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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

One True Voice – Faithful and True

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I follow my heart right up to the end,
As far as the eye can see
I’m faithful and true and living up to
Your sacred trust in me

Yes, I have just started a football blog by quoting the quintissential bawbag bogus boyband; One True Voice. Something tells me that not many of you will remember let alone care who or what they are. For those that don’t, One True Voice are the group of lads that were put together in the same faux talent programme that created Girls Aloud.

Jesus - what a bunch of fannies.

The talentless and tawdry yang to the irrepressible and insatiable ying of the ten legged popsexual girl group juggernaut, the band are easily forgotten but I’d bet there are a few out there that were humming along in their heads to the quote that I started this article with. The song might have been as bad as listening to a pub full of smacked up Celtic fans in the Gallowgate singing You’ll Never Walk Alone with the only accompanyment being scraped out onto a plate with a fork, but the lyrics are somewhat applicable to Rangers.

Rangers seem to be missing a singular voice of the people; one that is faithful and true to what we all believe in. Essentially, there is not a voice that comes from Ibrox to defend itself, everyone and everything that our great club stands for. The fans don’t have something or someone that we can stand united behind and all have our faith pinned to.

The fissured Rangers support simply doesn’t have a person that will step forward and cast away any dissenters and doubters that come to try and put us down. More often than not, these people are allowed to say whatever they like about our club and support without reply and without reprisal. That is not good enough. An institution like ours should be able to stand on its own two feet and put up more of a defence for itself than the limbless Black Knight in Life of Brian could muster.

Sadly, we need only look across the city to the paupers paradise at Parkhead to hear the persistant warblings of Dr Reid defending the undefendable. For all the mans obvious failings in this world; we cannot say that he hasn’t tried to add some shimmer and shine to the rusted and morally bankrupt exterior of the club he follows.

Whatever your position may be on whether the Scottish media morons, the chouncil and assembled detractors have an agenda against our club, one thing is not up for debate and that is whether we have a figurehead who will represent us and our team – one that will always represent us faithfully and with honour.

Martin Bain seems to be emerging tentatively from the shadows of David Murray’s tenure like an Orange Tipped Butterfly from it’s cocoon. Incoming (for incoming, read caretaker) Chairman Alastair Johnston gave a strong rebuttal to media speculation without really inspiring the masses or convincing anyone that he was there for the long run. How much of a voice of the people can a Chairman be that lives in Florida be anyway?

We used to have a figurehead, a staunch defender of the people. Our own personal knight on a white horse. One that would try to fend off anyone attempting to tarnish or sour the name of our world famous and regal footballing institution.

That man was senior advocate and Queen’s Council in Scotland, Donald Findlay QC. I don’t wish to go down the route of making this piece of writing a lament for an ex-Chairman, but I’d rather like to use Findlay as an example of the kind of man that we all want to be stood at the gates to thwart the encroaching enemy. Findlay was someone who would look anyone that wishes to harm Rangers Football Club in the face and tear them a proverbial new arsehole with his wit and intelligence.

Findlay was forced to quit his post as vice Chairman of Rangers over ten years ago. In that decade much has changed at the club and in football in general. But Findlay has never been far from home though as he is one of the most respected speakers on the Rangers after dinner circuit. Anyone that has ever heard him speak will know that his knowledge and wit are two of his finest attributes – exactly the type of man we want in the trenches alongside us. The persecution Findlay faced from as many angles as a hall full of mirrors was unjust and in retrospect, completely unfair.

The incomperable Donald Findlay QC

In a time in Rangers history where we are surrounded by cretins that have it in for our club, Rangers need a man with a strong true voice. For far too long the media and more have got away with chastising our club at every opportunity. It’s tumultuous times for all. We all need someone and something that we can believe in. Hopefully the club will be bought by a man or men that fully understand what it means to represent Rangers.

I know for one that if it was me , Findlay would be the first phone call I’d make; to plead with him to pack his pipe and get back down to Ibrox. His voice is certainly strong and true and he would act to galvanise the fractured support, pin everyone’s shoulders back and make everyone associated with the club believe that the club support us as much as we will always support them.

We are the people, but it’s time we had back our man.

Written by therabbitt

December 17, 2009 at 10:54 am

Setting The Standard – Are Player Contracts the Epitaph of Rangers?

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“Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains”
Life is good if you have the abilities to become a modern professional footballer. The Bentleys, the broads, the bank accounts, the buffed up egos and the bumper contracts.

Such short footballing careers are nowadays followed by long forays into the media circus, property, showbusiness, modelling or literally anything that takes their whim. They have the capital to do as they please. Gone are the days when players had to accentuate their meagre pay packets with second jobs and ‘retire’ only to start their lives again as a member of the workforce at large. Nowadays distinctly average players can retire to a better and more comfortable life than a large percentage of the population could ever dream of.

From the onset of professional football, the players gracing the hallowed turf across the land quickly realised that they were being paid more than the loyal fans who came to watch as their escape from the rigours of their weekly grind. With the rise of unionism (in the workforce) players began to seek employment rights and players’ associations were born. With these rights came contracts.

Stories of players now agreeing contracts readily with clubs without some form of barter, agent provocation or underhand tactics are tough to come by. This paucity is broken by some commendable examples including Paul Scholes, who notoriously turns up for contract talks with his dad and calmly thumbs through the pages in front of him before uttering the words, “that’ll do” and putting pen to paper or Lee Evans lookalike James Milner, representing himself with only some advice and representation from the English PFA. Perhaps the strangest story recently is that of England striker Jermaine Defoe, who ended up in a contract dispute as he was being represented by his mother who wasn’t a registered agent.

However, sadly the trend is much more obtuse, sometimes sinister and more money hungry than these three pro’s. Wranglings over player ownership, image rights, agent fees, relocation bonuses and sponsorship, are far more common than anything else – especially with a figure of around 90% of the UK’s professional players represented by some form of football agent. But I suppose that in these times of multi-million pound contracts, Arab sheiks, Israeli super agents and Willie McKay; that kind of contract pontificating is to be expected.

No one needs to be told about the recession that we find ourselves in, both individually and in this case, as a collective support and football team; but the issue of the football contract is a multi-faceted one. A football club’s financial stability is largely dictated by payment to the members of staff that it has on its wage bill, as it is one of its main expenditures year on year. All football clubs are facing uncertain times financially, even some of the richest clubs in the world are feeling the pinch relative to years gone by. It is simply untenable for them to maintain payment of large contracts and bonuses to large squads of players.

This is the quandary that Rangers have found themselves in of late and the topic for this discourse into ‘Setting The Standard’.

In actuality, it is a quandary that Rangers have been in for a while; too many players on the books with bloated wage packets that were never justified. It seems to run in cycles too. All too often have we seemed to have been lumbered with the contracts of a Capucho or a Lovenkrands or a Burke. As soon as we manage to trim one squad down, it is again swollen with players that do not deserve the wage packets they are on. Yes, getting players via the Bosman ruling is going to mean they are on slightly better wages than they would usually be, but the players we have signed using this method have not been of the required standard – perhaps with the exceptions of Boumsong and Prso. Does this lay the blame at the door of the manager, Martin Bain or is it the scouting system (or lack thereof)?

The situation regarding contracts in contemporary football is an interesting one. The playing field was changed for good when the European Court of Justice ruled in the favour of the then unknown Belgian player Jean-Marc Bosman and another sweeping change seems imminent as the case of Article 17 of FIFA’s transfer regulations (‘Webster Rule’) filters into the transfer system. The Bosman ruling means that players over 23 can move freely between employers once their contract runs its course and the Webster ruling means that players who sign contracts when aged under 28 are able to unilaterally break those contracts after three years. If the player is 28 or over, he can break his contract after two years. Compensation is payable, but crucially, a player’s destiny lies in his own hands. Still with me?

With that in mind, a key point of note is that the balance of power in terms of football contract negotiation has shifted in the favour of the player and not the club. Players now have the same rights as employees in every other sphere. Something that is not lost on Sepp Blatter at FIFA, who is still battling to convince the EU that football is an ‘exceptional’ industry in which ordinary labour laws should not apply. Nevertheless, the best employees (footballers) have full control over their own career and can move to whichever club offers them the best wage and they can demand a pay packet that they feel is befitting of their talent. This has several implications for football contracts.

Clubs are thus forced to sign players on longer contracts than they have previously in order to protect the investments that they have. A five year contract now, is the same as a 2/3 year deal some ten years ago. Clubs rarely think that a five year deal will run till its expiry. For example, a couple of seasons ago, when Charlie Adam and Allan McGregor first came to the fore at the club, they were instantly tied down to long lasting deals. This protects the clubs investment in them meaning that should a club wish to buy them, they have to consider the fact that they need to pay out for a player that is tied into a long term deal.

This is the only way that a club can combat ‘player power’ in the transfer market. However, this is where the problems we are currently faced with arise.

As the transfer window was creaking shut with a whimper across Scotland, Rangers were desperately clamouring for some transfers – but just in a completely different way than usual. We simply couldn’t give away our players. In the end we managed to get Charlie Adam, Jean Claude Darcheville, Chris Burke and Alan Gow off the wage bill. Whether this is/was enough to ease the mounting financial burden that was much lamented throughout the month of January remains to be seen, but what we can say is that we never got the £3 million that was much touted (desirable, not imperative, remember?).

One of the main issues seems to be that there was a severe lack of motivation from some of the players to leave. High earner Brahim Hemdani being the perfect example. Hemdani was scarcely used last season, instead being kept as a European secret weapon. But with there being no Europe this season (and injury to be fair), he has faded into insignificance. Only recently has he obtained an agent to try to find another club and was allegedly looking for a full pay off of his contract and the ability to leave for free to go now. Instead of us being able to offload a good midfielder (Supporters Player of the Year 2006/07) with bags of European experience for a fee, we have to pay up or see him rot, quite possibly from within a cafe with fellow African Francophile Bobo Balde, each laughing at either side of the Old Firm. This trend of us having to pay players to leave is a little more prevalent than some may think, as we had to pay Burke to leave for Cardiff also.

It doesn’t take a financial analyst or someone voiced in contract law (I don’t claim to be either) to tell you that this is not good for Rangers. We need to be selling our players. Not paying them for doing us the courtesy of leaving. Birmingham also wanted to take Burke, and had reportedly agreed a fee in the region of £150,000 for him, but it fell through. Why the disparity? How did we go from potentially receiving a decent fee for a player in the last year of his contract, to having to give him money to move to another club in the English Championship? A league which is widely expected to be named the third richest in the world soon if some reports are to be believed!

Now I am not one for pointing to the other side of the city on a regular basis as a point of comparison, but in this case, the questions really need to be asked. Evander Sno left Celtic for £1.25 million – is he a better player than Hemdani? Craig Beattie for £1.25 million compared to Daniel Cousin for £1.5 million? David Marshall for £1 million whilst Roy Carroll can leave for free? Now this is not me saying that Celtic are flawless in their transfer policy – we are lucky that they have been so inept in some of their buying of late – but it does seem to be a trend that they seem to get more money for the players when they move on. Who’s fault is that? Are we (Bain) at fault for not negotiating better? Are the players at fault for digging their heels in and not being willing to move?

There is no doubt though that Burke and Hemdani are/were on wages that do not reflect their squad status or contribution to the team. Lovenkrands is another fine example, he was a 6 month player. Always ready to step up his game when it became time to negotiate a new deal, just like Burke. Were management being fooled all too easily? We as supporters could see it happening, why couldn’t they?

A cursory look at the club accounts by forum member Bluedell, when the figures were released in September 2008, intimated some worrying factors relating to contracts and wages. Firstly and most importantly, within the last year, wages and salaries increased by 60%. Put in monetary terms, staff costs went up from £24 million to £34 million – an increase of £10 million. A year. To put that into context, Murray Park cost £14 million to build and we are still discussing the merits of its cash investment.

It’s also apparent that one of the most interesting contractual issues that Rangers have faced recently is, paradoxically, the run in Europe last year. Yes we made money from ticket sales for Ibrox, but such a run was probably never accounted for when players were negotiating bonuses in their contracts. Allegedly, in total, £7 million were/are to be paid to the players due to their run. That’s nothing to be sniffed at – it’s more than we paid for Pedro Mendes and Steve Davis! It’s unlikely that we will be paying out that kind of level of bonus in the foreseeable future. Was this bad management? Bad contract negotiation? Were these levels of bonus placed into the contracts just to make them appear beefier to the players that were signing them?

So to be clear, where has this left us as a club?

We have an squad creaking at the seams, filled with players on relatively high wages and longer contracts than we would like them to be on. Players that were once shining lights, such as Adam and Burke, were given long, bumper contracts too early and have failed to live up to their hype. These contracts have a level of bonus that we cannot sustain and whenever we do wish to sell the players on it usually leaves them having to accept a drop in the wage they currently receive, hence their reluctance to go.

What can be done? How could the club move forward? Any solution(s) would surely have to be all about internal club policy and willingness to stick to it.

Now it would be churlish of me to sit here and write down what Murray and Bain must do. I’m a research student that has about as much experience in the world of professional football as Andy Webster has in a Rangers back line. What I aim to do here in to perhaps scrape the surface at some ideas that could bear fruit. The feasibility of such I’m sure are open to condemnation, but they may well be worthy of some debate, something that is the crux of the ‘Setting The Standard’ series of articles.

Ideally, we need to choose a number of players for a squad and stick to it. Walter has been quoted recently saying that he wants the first team squad to be trimmed to around 20, with other spots being used by youth players. It is an old cliché now that it is best to have two players fighting for every position, but it is one that should ring true. After all, that would only give a first team squad of 22 players. The drop in wage bill from a squad of 28 to one of 22 would be considerable and seems to be a goal of the current management team. Of that 22, there is nothing to stop some of the competition for places coming from hungry youth team players. With many of our young kids out on loan at present (Gow and Adam excluded) gaining first team exposure, it is perfectly feasible that they could come back ready to push for a first team berth. Just ask Allan McGregor about taking that route.

Ironically, one of the first things that I would suggest was in fact partially implemented or discussed just a matter of a couple of years ago by the chairman: a carefully structured and rigorously adhered to wage policy. When we missed out on Scott Brown in 2007, David Murray was quick to weigh in with the ‘excuse’ that he couldn’t break the ceiling on an existing set of guidelines (be them formal or informal within the club) for players that are either signed or come up through the ranks. At the time of the transfer it was indicated that signing Brown, who is apparently on somewhere near £25,000 a week at Celtic, would have shattered this new system.

It is believed that the maximum wage that any Rangers player can be awarded with is £16,000 including bonuses. This structure extends to all of the “Scots boys” within the squad who can expect to earn £1/2,000 a week when they first break into the team, £5/6,000 if they become regulars and if they become assets they can achieve £10/12,000 without bonuses. This might explain the high wages of Burke et al as they would have once been thought of as highly saleable assets, so their values needed protecting in long, full contracts. This is all very good in theory, but is it adhered to? Do we have too many ‘assets’ that are clogging up the wage bill?

The important point to take from this is that this structure was intimated by Murray to supporters at an AGM in 2007. If the structure was there, why was it not adhered to? Why do we find ourselves needing to sell to make ends meet if the structure has been pre-planned for two years at least? Is it purely chance that the worldwide financial recession was met with a run in Europe that bled the club’s finance? Did the management maybe take too many risks that are coming back to haunt them now? Could they have predicted the financial down turn, and at the same time, surely no one at the club could have expected to have to pay overly inflated bonuses for getting to a European cup final?

Another valid point that needs addressing is that in terms of Glasgow Rangers, the financial downturn did not happen last year. It happened as Alex McLeish took over. That is when we started to downsize our operations. With correct leadership and business models we should have been one step ahead and more than capable of weathering the financial storm. In Italy, Juventus are the most financially sound club at present. Something which is purely based on the fact that they needed to weather their financial storm as they blew through the Calciopoli scandal and therefore had to put models in place to mitigate this. Yet we are not, somehow. Why not communicate with some of the clubs that have came through the other side of some tough financial hardship and see what they enforced to get themselves back on track?

Yet I digress once more. Fundamentally, we need to reassess the wage structure of the club and strictly enforce it. Surely it should be relative to turnover? Coincidentally, it has been proposed by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge at Bayern Munich that this is the way to sort out the disparity of wealth that is present in modern football. Something like that would be difficult to enforce on a club level as budgets and finances can change so quickly. Who would know if Manchester City would come in and whisk John Fleck to Eastlands for £50 million on a whim one year. However, the notion of salary capping is an interesting one and one which could make the SPL a better and more competitive environment. But that is another article for another day.

In my opinion, one of the key notions is that player performance statistics should be more closely scrutinised when they are discussing contract situations. ProZone statistics and technologies like that could (should) be fundamental to negotiation of a contract for a player. If, for example, a striker is pushing for a new deal and during negotiations it becomes apparent that his shots on target to off target ratio is decidedly poor, then does he have the right to be arguing for a raise in his salary? It’s like a joiner getting paid more for hitting nails less often. Furthermore, these kind of statistics could be used for bonuses and financial incentives within the season instead of traditional win bonus, goal bonus and clean sheet bonus. How then does the hard working defensive midfielder get awarded for his diligent tackling and ball retention? It may change the motivation of players if their basic salary was kept lower and they had a series of targets to meet to maintain the wage they were accustomed too. The technology is there to be used, why not set the standard in the way we pay our players?

Another possibility is to further encourage and nurture our youth. Why not make it club policy to not sell anyone under the age of 21, and ensure that they all receive at least one full season of formative learning on loan at another SPL club or further afield? This is the kind of financial strategy that should be explored in conjuction with the youth models discussed in previous ‘Setting the Standard’ debates.

It is also my personal view that each and every youth player should have two things inserted into their contracts when they sign professionally.

* A minimum fee release clause.
* A future fee sell on percentage clause.

We need to protect our investment in these youngsters and one way of doing so could be to scale the percentage based on the players regarded potential (5%, 10%, 25%). Also, do as the Spanish do, have a value in the contract of the player that is much more than could be aspired to just so as to use it as a bargaining tool.

It is my thoughts that if young talent knows there is a wage structure in place that rewards them for loyalty, ability and statistical improvement, then they are much more likely to want to stay loyal in years to come. This would also act as a stimulus for young talent to come to Glasgow from across the continent and further afield. This is another string that is sadly lacking at present from our bow, a continent wide scouting network (a topic to be considered soon).

With our youth investment protected, it might be a viable solution to also look to Arsene Wengers’ ideologies of only offering one year deals to players over the age of 30. Adherence to this kind of strategy would ensure that we are not left in a Brahim Hemdani style situation with a player simply burning our money or holding us to ransom for a cash payout to leave.

Nevertheless, one thing that can be said 100% for definite is that the way things are at the minute is not working. Sadly, in my opinion, the best way to address the situation was already implemented two years ago and has failed. Where does the blame lie? The manager pushing for more players? The supporters demanding reinforcements when the deadwood was still there? Or the decision-making hierarchy of the club – Bain and Murray?

The wage structure can be fixed. However it will need to be done slowly. We can’t afford a mass clear out of players as we cannot recruit ones to replace them. Never mind the points made earlier that we cannot sell our players or afford to pay them off. Perhaps the clearout began in January because Walter knows that he has a crop of youngsters that can add some depth to the squad already in place? Can the youth be the future? Or will it have to be?

The sphere of football contracts is one that will continue to evolve in the next 10 years. FIFA are motivated to bring us the ‘6 plus 5 rule’, the EU are determined to prevent it, the implications of the Webster case are yet to have been properly felt and I have the impression that the role of agents and third party player ownership will be of increasing importance. The important thing for a club like Rangers is to be in a sound financial state whereby they can be reactionary and pliable with future changes in both legislation and current trends.

The ship at Rangers might not be rudderless after all. It might just need its course realigned.

Written by therabbitt

February 10, 2009 at 6:44 pm