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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.

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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

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