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Rangers FC transfer merry go round – Boyd, Wilson and Quinn

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The dusty saloon doors remain motionless. There’s been no swinging doors from hombres swaggering in or out and we’re eleven days into the winter transfer window.

The Kris Boyd will he/won’t he, debate has rumbled on now for what seems like an age and with him picking up a little boo boo on his groin at the weekend, we might see some of the debate lessened especially in the media.

It’s all a big stooshy over something that supporters, supporters groups and the club can do nothing about. The ball is almost entirely in Kris Boyd’s court. He is the guy who can either accept our contract offer to stay, decide to continue to negotiate with us, negotiate with other clubs for the summer or if a decent level of offer to Rangers comes in (which it will), leave now.

The only thing the club can do is offer the contract that we can afford to him in the hope that he signs or refuse any money for him to leave in this transfer window. There will be a threshold of offer level for him decided by the club already that we will let him go now.

Even then, as with last winter, it is still Kris Boyd’s decision to make.

Of course all the papers will be dribbling over the prospect the new Ronald Koeman coming to Celtic to put the final nail in the coffin of McManus and ex-septic player of the year Caldwell. Both of whom have clearly been found out for the complete jokers that they are – give me Bert Konterman anyday of the week.

Danny Wilson seems to be having to endure the same rumours that John Fleck had to put up with when he broke into the team with the old “Alex Ferguson knows Walter Smith” routine. A story appeared in the People at the weekend with no quotes and intimated that Wilson had been recommended to Ferguson by his scouting son.

I’ve no doubt whatsoever that Manchester United know exactly who Danny Wilson is and what he could be potentially capable of achieving within football, but the liklihood of a bid coming in during this transfer window is ridiculously low. Spurs also seem like potential long-term suitors for the classy youngster yet any move will surely be looked at long term by the Premiership giants. I suppose one of the positive things is that he is being linked with clubs in the top tier in England and not dross like Burnley or Hull who seem to be interested in any player that becomes available for transfer anywhere.

Apparently Rangers are going to be taking American Andrew Quinn on trial at the end of the month. I was chatting to the American journalist that broke the story, Steve Goff, and he said that the player isn’t even on the radar of MLS clubs and he was totally bemused that he was known to Rangers.

Andrew is from the DC area and starred at a prestigious prep school, DeMatha. He then attended Notre Dame, where he shared the starting job for much of his career. Injuries sidelined him for several periods. Notre Dame is among the top college programs in the States and competes in the challenging Big East conference.

He is a big kid — 6 feet 4 inches I believe. Interestingly he grew up close to the pro game because his father Tony is a prominent sports photographer who has worked at the World Cup and other major events. Tony is originally from northeast England.

I don’t know if Andrew is a true prospect for Rangers, given his lack of upper level experience, but perhaps they’ll see something special

His dad (Quinn’s) is English and a sports photographer and the lad has agents in Chicago and one in England so it must be an agent led trial rather than our renowned international scouting network (oxymoron). If anything I’d say that the lad will be over for a while and end up at a lesser Scottish or English club. With his dad being English I’d assume that work permit wouldn’t be that much of a problem.

P.S Cassio Lincoln is not on trial with Rangers.

Written by therabbitt

January 11, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Walter Smith: a tactical revolutionary?

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There has been several times last season and this season that I’ve found myself watching Rangers and seen Madjid Bougherra steaming forward and in effect being the most creative and driven Rangers player on the park.

The rebirth of the libero

I’ve often thought that Smith et al are probably standing at the sidelines with their hands to their heads and an internal monologue of “here we go again, lets just hope he doesn’t Amoruso“. More often than not however, he’s been our knight in shining armour though; it’s like there’s a switch in his head and once he’s had enough of what’s happening in front of him he just dashes off like a Viking marauding off to raid a village.

You only need to think about his goal against Stuttgart (“he’s-away-ach-he’s-not-going-to-is-he?pass!go-on-then-big-man-he-won’t-he-is-what-a-strike!GOAL!” were my exact words) and his cross for Miller last week as examples of him getting forward and enforcing his influence on the game.

Is this purely Mr Bougherra having enough of what he see’s infront of him and deciding that he is off to take matters into his own hands, or is it maybe a little more by tactical design of Walter Smith and in football in general?

I believe the latter.

The concept of Walter Smith being a tactical revolutionary or even to be keeping up with the José’s in modern football is something that will have many taking a sharp intake of breath. He’s been branded a dinosaur, a traditionalist and far too stuck in his ways to even think about playing the game the “modern way”. I like to think differently and the role of Madgid Bougherra at Rangers is the perfect example of why I think I am right.

Firstly, it’s important to discuss the current trends in the tactics of modern football. Tactical Svenghali, Jonathan Wilson identifies that even though there has been a general shift back to a general 4-4-2 shape; a lot of teams effectively still play with a singular (main) striker with what he has coined a “false nine” playing behind and alongside the main striker (Kenny Miller of late anyone?).

“Football is like an aeroplane. As velocities increase, so does air resistance, and so you have to make the head more stream-lined.” Viktor Maslov (Dynamo Kyiv manager and the tactical tactical revolutionary credited with inventing the 4-4-2 )

According to Wilson, what this quote means is that whilst the velocity of players increase (think Cristiano Ronaldo, Aiden McGreety) it becomes increasingly harder for them to find any space, so attacking players have to come from deeper positions on the park to force the space; thus making them harder to pick up and more importantly, pulling defenders out of position.

The success of Novo and DeMarcus Beasley of late from wide positions is also an example of this and not a coincidence. As our ‘false nine’ comes deep (Kenny Miller) it creates space for Novo and DMB to cut in from wide positions to bolster the attack. This is especially evident with the wide play of the likes of Lionel Messi who scored over 35 goals last season alone.

Essentially, the primary role of the striker has changed (as has Kris Boyd) from being just about scoring goals to be also about creating space for others.

This is where it gets interesting. Think about table football – if you get to a certain point, the key attacking players are the back two as you have much more time and space to line up a big ol’ spin for a shot and the opposing strikers essentially become blockers of this.

Part of this became evident (again in the football of Smith) when we had Alan Hutton and Steven Smith before him rampaging down the flanks as the most free and attacking players on the pitch. This has quelled in football a little as the wide forwards are now a little more defensive to close them down (think Steven Naismith tracking back).

This is where we are now. At least one forward dropping deeper to create space ( think Wayne Rooney/Zlatan Ibrahimovic/Kenny Miller), full backs getting forward (think Patrice Evra/Alan Hutton/Kirk Broadfoot) to be met by defensive minded wide attackers that like to attack from deep positions.

With the full backs freedom quashed somewhat, it is no longer them that have the most space on the pitch. It is the second centre half that is reaping the rewards of the most space on the pitch. This is starting to herald the return of the libero.

Sweeper/Libero: (Italian: free) is a more versatile type of centre back that, as the name suggests, “sweeps up” the ball if the opponent manages to breach the defensive line. Their position is rather more fluid than other defenders who mark their designated opponents. The catenaccio system of play, used in Italian football in the 1960s, notably employed a defensive libero.

Many centre-backs have the ability to bring the ball out of defence and begin counter-attacks for their own teams, thanks to tactical (game reading, anticipation, positioning, tackling) and technical (passing, vision on the pitch) capabilities.

What? The Wattenaccio?

The much vaunted and chastised system that Walter utilised to get us to our first European final since 1972? Homogenised players playing homogenised football. Stuffy-ness was the order of the day and being the damp squibs of Europe proved fruitful in the long run.

The system was fit for purpose. Contain teams and squeeze a goal wherever possible. Yet the system (and it’s name) obviously has it’s origins in the Italian system of Catenaccio and one of the most important players in that system was the libero. When we think of the libero we think Mattheus, Sammer and Beckenbauer.

Madjid “Libero” Bougherra is the perfect exponent of the tactic.

By the definition of the position above, a libero is the combination of tactical and technical capabilities. Reading further, the more detailed descriptions of each fit Bougherra perfectly: game reading, anticipation, positioning, tackling, passing and vision.

Yet it is obviouslly not only Bougherra that is taking advantage of this extra space and heralding the potential for a return of the libero.

Gerard Pique, is making great strides at Barcelona this season, Lucio did it to great effect at the Confederations Cup for Brazil, Pepe is performing a similar job for Portugal, Vermaelen is flourishing at Arsenal, Ignaschevich was very important for Russia in the side that beat England and Miranda is one of the most saught after defenders on the planet after capturing three Brazillian championships with São Paulo.

This list of course is nowhere near exhaustive as there are players cropping up everywhere that are playing in these kind of roles.

Tactics are in football to answer questions posed by other managers, teams, yet at the same time, importantly from changes in the rules of the game. By this notion they seem to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary in nature. Much as the latest incarnation of the offside rule brought about the insurgance of the poaching striker, the appearance of the ‘false nine’ has aided the resurgence of the libero.

It’s the chicken and egg debate on another level. Did Bougherra make the realisation that he had more space and could flaunt it or did Walter Smith make the realisation and give him the impotice to run into the space (perhaps since Lee McCulloch can drop a little deeper whenever he does go?).

Whether Walter Smith came upon this by accident or by design is further cause for debate and a question we won’t know the answer to.

However in my opinion the current trends in football tactics are very evident in the shapes, players and positions that Smith uses. It seems to all have came together in recent weeks for us. Football, whilst being at the cutting edge with primadonna footballers, bumper television contracts and astronomical debts is far more insular and introspective when it comes to tactics.

“To resurrect an old line, you don’t win games by scoring goals, you score goals by winning games: by playing the game where you want it to be played, thus maximising your team’s strengths and minimising those of your opponent” Jonathan Wilson.

Maximising your teams strengths and minimising those of your opponent. Walter Smith is the master.

Smith a tactical magician and revolutionary? What next? Kris ‘purely poaching’ Boyd being a rounded footballer under his tutelage? Kenny ‘Misser’ scoring goals for fun? Kirk ‘everyman’ Broadfoot being a marauding full back? Twitters DaMarcus Beasley being the most important footballer on the pitch in a Rangers jersey? Smith having a seventeen year old youngster that is ready to replace the possible outgoing libero Bougherra?

It could never happen….could it?

Written by therabbitt

December 30, 2009 at 2:04 pm

Novo mooning? Total pants…

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I can see pants. Surely mooning involves more crack...

So Nacho Novo is to be investigated for getting his erse out after Rangers’ loss to Aberdeen yesterday?

We love Nacho for how committed he is to the cause and for how well he has integrated with the fans. Whenever he comes off the bench he’s always pumping his fists to get the crowd motivated – more than a large percentage of the ‘first team’ ever do.

Anyway, during the closing stages of the game, Novo was being subjected to  torrent of abuse/banter from the sheep shagging bastards calling him a gay. Fair do’s; in my opinion fans should be allowed to shout anything within reason at players with obvious exceptions. Hell, they’re earning enough that it should be water off a ducks back. They earn enough money that getting some verbals for 90 minutes a week should be a piece of piss.

So as Novo was leaving the pitch he drops his shorts a little to the Aberdeen fans in a get it up ye gesture (not literally) and then flips them a finger (again, not literally).

Cue the sheep getting their wool encrusted panties in a twist.

Novo has been reported to the Grampian peelers as ‘fans with children were offended’ at his ‘mooning’. Now, mooning. That involves actually getting your arse out. That involves actual crack being shown. Novo didn’t.

I’ll refer to the font of all wisdom – Urban Dictionary:

Mooning: The recreational act of baring one’s ass in public with the intention of it being seen by people who don’t want, or expect, to see it.

Technically, there was no ass seen by people. Only his fetching white undercrackers. Surely this is an open and shut case for the Gramps polis?

Although, in saying that, the whole Rangers team could be thrown in jail for public indecency after that performance…

Written by therabbitt

November 29, 2009 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Players

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Punished for being good at what you do?

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What do Kirk Broadfoot, Steve Davis, Steven Naismith, Lee McCulloch, John Fleck and Kyle Lafferty all have in common?

This isn’t the makings of a joke, although sadly many of our own support look on some of these players as being just that.

Granted they all play for Rangers. But that’s not what I’m thinking about. You could pour over their stats, looking for something in common about the percentage of missed passes they make, how long they’ve been out injured in the last season or two, their previous clubs or some other tenuous linkage between them all, but the one thing that is true about them all is that they are good footballers – and they suffer, both at the hands of our support and in their own careers because of it.

Now that last statement shouldn’t make any sense, but stick with me on this.

It happens all across football and has done from the time when a bunch of burly lads who were all rowers decided to throw a team together. Football players that have some solid footballing talent are “shoe-horned” into positions and asked to “do a job”. This is rather than playing in their natural positions that they have played a lot of their formative footballing years in; the positions that they are most comfortable and at ease playing in. This is a product of the fact that they are just naturally good footballers; players that a manager would rather have in the team even if it is in their “wrong” position.

In some essence I suppose I am advocating that some players are just too good to not be used when there is a position within the team needing filled.

Football is littered with examples of this. Sometimes it can be a product of a manager with a strong will to change the use the player has for the team. Like Wenger developing a niche for Thierry Henry after his poor spell on the left wing for Juventus or sometimes, it can be like Sandro Salvioni, who played then striker, Patrice Evra, at left back as a stop gap measure before inadvertently realising his awesome potential in the position.
Obviously, not every player that is played out of position is going to be a revelation like an Evra or even a Papac, who has been a good conversion by Smith. It’s this second usage of players by managers that seem to end up with both the manager and the player on the receiving end of (in my opinion) unfair stick.

It’s certainly a contentious view to take, as Walter Smith has been vociferously accused of stuffing square pegs in round holes for as long as I’ve been conscious of football and Rangers. When I was eleven years old I can remember Dave McPherson getting a torrent of abuse for doing a job for Rangers at right back when he was always a centre half. That was in a Rangers team that got within a newts bullock-hair away from the (inaugural) Champions League Final.

McPherson was never an elegant, continental footballer, but he was a very good professional with enough talent for him to have two spells with Rangers – the second of which being part of one of the best Rangers sides ever, in the early ’90s. He was not given the praise for the job he did there that he deserved.

The current team is littered with players that seem to suffer with the fans purely because they are good enough to play in more than one position. Steven Naismith is never a wide midfielder, Lafferty is never a left midfielder and Broadfoot is never a marauding modern full back, but the fact that they are capable footballers means that he can play there for Rangers and do the job asked of them without questioning the manager.

The same goes for big Lee in my opinion. He’s never going to be a long term solution to Rangers’ defensive problems, but he is a big lad, who can win the ball in the air, can make a pass, can tackle and will give his all in the royal blue of Rangers.

What more can we ask for?

Walter Smith, Kenny McDowell and Ally McCoist see the players every day for training – we don’t. Even if many of us did then I’m afraid we need to bow to the fact that between them, that trio have more days experience of professional football than the majority of the support have had cans of Tennants.

There will no doubt be supporters that use an argument of the emergence of Danny Wilson for a reason to castigate Walter and Lee for his playing in defence – saying that if we don’t play him then we’ll never know. Well sadly I come from the school of thought that if the management thought he was ready, then they would play him. He might very well be ready now though, so in my eyes Wilson has been handled impeccably so far – the same is true for Fleck in my opinion.

I know many of you will be thinking that I’m being overly optimistic and trusting of the manager, something that is somewhat thin on the ground these days. Nevertheless, the one thing that I will say against the manager with regard to this is that it was him who went out and bought the players to assemble the squad. For every success, like a Davis on the right hand side, there has been a frustration, like a Lafferty on the left hand side.
The squad that he has put together since he came back has been stretched to its limits. From the numerous games and travelling that comes with playing in Europe and domestically, combined with our ongoing financial woes, we will need to force square pegs into round holes in the coming months. I just hope that the supporters are more understanding that the players want to play wherever they are asked and that the manager just wants to have good players playing in every position.

Why can’t it just be that simple?

Written by therabbitt

November 18, 2009 at 12:51 am

Posted in Players, Uncategorized