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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Why Chasing The Champions League Dream Can End In Financial Ruin

AEK relegated (Image from Getty)When UEFA created the Champions League in 1992 from the bones of the former European Cup, the mission was simple – to build the world’s most prestigious club competition that would attract huge audiences and even larger sponsorships, all desperate to see the best teams in Europe compete against one another. They succeeded, but in doing so created a monster that twenty years on would see the richest clubs getting richer and lesser clubs going to the wall. The problem was, that the draw of Champions League football and the promise of riches beyond most clubs wildest dreams, created a false economy that clubs banked on when they planned for each new season during the summer months. With the Champions’ League group stage starting in September and guaranteed revenue totaling €8.6m per club spread out over the six games, the need to qualify for the groups heaped unnecessary pressure on the clubs in the qualifying legs. Chasing the dream season after season is now taking its toll as clubs face financial ruin caused mostly by the purchasing of Champions League style players. Leeds, Rangers and now AEK Athens have all been through troubled times, resulting in the latter two declaring bankruptcy in an effort to stay alive.

The Prize every club wants - Champions League Trophy  (Image from UEFA)

The Prize every club wants – Champions League Trophy
(Image from UEFA)

It was in 1994 that Rangers faced AEK Athens in the two legged Champions League qualifiers. Rangers were banking on beating Athens and reaching the coveted group stages so spent just over £5million bringing in Danish winger Brian Laudrup and French defender Basile Boli, who only three months earlier had won the Champions League with Marseille. Unfortunately for Rangers, the gamble didn’t pay off as AEK proceeded to the group stages following an aggregate win, becoming the first side in Greece to ever do so. But less than 20 years later, AEK Athens have followed Rangers into financial ruin, which for the Glasgow club resulted in their relegation to Scotland’s third division. Athens too are heading towards Greece’s lower divisions having being first relegated from the Super League for the first time in their history and now due to mounting debt have asked to be relegated again to the lowest division so that they too can be reborn as Rangers have been.

Rangers brought in Laudrup to help with their Champions League ambitions  (Image from Getty)

Rangers brought in Laudrup to help with their Champions League ambitions
(Image from Getty)

It is indeed dark days for one of Greece’s oldest and most prestigious clubs but has been a long time coming. Like their Scottish counterparts, who failed to learn their lessons from 1994 and brought in players like Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Lorenzo Amoruso, Paul Gascoigne and Tore Andre Flo for exuberant amounts of money, Athens too were guilty of spending beyond their means. Roger Guerreiro, Vasilios Tsiartas and Carlos Gamarra were brought in over the years as the club tried to stay ahead of the competition in Greece and competitive in Europe. Nobody could have predicted the 2007 world financial crisis or its effect on global currencies but for clubs already spending well beyond the profit margin, it came as a bullet to the head. AEK’s problems were intensified by corrupt figures at the club embezzling money but the truth is that the damage had already been done.

AEK Record signing Roger Guerreiro  (Image from AFP)

AEK Record signing Roger Guerreiro
(Image from AFP)

Since the switch over to the Champions League format, the trophy has been won 50% of the time by four of the biggest clubs in world football – Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Bayern Munich. The other ten winners are not small clubs either with the likes of Inter and AC Milan, Chelsea, Liverpool and Juventus picking up the trophy. Only on three occasions – Ajax in 1995, Borussia Dortmund in 1997 and a Jose Mourinho inspired Porto in 2004, has the trophy been won by a so called smaller club. In addition, with a change in format in 1999 that saw runners up of Europe’s largest leagues also given access to the tournament, which was then followed by third and four placed teams in latter years. The result of this change was that it became even harder for teams like AEK Athens, Rangers and Leeds to qualify for the group stages as the standard of teams they faced in qualifying dramatically improved. In the last ten years of the competition since 2004, clubs like Dinamo Zagreb, Steaua Bucharest, Rapid Vienna and Rosenberg have been limited to only a handful of group stage appearances, whilst other clubs like Ferencváros, Hajduk Split and IFK Göteborg have failed to even feature once.

2013 Winners Bayern Munich  (Image from PA)

2013 Winners Bayern Munich
(Image from PA)

For AEK Athens, qualification to the Champions’ League group stages is the last thing on their minds at this time. With the prospect of playing in Greece’s lowest division and for the very first time as an amateur club, survival and avoiding financial foreclosure is their main objective. With the return of former owner Dimitris Melissanidis, one of Forbes top 500 wealthiest people on the planet, to the helm early last month, the future looks brighter for Athens. Alongside manager and former Greek defender Traianos Dellas, Melissanidis wants to rebuild the club from the ground up, focusing on developing the youth players at the club who he sees at its future. The long term hope will be to return to Greece’s Super League as a revitalized, stable and debt free club within the next five years and eventually back to where they feel they belong, the Champions League. However this time you can be assured that AEK have learned their lesson and won’t fall into the same trap as before by chasing the impossible dream.

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