We’re halfway through season 7 at Rangers and 2018/19 is shaping up to be very, very interesting indeed…
So, season seven. When I left you last time, we were sitting at the start of August, holding a 2-0 lead over Besiktas and with big names Jordy Clasie and Nicolas Gaitan on board. Let’s see what has happened so far…
We smashed Besiktas 3-0 at home to cruise into the play-offs where we were given the worst possible draw – Diego Simeone’s Manchester United. With a new side including Kondogbia, Son, Lamela and Schneiderlin we were demolished 4-0 at Old Trafford before a 0-0 draw at Ibrox saw us bow out early in a game that we should have won with all the chances we had. So, Euro Cup again and this time we were given an OK draw – Debrecen of Hungary, Sparta Prague and fucking Real Madrid. Yeah. THE Real Madrid. In the Euro Cup. Jesus. Our first game of the group was the dreaded trip to the Bernabeu where we were undone 2-0 by a defensive mistake and being a man light (Andy Murdoch strained his knee ligaments late on) and had a couple of good chances. We smashed Sparta at home before inexplicably throwing away a two goal lead at home to Debrecen to lose 3-2 (3 shots, 3 goals). We got revenge in Hungary before a home draw with Madrid left us second level with Sparta meaning we traveled to Prague for essentially a play-off. Jose Baxter’s penalty was enough and we went through to the next round where we will meet Manchester City. We’re not having any luck with draws this season.
League wise, it was a tough start. Our new look side was struggling to gel quickly and Hearts mugged us off at Ibrox 3-1 on the opening day of the season. 3 consecutive away 2-1 wins helped get some confidence into the boys with Sebastian Faure’s last minute winner at Aberdeen really getting the mood up. Everything was going well until we traveled to Easter Road and got mugged off royally. Hibs had three shots on goal and won 3-1. A win in the Old Firm Derby got us back on track again and from there we were near unbeatable in the league. It wasn’t pretty at times but we were grinding out results in games that caused us problems last season – Hearts, Dundee United, St. Mirren – and all this despite very few stand-out players. It was all solidly brilliant right up until we lost the last game of the calendar year at Celtic Park 4-0. They had five shots on target too which is starting to become an alarmingly regular thing too. We’re still second though after our run of 11 straight wins.
We’re still in both cup competitions too. Clyde were dispatched easily in the Fourth Round of the Scottish Cup which earned us a tie at Celtic Park in the next round. In the League Cup we’re into the semi finals with relative ease where we’ve drawn Hearts. Interestingly, Celtic fell by the wayside which leaves us as the favourites meaning that I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win.
In transfer news, the one deal that I mentioned I was working on was to bring in Belarus international Alexandr Klimovich and it was successful. At 21, he is already outstanding and provides more midfield depth. On the outs was young striker John Easton who prompted Liverpool to agree to my £2.5 million asking price. Youngster Kevin Cowie also left the club permanently to join Ross County for £10,000. Cowie was a decent young player and had a little potential but he was simply not good enough for Rangers and is away to carve out a mid-table SPL career. Robbie Crawford is also gone, with League 1 side Wycombe taking him off our hands for nothing. It’s sad to see him go but we’ve upgraded and moved on and that’s the sad reality of sport sometimes. We’ve also got another new player for nothing too – Cesar Armando Hernandez, a Mexican full back playing in the MLS was out of contract and my scouts rate him very highly so I nabbed him on a pre-contract and he has just arrived. Plus, anyone remember Jamie Moore from the FM Story on this save, the regen I sold to Chelsea for £5 million? He’s on loan… at Celtic. Traitor.
Strangely, I’ve found myself in the running (according to the media) for a number of jobs at some quite high-profile clubs. Both Everton and Inter sacked their manager early in the season and I was amongst the frontrunners for both jobs but never got invited to an interview while the media said I was favourite for the vacant Toulouse job and Lille actually interviewed me and offered me the job but I turned it down (I do have a second file where I will accept). It does seem that my personal reputation is growing within football which is always a good sign that you’re doing a good job. Winning all of the Manager of the Months bar August’s is also a good sign.
The managerial merry-go-round was in full swing too during the season’s opening. Hearts sacked Paul Hartley in November as they sat bottom of the table and replaced him with Grant Murray while Hibernian lost Scott Leitch to Fulham and replaced him with St. Mirren’s Danny Lennon. The Buddies hired Steve McLaren (yeah, the ex-England boss) who had funnily enough been sacked by Fulham. Even better was the fact this wasn’t the most shocking move. Athletic Bilbao sacked Marco van Basten and decided to replace him with none other than Celtic boss Neil Lennon. Celtic got Rangers legend Stuart McCall to replace him too. This game is something else.
January 1st also saw some other awards announced. Erik Lamela of Manchester United won the World Golden Ball while Eden Hazard was named World Player of the Year. Youri Tielemans of Monaco was named World Golden Boy for his performances in France.
From a personal view, performances haven’t been outstanding but this side has ground out some pretty impressive wins and is perhaps the best side I’ve had at Rangers. The board gave me a three year extension too meaning that there is belief in me throughout the club which is nice. I have concerns defensively as we have conceded too many for my liking while up front the goals haven’t exactly flowed for our front men. In fact, Guyon Philips has had a nightmare season (3 in 23) while Ben Craig has started to impress despite his youth and inconsistency (he’s on 8 in 28). Goals haven’t been an issue but they have been spread pretty evenly across the squad. Our top scorer is Nicolas Gaitan with 12 and he’s been superb this season, a wonderful buy. Jordy Clasie has not been amazing but he’s done a job while Nicolae Pusca and Alexandr Klimovich have made reasonable starts for youngsters in a new league. There’s plenty to be excited about with some youngsters stepping up recently too – Andy Gilmour is getting more and more game time ahead of Cammy Bell, Ismael Bouzar is nearly first choice centre back and Jamie Mills is practically ahead of Lee Wallace in the pecking order now too. It’s been mostly positive and I’m looking forward to the rest of this season.
Hopefully you do too…