Rangers Rebuild Begins with New Managerial Appointment

Rangers have appointed Mark Warburton as their new manager (Image from Getty)After the dust had settled on a disappointing season that saw Rangers failing to get out of the Championship at the first attempt, focus has swiftly turned towards next season and with it comes the news of a new managerial team hand picked to bring glory back to the troubled Ibrox outfit. Former Brentford boss Mark Warburton and his trusty assistant David Weir will be trooped out in front of the waiting media today as Rangers new board takes its first steps towards rebuilding the club. Warburton arrives to a mixed reaction from the Rangers faithful who were still largely enamored by stand in boss and former player Stuart McCall.

Despite his best efforts, Stuart McCall failure in getting Rangers promotion cost him the job  (Image from Getty)

Despite his best efforts, Stuart McCall failure in getting Rangers promotion cost him the job
(Image from Getty)

However after being parachuted in by the board to steady the ship and seal promotion, McCall only managed to get this sinking ship over the line, falling at the last hurdle to Motherwell in a rather pointless relegation/promotion showdown double episode. That defeat convinced many at Ibrox that major surgery was needed on both the playing staff and the coaching setup with perhaps for the first time in the clubs history a need to distance itself from its past tendencies to appoint former legends like McCall to save the day. He will have known at the time that defeat in the playoffs against his former side Motherwell would seal his fate however in typical McCall style he came out fighting and made a valid pitch for the job full time. That pitch was convincing and will have likely sparked debate at the boardroom level. But the sentiment towards McCall as a player for the club may have been his downfall with a fresh approach much needed. In Warburton, Rangers can get that freshness whilst maintaining a link to the clubs past through his assistant, David Weir. Like McCall, Weir is an Ibrox legend, a captain fantastic who surprised many in Scottish and world football by playing well into his forties with the same tenacity and spirit that he possessed as a kid some twenty years before. At Rangers Weir was the most respected man on and off the pitch at the club for a long time and many tout him as a future manager but for now they will settle for him as the assistant to Warburton. The new manager will need Weir’s insider knowledge of both Rangers and Scottish football if he is to settle in quickly and have the best chance of success.

David Weir will be an important part of the new backroom team  (image from Steve Parkin)

David Weir will be an important part of the new backroom team
(image from Steve Parkin)

However the challenge that awaits Warburton and Weir is nothing less than daunting. They inherit a skeleton  playing staff that lacks both in numbers and quality. Many of the faces from last years disaster campaign have gone – Boyd, Moshni, Foster, Daly and McCulloch with a few others eyeing the exit door with enthusiasm. There will be cash available to invest in players but it won’t be the amount that Rangers fans are used to seeing. The days of frivolous spending that saw Rangers wasted vast sums of money on the likes of Tore Andre Flo and Michael Ball are long gone. The focus will be on building for the future, investing in players who can not only compete in the Championship but also in the Scottish Premiership in the foreseeable future. Youth players will play a pivotal role in the clubs forward success especially given Warburton’s background in nurturing talent. Unfortunately for him that talent will not be coming out of the clubs youth system at Murray Park for a while as that well has all but dried up by now. The last prodigal son to come through that system was Lewis McLeod who ironically was sold to Brentford just as he began to stamp his authority on the Ibrox turf. Others have emerged since then like Tom Walsh and Ryan Hardie but have yet to really establish themselves as indispensable components of the Rangers machine. Warburton will have to look beyond Murray Park in search of young talent and again unfortunately will hit a snag. With no scouting network in operation at Rangers, the work will fall on Warburton, Weir and his coaching staff initially until a chief scout can be identified and brought in to help.

The days of overspending on players like Flo are over for Rangers  (Image from AP)

The days of overspending on players like Flo are over for Rangers
(Image from AP)

Building a squad capable of challenging is one thing but building one that can do so in under four weeks is another. Rangers pre-season training kicks off in earnest in early July with their first Championship match due on August 8th. Warburton will start the rebuild immediately but it will be time that will be his biggest opponent as he battles to get Rangers ready for the new season. The pressure on Warburton and Weir will be immense but the duo who led Brentford to the English Championship play offs only 18 months after taking charge should be able to handle it. Only time will tell whether Warburton can steer Rangers back to the Scottish Premiership and back challenging for the top Scottish honours once more.

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Goal Rout Sends Hearts Racing

Hearts on course for the title after 10-0 demolition of Cowdenbeath (Image from Getty)Hearts romp to the Scottish Championship title stepped up a gear this past weekend with a 10-0 thumping of Cowdenbeath. It really was a game of men vs. boys as Robbie Neilson’s side ripped apart their opposition with ease and grace. Goals from Sam Nicholson, Jamie Walker and a three minute hat trick from Genro Zeefuik sent Hearts into half time with a five goal lead. Shell shocked Cowdenbeath manager  Jimmy Nicholl tried to rally his troops in a attempted damage limitation exercise but his words of wisdom fell on deaf ears with the Blue Brazil shipping a further five goals after the restart. Strikes from Morgaro Gomis, Alim Ozturk and Danny Wilson plus a brace from Osman Sow completed the rout and handed Cowdenbeath their heaviest loss in its 134 year history. The dismissal of defender Lewis Toshney early on in the match hardly helped the situation for Cowdenbeath but in truth Hearts were simply unstoppable on the day.

Long before the season began; bookies and pundits alike had Glasgow side Rangers as firm favourites to win the league with Edinburgh rivals Hearts and Hibernian slugging it out for second spot. But due in part to off field chaos at Ibrox, Rangers have stuttered along and now look increasingly less likely to make the final step back to the Scottish Premiership. Hibs meanwhile under former Everton and Celtic centre half Alan Stubbs are a team in transition and it now looks apparent that they will battle Rangers for second spot with the Edinburgh club currently holding the advantage. Rangers and Hibs loss is Hearts gain who simply have been unstoppable this season. Having bounced back marvelously from their own financial woes under the new ownership of Ann Budge, Neilson and Director of football Craig Levein have used the distractions coming out of Glasgow at Rangers to their advantage by steadily building a squad of strength and talent to compete not only in the Championship this season but with a view to the same team competing next season back in the Premiership. After all a return to the top flight is not the only thing on Levein and Budge’s mind – they wish to remain there for the foresable future.

Levein, Budge and Neilson have turned Hearts fortunes around  (Image from DailyRecord)

Levein, Budge and Neilson have turned Hearts fortunes around
(Image from DailyRecord)

With the squad as it is, Hearts should be able to compete effectively back in the Premiership, granted they get there first. Despite relatively low transfer funds, Neilson has constructed a strong squad by combining existing talent with new inexpensive imports. Working alongside Levein, a true definition of what a Director of Football should be, Neilson brought in ten players in the summer all on free transfers. In came goalkeepers Neil Alexander and Scott Gallacher, defenders Adam Eckersley and Alim Ozturk, midfielders Morgaro Gomis, Miguel Pallardo and Prince Buaben and strikers Osman Sow, James Keatings and Soufian El Hassnaoui to add strength and depth to the current squad. But it was the addition of former PSV and Groningen striker Genero Zeefuik in January 2015 on loan that has added the cutting edge to Hearts recent form. The tall Dutch striker has been in sensational form netting eight times in seven games so far and is loving life in the Scottish capital.

With ten games left to play, including an Edinburgh derby game against Hibs and two matches against Rangers, the title is far from won but Hearts will know that they only need 16 points to make it so. With Hibs 20 points behind and Rangers a further four points adrift (albeit with three games in hand) it would be foolish for anyone to believe that Hearts won’t win the title by a easy canter. If they can continue the momentum they have built in recent weeks, the title could be heading to Tynecastle  Stadium sooner rather than later.

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