Tonight’s comfortable win over Stranraer told us everything we preached the past few weeks about Steven Gerrard’s overall squad:
The first 18 or so are great, and we’re pretty happy with them. As soon as the fringe players come along though, the standard dips, and the quality of the squad beyond the main matchday group simply isn’t up to it.
The standard drop from Barisic to Halliday, from Kent to Jones was stark – Nathan Patterson, of the starting ‘fringe’ players was the only one to hold his head up high, and he’s technically a youth graduate rather than fringe.
The Hallidays, Jones, Ojos and Barkers are just four of the filler whose complete lack of quality was wildly exposed, and while the Defoes, Davises and Jacks comfortably strolled the match, the fact that the players coming in were this poor gives us every indication of what would happy if a few untimely injuries happen.
We were delighted with young Patterson, but even he is still green, and doing it in the SPL is quite a different animal to a low-quality Stranraer.
But at least he DID it.
Jones, Halliday, Barker, Ojo – all magnificently terrible, and while we can easily write this off as just a cup match we had to get through, it reminded us worryingly of the East Fife disaster.
That match saw a binge of fringe players, and while we did win, the Dochertys, Stewarts, Polsters, Laffertys et al did not have good matches at all, and most of them saw their Rangers careers/chances end that day.
Tonight might just be the end for a number of squad men who clearly aren’t up to the task.
Plenty were – regulars like Davis, Defoe and Jack et al shone – but then some fringe men also did, Patterson and Kennedy both taking their chances with enthusiasm.
But we look at the rest, and if we have to rely on guys like Brandon Barker in April when we might have an injury or suspension or two, we are really in trouble.
Our hopes are higher than ever that Stevie can bringing in two or three quality players this window, players we can rely on when the chips are down, or can find a Bosman or two over the next month.
Because the guys who aren’t in the group 18 just aren’t good enough to deputise.