No excuses for not playing passing football

Posted by John Gow

Beating East Stirlingshire 3-1 at Ibrox on Saturday to widen the gap in the league to 23 points (although Queen's Park have two games in hand) should have left the support leaving the stadium happy, or at least mildly content.

Yet there was nothing much except grumbles from a fanbase who increasingly realise they are not getting a proper performance from all of the players on the park. If Rangers had started the first-half with the same tempo, urgency and passing football as they did in the second-half, then they wouldn't need to go into the latter period a goal down.

Worse was the reliance on high balls until later in the game. It might be great to see the physical presence of Lee McCulloch return to take his place up-front, but that doesn't mean the team needs to get lazy and rely on percentage football.

But then is it lazy? Many have complained that this style is not what the Rangers management have chosen, and the players are reverting to this for their own reasons. But it now seems possible that this style of kick-and-rush football is coming from Ally McCoist and his staff.

This was pointed out to me a few months ago by someone else, and I have to be honest and say it never occurred to me that Rangers were deliberately playing this way. Why would a team with the resources well above the rest of the league not play passing football? Especially when the league offers the chance to build a complete footballing strategy without the pressures usually found in the top division.

East Stirlingshire didn't play the long ball game. In fact their goal was a lovely example of quick passing, and they were unlucky when a similar movement on the right didn't result in another. Other clubs in SFL3 don't do it, even when they have every excuse.

Regardless whether Rangers are at the mercy of an incredibly difficult season, with a squad that was devastated from the previous year and a transfer registration ban (that was ruled to be an unfair sanction by a Court of Law yet was still forced on the club) they should not be resorting to this way of playing, except in exceptional circumstances.

But then Rangers are league leaders and will be promoted which is crucial for financial security. Ally McCoist has done more than most to save the club and still has his hands tied behind his back, so for all the criticism, it's almost impossible to truly know if you are being fair.

It's not as if the manager doesn't seem to see the poor performances which only adds to the confusion. As he pointed out after the match: "I wasn't a happy man at half-time as you might imagine. We didn't track a runner for a one-two and lost a really poor goal and also I felt we weren't creative enough or aggressive enough in our general play."

Next season will be the real decider for the fans, and I hope Super Ally realises that sneaking wins at this level is not what the fans are looking for or will accept in March 2014.

Sandy Jardine

The best part of Ibrox on Saturday was seeing Rangers legend Sandy Jardine in the directors’ box. His fight against cancer is not complete, but the fact he could make it and thank the fans for their support was worth the entrance fee alone.

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