Friday, April 27, 2018

Rangers Management Woes 2018

Rangers this year have done much like Jeremy Corbyn did in the 2017 election - they've done much better than should probably have been expected, but they've come second in a winner-takes-all competition, and they weren't ever really close to winning. I think they'll come second (just), but it's largely irrelevant - if Celtic win the Scottish Cup, as they probably will, then the teams that come second, third, and fourth in the league will all qualify for the Europa League.

Meanwhile, Rangers are an utter mess on and off the pitch, and are once again in the market for a new manager.

At which point I have to say: I am simply stunned that there is serious discussion about the possibility of Steven Gerrard as the next Rangers manager.

Just over a year ago, I wrote about the then-chaos after Mark Warburton left, at which point I said Rangers had two ways forward: if they had significant new investment lined up then they should get a top-quality manager and back him with significant funds to rebuild the team; if they didn't have such funds available then they should look for a cheap(ish) option to serve as a safe pair of hands.

Instead, the board took a massive risk on a largely unknown manager, Pedro Caixinha, and backed him with, frankly, more funding than the club could really afford. They didn't have the significant new investment that they needed, but they brought in many new players nonetheless...

And the result was disaster - Caixinha lasted less than a year, and left Rangers with a yet-more-bloated playing staff, a crippling wage bill, and almost no progress. For the second time, Murty was put in interim charge of the team, and then given the post until the end of the season. I think the board hoped he would be a revelation and they could appoint him long-term, but it was not to be.

Now, here's the thing: Steven Gerrard is not unknown, but he is known as a player, not as a manager. In management terms, he's even less well known than Caixinha was, and indeed has exactly as much experience in management as Murty - he's currently a youth coach looking for his first 'real' management position.

So Gerrard would represent a big risk at a time when Rangers can ill afford one. He also won't be a cheap option - given that he would also be taking a risk taking on Rangers as his first management job, he will demand significant investment in the team (as he should - it needs it), and given the significance of his name he'll also demand significant personal renumeration.

Now, it's worth noting that an inexperienced manager can work out - Souness did it, and Neil Lennon over at Celtic (and now Hibs) has done extremely well. But that's very much the exception, not the rule. And, frankly, neither Souness nor Lennon had a manager of the calibre of Brendan Rodgers to deal with. (That's assuming Rodgers doesn't leave for the Arsenal job, of course... but even if he does, Celtic may well replace him with another big name in a bid to do better in Europe.)

And after a sequence of risky appointments, going back to McCoist, and given their current state, the Rangers board really should know better.

Which brings me back to the same conclusion I reached a year ago. The Rangers board should take one of two courses, entirely dependent on whether they have significant new investment available.

If they do indeed have such investment available, they should look to recruit a big name manager (of at least the same calibre as Rodgers), and back him with something in the order of 20 million pounds for new players. In which case Gerrard just doesn't fit - he doesn't have the experience. (Of course, there is the possibility that the new investors want to pick their manager, and choose him. That's about the only scenario I can see where this appointment makes sense.)

If Rangers does not have significant investment available, they should probably keep Murty in the role - he has the same experience as Gerrard (or slightly more), he knows the club, and he's a cheaper option. They should restrict their recruitment to free transfers and loan players, and continue to do just enough to qualify for the Europa League, and run down the clock on the existing contracts until they can clear the wage bill. And then they can look to advance. (Or, if they're determined to replace the manager, look for someone who has a proven track record of getting the best out of an existing group of players, without worrying about the big name.)

I really can't see a scenario where appointing Gerrard makes sense without the major new investment - he'll need to bring in a lot of new players, who probably won't be good enough (since they'll be recruited without the money needed to do the job), they'll demand good money and secure terms of employment, and the likely result therefore is that this time next year Rangers will be looking for another new manager, with an even bigger playing staff packed with not-good-enough talent, an even more crippling wage bill... and one less year in which to stop ten-in-a-row.

On the other hand... maybe this is all about selling season tickets right now in order to keep the lights on for a few more months. So they need a manager with a big name, but are desperately pushing the consequences into the future because the crisis has become existential...

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