The past few days have been a disaster for Rangers on and off the pitch.…
Both Rangers and Hearts have endured tumultuous seasons. They have sacked managers, will end the campaign without silverware and have had to watch their fiercest rivals outperform them. Conversely, whilst Rangers float without a paddle, the wheels are already in motion at Tynecastle in preparation for next season.
Hearts’ season has fizzled out. Sure they’ve secured top six football, but it’s unlikely they’ll manage to finish higher than sixth. Rangers, on the other hand, still have a lot to play for as they battle it out against Aberdeen and Hibs for second place. That said, with their season effectively over, Hearts are looking and planning ahead, something that cannot be said for the Ibrox club.
In fact, whilst it’s hardly been a memorable season for the Tynecastle club they’ve always appeared to have a plan. At no point did they seem disorganised or in chaos. Meanwhile, when you look at Rangers you see a club in turmoil not only on the pitch but off it. It’s not hard to see how the Govan club could take a leaf out of Hearts’ book.
One of the main problems with Rangers is the apparent lack of forward-planning at board level. Hearts find themselves in a completely contrasting situation with Ann Budge pulling the strings. How Rangers would love Dave King to be more like Ann Budge. The latter seems to be on the ball and has a clear plan and direction for her club. The same cannot be said for Mr King and his board.
One perfect example of this is how both clubs went about replacing their sacked managers. Make no bones about it, Hearts dillied and dallied but they eventually settled on Levein, a man they know is experienced at Premiership level and has already shown he has the ability to succeed in the job. At the very least he was a safe pair of hands and someone who could steady the ship this campaign. It’s perhaps been an unremarkable season but Hearts are in the top six and can build on that next season; a position they’d unlikely be in if Ian Cathro had remained in the managerial hot-seat.
Contrast that to Rangers and their disastrous approach to replacing Pedro Caixinha. We had months of what was essentially an attempted public wooing of Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes. Like Kirk Broadfoot at breakfast time the Rangers board were left with egg on their face when McInnes rejected them. So instead of going back to the drawing board and finding a man that would ensure they have a steady season and achieve their goals, the buck fell once again with youth team coach, Graeme Murty.
This reeked of laziness and a lack of a plan B from the Rangers board. Whilst Budge got her man and steadied the ship, Rangers got someone vastly inexperienced who won’t be there next season. The best thing Rangers could do now is get a new manager in as soon as possible.
This is not as a slight on Murty, but rather so they can get planning for next season as soon as possible. Levein has been talking for months about recruitment for next season. Sure he’s had an unremarkable first campaign, but he already knows the areas he wants to strengthen as well as which players he wants to remain and leave the club.
The way things are looking, by the time Rangers get a manager in they’ll be a month out from starting their vitally important European campaign. Not only that, but that person will be taking over a new squad which has a number of players leaving in summer. Simply put, Hearts have had a plan in place for a large part of this campaign. Rangers have not.
After a frankly disastrous spell with Cathro in charge, Hearts have almost accepted that this season would be one of transition. He brought 11 players in during the summer transfer window which meant there was always going to be uncertainty and an increased difficulty to Levein’s job when he took over in August.
Not for a minute is there a suggestion that the expectations at Hearts are the same as those at Rangers. In fact, they’re nothing alike. No matter the circumstances, expectations at Ibrox will be sky high given the history and size of the club. However, this is a significant problem for Rangers. It’s as if many won’t allow for a transition season. The most recent example of this is from director Alastair Johnston. He says the Ibrox side are “ahead of the curve” in their quest to catch Celtic.
This statement embodies a problem surrounding Rangers. There should be a focus on cementing themselves as the second best club in Scotland ahead of Aberdeen and Hibs. If they are able to do that, with the right man in charge, then they’ll eventually be able to mount a stronger challenge to Celtic. They’re too busy worrying about what their Glasgow rivals are doing and it’s to the detriment of themselves.
Celtic currently have an incredible manager, better players and a significantly bigger budget. By taking their eye off the ball Rangers risk not finishing second for another season. Murty’s side were on an impressive run prior to the 3-2 Old Firm defeat and as the gap between them and their rivals got smaller there was talk from some of a potential title challenge and whether the gulf between the two teams was lessening. Meanwhile, Rangers were still in a fight for second place during this period. In essence, their focus was once again on Celtic rather than the battle for second place.
Hearts are again leading by example here. Just this week they tied down midfield starlet Harry Cochrane to a new multi-year contract. Given his performances this season, this is great news for all involved at the club. On the contrary, Rangers have just let perhaps their most promising defensive prospect leave for free in the summer to join Hamburg.
David Bates was asking for £7,000-a-week but was not given it. Now whilst Cochrane wouldn’t be on that money, Rangers are paying a lot of other players significantly more than that. For them to lose Bates is a huge blow, but the manner in which they did so is troubling. These things may be complicated, but his deal should have been sorted out well in advance. You want to keep your young players or at least receive a transfer fee if you are forced to sell them.
Similarly, Hearts have a clear plan when it comes to recruiting players whereas Rangers do not. This again comes back to the first point that was made in this article about planning for the future. Knowing his side’s season has fizzled out Levein is able to start the recruitment process. Just this week he signed veteran striker Steven MacLean as well as Uche Ikpeazu. Moreover, the Jambos boss already has a clear idea and has been vocal about which loan deals he’d like to see extended or made permanent.
Conversely, who knows which players will be at Ibrox next season. Bates is already leaving and it looks very likely that he’ll be joined by Lee Wallace and Kenny Miller. Recruitment cannot begin until the Ibrox outfit have a new manager and that also means nobody knows whether the likes of Jamie Murphy, Russell Martin and Jason Cummings will be Rangers players come August.
Simply put, Hearts are giving themselves the best possible platform to push on next season whereas it’s going to be very difficult for whoever replaces Graeme Murty at Ibrox.