Having failed in an approach for Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes, the Ibrox job has been handed to Graeme Murty until the end of the season but it is only a short-term solution
4 January ~ By drawing at Celtic then jetting out to Florida for friendlies against top Brazilian clubs, Rangers headed into the Premiership’s winter shutdown looking like a major, stable club. Third in the table and with a caretaker manager until the end of the season – the most inexperienced manager of any club in the top six – they’re actually a big, wobbling mess.
When the colourfully useless Pedro Caixinha was sacked in late October, Rangers supporters felt our director of football, Mark Allen, had surely been waiting for this moment since arriving in June. He may have spent over a decade working for the music network MTV but just imagine the contacts he established in his six subsequent years running Manchester City’s academy. He’s actually met Pep Guardiola.
Furthermore Derek McInnes, who managed Aberdeen to second in all three domestic competitions last season – as Celtic won the treble – is a former Rangers player and supporter. The night of Caixinha’s last game, McInnes declared he couldn’t bridge the financial gap between Celtic and Aberdeen. He was all but asking Rangers to come get him, in the same way they’d bought his captain, Ryan Jack, last summer.
Yet Rangers took so long to move that even Caixinha found a new job – in Mexico – before he’d been replaced in Govan. McInnes, his team shipping points all November, was forced to convene a press conference with Aberdeen chairman Stewart Milne to say he was happy at Pittodrie.
Rangers won both games of a double-header between the clubs in late November and early December. The following Tuesday Milne refused an official Ibrox approach; McInnes and his assistant Tony Docherty, assumed to be in Glasgow for talks, missed training over the next two days and on the Thursday evening McInnes confirmed he was staying at Aberdeen. It was the biggest blow suffered by Rangers since chucking a lead in the last ten minutes of the 2016 Scottish Cup final.
Rangers then issued an unsigned, petulant statement basically claiming McInnes was unfit for the job because he’d refused it. Yet making Aberdeen Scotland’s second-best side for the last four years has garnered McInnes infinitely more credibility than the board assembled by Ibrox chairman Dave King in March 2015.
Caretaker manager Graeme Murty was soon confirmed as in place until the January break. He won the first two games after the McInnes volte-face. But then St Johnstone’s first Ibrox league win in 46 years, after a rejuvenated Aberdeen won their third straight match to go clear in second place, confirmed our Under-20s coach was not the answer.
Within a week, however, and before a risible defeat at Kilmarnock, Murty was awarded the job until the end of the season. This conveniently obfuscated the news King had, the same day, been ordered by Scotland’s Court of Session to offer £11 million for club shares he didn’t control. McInnes, who rejected overtures from Sunderland last summer, has free rein at fiscally sound Aberdeen.
And as Allen takes to the media to justify his role, hinting that he has no backing from the Rangers board, Hearts are improving under former Scotland manager Craig Levein, Kilmarnock are reborn under former West Brom manager Steve Clarke and Neil Lennon is bringing to Hibs everything the learned when taking Celtic to the knockout stages of the Champions League. Graeme Murty’s greatest asset to Rangers is, it would seem, his ability to paper over cracks. Alex Anderson