extra goalkeeper – and we’re unaware of any rule stating you must select three keepers. St Joseph’s did also submit three keepers in their selection as well, but we’re not furnished with that as a mandatory. Indeed, we’re led to believe you must have at least two, but no mandatory third.
So, why was Candeias ditched? If you only need two goalies, we’re certainly puzzled at his omission. Perhaps Stevie decided three wingers, whatever orientation, was enough. Or perhaps he just didn’t want to select Candeias. It’s telling that all the new signings went into the squad and the omissions weren’t Gerrard’s, bar, sort of, Jamie Murphy.
Indeed, he even selected a body he couldn’t use for the first leg in Scott Arfield, and who may not even be ready for the second leg, depending on recovery.
We cannot help feeling Gerrard is slowly trying to weed out as much of Rangers’ existing squad which underperformed so drastically the past few seasons, and while Candeias is no slouch, he’s part of the era which was absolutely horrible for Rangers fans. And the only other Pedro two to survive are Jack and Morelos, and in fairness to them, they’ve delivered mostly on the pitch.
There was no real reason to exclude Candeias on a numbers game – Firth and Arfield’s selections suggested Gerrard had a little leeway. And Jake Hastie was frankly preferred as a right wing option over Candeias.
But he chose not to use his leeway. And, in truth, Rangers, we feel, were stronger on the pitch for it.