Friday, 20 March 2020

Three-way method to closing the gap on Celtic

'Hummel' by (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The 2019/20 Scottish Premiership campaign almost had a Groundhog Day feel to it as Celtic once again dominated the title race.

The actual numerical gap between the Hoops and the rest of the chasing pack is immaterial, because in the end what is most important is that it only really felt like there was going to be one likely champion from late January.

That’s not to say that the season hasn’t been a success for Rangers. A solid enough domestic term was supported by a run to the knockout phase of the Europa League, and the financial benefits that has brought cannot be underestimated.

Looking ahead to 2020/21, the question now is what can the Gers do to close the gap to the other team in Glasgow?

The basic foundations for a title challenge are in place, but what smaller marginal gains that can be implemented that could see Rangers end Celtic’s nine-year monopoly of the Scottish Premiership trophy?

Retention is Key


Despite the points gap to Celtic, Steven Gerrard has put together one of the most talented young squads in years at Ibrox. Sure, the likes of Jermain Defoe and Allan McGregor aren’t getting any younger, and they may only have one more good season in their ageing legs – Steven Davis will also turn 36 during the next campaign. But their experience will be vital to what is an exciting and progressive set of players.

The likes of Alfredo Morelos (23), Niko Katic (23), Ryan Jack (27), Ryan Kent (23) and Jordan Jones (25) are all in and around their peak age for their respective positions, and if we can retain their services the future looks very bright indeed.
Gerrard too has signed a new contract that will keep him in Glasgow until 2024, and while managerial contracts are rarely worth the paper they are written on it is, at least, a statement of intent from the Liverpool legend.

Celtic will face a similar battle, with the likes of Odsonne Edouard, Callum McGregor and Kristoffer Ajer all likely to be on the radars of big clubs overseas during the summer. The 2020/21 campaign may well come down to who retains the bulk of their key players.

Money Matters


It was reported in November that Rangers posted a loss of £11 million in 2019 due largely to transfer spending. It’s easy for Rangers fans who remember the financial mismanagement in the club’s past to be mightily concerned about that, however it is worth noting that – in the grand scheme of things in modern football – £11 million is a drop in the ocean.
There is more positive news from a financial perspective too. The club has announced an extension of its sponsorship deal with 32Red, which continues the theme in football of betting and casino brands maximising their visibility in the beautiful game. Some of the very best casino online providers – which can be ranked based upon their game selection, user experience and the security of their payments platform – remain active in football.

And Rangers’ commercial team have also confirmed that, following a protracted legal battle, the club will no longer have their kits supplied by the Danish firm Hummel. That creates another potential revenue stream as they seek out an alternative.

The Gers won’t be able to compete with Celtic on a financial footing for some time, but smart partnerships off the pitch will certainly make a difference on that front.

Claiming the Bragging Rights


Given that Scottish Premiership teams can play each other as many as four times a season, it would be useful if Rangers were able to start claiming the Glasgow bragging rights more often than not. That hasn’t necessarily been the case in the past, but the 2-1 win at Parkhead in December courtesy of goals from Ryan Kent and Nikola Katic will hopefully represent something of a watershed moment in terms of belief in these Rangers players.

If Rangers can close the points gap simply by gaining a head-to-head advantage over the Hoops, while retaining key players over the summer, then maybe the 2020/21 title race will be much closer than most pundits might otherwise expect.

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