In Spring to early Summer we at Ibrox Noise preached the absolutely critical nature of and glorious boost of Ryan Jack’s return for the CL qualifiers.
When the DM went for surgery, it was given a July return, touch and go for the CL qualifers but likely to make it.
We espoused how he and he alone could be the difference between making it to the group stage and not doing, and how the former Aberdeen man’s incredible running and defensive work kept the defence safe and bailed out a number of our backline, particularly James Tavernier.
Of course, Ryan Jack did not make it, and is out for the foreseeable again after his return was delayed once more.
And, as we know, Rangers’ defending v Malmo was absolutely hideous and we indeed did not make it to the group stage.
Was Jack’s absence the difference?
It did not help, put it that way.
Alfredo Morelos, so often the difference in the UEL, was unable to influence the outcome on Tuesday despite his best efforts, and ergo Rangers are not a one man team around him.
But Jack? He’d been the difference between conceding goals and not conceding goals, and at CL level the importance of that is magnified many, many times.
Did his not being there cost Rangers at least a place in the playoffs?
It’s ifs and buts, and there’s no scientific way to provide a definitive answer, but the influence he has at the back of midfield and over defence is absolutely without doubt. And at least three of the four goals conceded to the Swedes were as a result of defensive calamities, with only one just being good football.
It goes without saying Rangers desperately miss Jack, and more worryingly, cannot rely on his return any time soon. Furthermore, we cannot rely on his being fit for any length of time either.
He himself is broken hearted with how things are, and he’s beyond desperate to get back in the shirt, but sadly that wish isn’t being granted at the moment.
We can’t say his absence cost us the CL, but we can’t say it made no difference either.
Unfortunately, we’re veering towards the former. That’s how critical Ryan Jack is to Rangers FC.