Solid summer recruitment as new look Ibrox team hammer Hibs
30 July ~ A week before the start of the SPFL Championship, as lower-league journeymen sign for a managerial novice, Rangers have sold over 30,000 season tickets. Four different managers, a boardroom coup and releasing 21 players – all in the space of seven months – has apparently reinvigorated a club once characterised by stability. And a support raised on European runs and major silverware is going nuts over a first round win in the Petrofac Training Challenge Cup.
BBC Alba screened last Saturday’s game at Easter Road. While watching I began to wonder if Gaelic and English digits differed. The final score of Hibernian 2-6 Rangers came in Mark Warburton’s first competitive game since taking the Ibrox manager’s job. It’s not just that Kenny McDowall’s first game in charge, last December, saw Rangers lose the same fixture by the same margin – it’s barely two months since they were thrashed 6-1 on aggregate by Motherwell in the Premiership play-off final.
Seven new signings, a new strip and a commentary I couldn’t understand made it a surreal watch for someone who’d missed our home pre-season friendly, a 1-0 loss to Burnley. I found myself wishing I’d paid more attention to last season’s Football League Show. Defenders James Tavernier and Rob Kiernan, along with striker Martyn Waghorn, were Wigan players in 2014-15. Goalkeeper Wes Foderingham and midfielder Andy Halliday were released by Swindon and Bradford City respectively.
The Hibs team, who played four times at Ibrox last season, were more familiar to the Rangers support last Saturday. Having retained the nucleus of the side which finished that campaign in second – and manager Alan Stubbs – they looked well equipped for 2015-16’s one automatic promotion spot. They were certainly expected to avenge May’s play-off semi-final defeat in this domestic curtain-raiser.
When presented to the media as Stuart McCall’s replacement last month, Warburton tried to walk into an Ibrox corridor, despite the entire Scottish press pack being seated through the open doorway in front of him. He then used the phrase “add value” as gratingly often as you’d expect of someone more experienced as a city trader than a football manager. Eighteen months in the Brentford hot seat has never been deemed ideal preparation for the Rangers job.
Yet the next Ibrox press conference announced the signing of our first proper centre-half since 2012 – last season’s Championship-winning captain, Danny Wilson, from Hearts. Waghorn, Halliday and Tavernier arrived soon after and all scored last Saturday. Hibs’ Scott Allan, the SPFL Championship player of the season for 2014-15, was benched after two rejected bids from Warburton on the eve of the match. The midfielder has since submitted a transfer request. Whether through Griffin Park, the trading floor or retaining former Rangers captain David Weir as his assistant, Warburton suddenly looks perfectly qualified. As does the novice board which appointed him.
Rangers supporters have stuck by the club in spectacular numbers since 2012’s financial collapse. But concrete grounds for optimism have remained scarce. So we’re painfully aware this is already the best start to any of our post-liquidation campaigns – and desperate to extend it beyond one win screened exclusively to Scotland’s Gaelic community. Alex Anderson