What a season it was for Rangers fans!
We romped to the Championship title, beat Celtic at Hampden and narrowly missed out on qualifying for European football after a disappointing defeat to Hibs in the Scottish Cup Final. And, it might not be the most glamourous trophy in world football, but we even managed to win the Challenge Cup at last.
As a result of these successes, various people at the club have won an array of PFA awards. Captain Lee Wallace was voted Championship Player of the Year, Barrie McKay won Goal of the Year and manager Mark Warburton beat his peers from the Premiership to win Manager of the Year. Any fair-minded observer would struggle to disagree with those verdicts and it’s great to see our club being acknowledged for a dominant year on the park.
However, it’s worth noting the regular caution of our manager about football being a squad game. Indeed, as much as there have been many fine individual performances this season, if you try and pick a clear Rangers Player of the Year yourself, then you’ll find it’s not an easy task. For example, Wallace and McKay were clearly influential throughout the campaign but players like Tavernier, Holt and Waghorn were equally important. Moreover, if you want to discuss dressing-room influence, then both Andy Halliday and Kenny Miller led from the front by adapting their own style of play to feature prominently over the season. Clearly this was a team that won promotion – not just one or two players.
Further, after the presentation of the Championship trophy, when Mark Warburton singled out Davie Weir for his contribution, you’re reminded it was a management team that delivered success – not one man. Add in the superb efforts of the physio/fitness staff who ensured injuries were kept to a minimum and the positive integration of many of our new signings then you also realise a football operation isn’t just about 11 players on the park but dozens of employees working together to deliver a successful product.
Of course, even if you have such an operation in place, it needs to be supplemented by off-the-field personnel with the best interests of the club also in mind. Without dwelling on the negativity of recent times, that hasn’t happened for at least five years and we have to be thankful to Dave King and others who’ve not only put their reputations on the line but millions of pounds of hard cash to help fund the club. It’s certainly refreshing to see a group of like-minded shareholders (and obvious fans) put Rangers first over their own business interests and personal wealth. The club may not be out of dangerous waters yet but with a team of investors working together and obvious signs of improvement who’d bet against a full recovery in the longer term?
Certainly not the fans it seems. 38,000 season tickets were sold over the last year and it’s expected these could increase to record-breaking levels for our first campaign back in the Scottish Premiership. Imagine being unable to give Celtic supporters the full Broomloan Stand as usual because there simply isn’t the space? Given the quality of the football and the chances of further improvement, I doubt many bears will want to miss out on the chance of seeing their team beat their greatest rivals at Ibrox again later this year. Not to mention the positive effect of the income increased numbers will provide.
Let’s go back to last June though. After much speculation Mark Warburton was announced as Rangers manager. His appointment was an interesting one in that he was inexperienced and his modern methods perhaps not immediately identifiable with a club like Rangers – an institution based on a traditional British football ethos of hard-work and physical substance. As much as Struth, Wallace and Smith will always be legends, the Warburton era really was something new for our supporters. Yet not only were we prepared to give this relative managerial unknown a chance, we quickly and completely bought into his confident, expansive style. It’s no coincidence the team did so well because of this backing.
Taking that into consideration, we often hear about the ‘Rangers family’. Sometimes this suggestion is accurate, sometimes not. Occasionally it’s exaggerated yet it can also be under-played. Certainly in the last five years or so there’s not been much evidence of people working together for the common good of the club. But, over the last year this has changed. Obviously the team have played for each other. And it’s clear the football operation and boardroom have each other’s backs too. Last but not least the fans have supported the club throughout.
If we put all that together, it makes the future as bright as I’ve ever seen it for our club. But that doesn’t mean we can sit back and let it happen. We can’t and this millennium has shown us exactly what can happen if we do. We need to learn from previous mistakes and work hard to avoid the issues that poisoned our club post 2011/12.
That’s why Club 1872 is so important.
Yes, there’s been a lot of valid criticism of the project but having a unified body of fans working together in the same way various departments of the club have recently, should be a positive. Let’s remember our season ticket money alone totals upwards of £12m annually. Add in the shares we can buy as a group, then that’s the kind of ongoing financial influence that can give us a genuine say in how the club is run. We may not agree on every subject but we can agree the well-being of Rangers should go beyond each of our personal preferences. As such, having an all-encompassing fan group capable of working closely with the club – albeit from an agreeably independent standpoint – is so important. The concept is at early stage but the potential is there to build something really positive. As we did with Mark Warburton; let’s give the new group a chance and play our part.< Back