Rangers go backward when they go forward

Posted by John Gow

David Cheskin/PA WireDean Shiels and Rangers were played off the pitch by visiting Annan Athletic.

What do you say to a 2-1 defeat at Ibrox against Annan Athletic? Well, plenty as it happens. But first it must be made clear the opposition thoroughly deserved their win. This was no hit-and-run from the Galabankies and that as much as anything should worry Rangers fans. They simply played the Light Blues off the park.

There was a lack of fight, athleticism, skill and tactical awareness and players who are paid thousands of pounds per week struggled to even trap and pass the ball. Once again Rangers resorted to the long game, but worse, most were not even lumped into the danger area. More than once the ball was kicked anywhere by defenders and midfielders who seemed to believe there was something wrong with looking up and finding another player with a simple pass.

Here is a typical Rangers move that is burned into the brain: Neil Alexander gets the ball in hand and instead of rolling it out to his defence, he waves them up and punts it. The opposition win the header and knock it to a Rangers defender. He looks up, and seeing no movement, gives up and he, too, hits a long hopeful ball. When it finally falls from the clouds two or three opposition players outjump the solitary Gers striker while those in the stand pull hair out in frustration -- sometimes their own.

The questions repeatedly asked by the Ibrox crowd are why the Rangers manager allows them to play like that week after week with little change? If you are a fourth-tier footballer you want to play a physical game against more skillful players. The very last thing you want is for Rangers to attack with width, pace and movement. Ally McCoist should be screaming at them to do this yet they give away all their advantages and play to the strengths of others.

I know everyone who watches football thinks they are better than the guy in the dugout, but this isn't nuanced tactics. If McCoist is instructing his players to play like this, then he will not be manager in 2015. If he isn't then, they aren't listening to him and he needs to be stronger with them or they don't play. No nice guy routine.

For his playing career and what he did for Rangers in 2012 the Gers boss is still rightly thought of as one of the greatest Ibrox men of all time and that won't change, but there is no time for anything but ruthlessness when it comes to the Rangers job and it worries me that he does not know how much the stock of 'the manager Ally McCoist' has sunk among the fans.

They see a wasted year where they could have laid the foundation of a forward-thinking footballing philosophy and instead have the worst football ever seen at Ibrox. It's valid for him to say that this team isn't the one he would choose if the transfer ban wasn't a factor or there wasn't the financial calamity in the summer, but his team should be destroying everything in SFL3. It's still in McCoist's control for his side to be fitter, sharper and play better passing football with tempo than part-timers or amateurs.

It wasn't the transfer ban that saw Rangers' top striker Andy Little move to the left wing so he could be completely wasted. It wasn't last year's financial disaster that saw his football team launch straight balls into orbit for them to come down on players like Fran Sandaza who need the ball at angles to his feet. It's no one else's fault that Annan Athletic had more desire and fought harder (and even looked fitter) after Rangers scored, to the extent the home side genuinely looked as if they were playing with nine men, such was the disjointed play and huge holes in defence.

There needs to be a proper footballing strategy for the future as this game-by-game shambles is not good enough. It looks like the last eight months have been largely wasted, but what's done is done, and there is still time to act positively and with intelligence. If they don't and enter 2016 with 30-year-old-plus new signings on bloated wages who play anything like this season, then it will be more than a missed opportunity for Rangers FC -- it will be a travesty.

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