“Fortune Favours The Brave” – 4 November 2015

The temperature is rising amongst the ranks of Rangers’ supporters, there is now rank hostility where there was once understanding and forgiveness. The terraces, message boards and twitter pages are full of criticism and vitriol. The object of the mire being the manager, Chris Ramsey. It has now got to the stage where he really can’t do right for wrong. Yet is this fair ?

Sometimes he gets it right. Against Bolton he decided against taking off JET who, in his first proper game, looked a spent force after a good shift. Ramsey resisted and JET stepped up and scored a sublime goal in the dying seconds, the sort of goal that we thought was only reserved for the likes of Taraabt or Buzsaky. Cue Loftus Road hysteria. One tick in the box for the manager.

But this was a rare tick. For the most part, his team selections and use of the bench have been depressingly conservative and lacking both imagination and bravery.

This is a common criticism of a manager who is thrust into a job which many might consider a little beyond him, when big decisions need to be made but the manager just does not have it in him to make the crucial call. Instead he retreats into his shell and plays the pragmatic card or worse, the negative one. Stuart Lancaster, England’s current rugby coach could be tarred with the same brush and the future of both Lancaster and Ramsey is hanging in the balance. Maybe it’s a lack of experience. Maybe a lack of faith. Maybe a lack of conviction. But no-one can live with maybe’s. Certainly a lack of bravery and courage.

‘What if’ is an epitaph neither of them will want, but the scribes are lining up with their hatchets. Much of this pressure comes down to expectation which, at times, can be a heavy weight and perhaps a burden that cannot be overcome.

At Rangers, the hierarchy and supporters want success and unrealistic expectation can take over. If not competing for automatic promotion which, to be fair, most think is a little unrealistic, the club really need to be at least challenging for a play off place.  Mid table mediocrity or worse still, struggling in the lower reaches really is not acceptable. This is not unrealistic or unfair bearing in mind the quality of players who remained at the club after the summer clear out and the quality of some of the new additions. Time will be allowed for ‘settling in’ but that particular honeymoon appears to be over.

Every club’s supporters want their teams to play with excitement and flair yet we all know it does not always work like that, except for the very few. Even the very best teams need an inner steel and backbone so that the flair players can express themselves and not have to be overly concerned about defence. The great free scoring Man Utd teams did and in the modern era the same can be said of Barcelona and Real Madrid. However, it can backfire on those that place too much emphasis on the cavalier, Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle United of the late 1990’s being a case in point when a little more pragmatism in the crucial run in may have seen them walk off with the title.

So where does this leave us with Ramsey ? Where is the evidence ?

Well, it is not difficult to see and equally hard to fathom his logic on occasions. Losing at Birmingham and taking off your only striker. Drawing at home to a very mediocre Sheff Wed team and doing the same, this time replacing him with a midfielder. Losing to Brentford and whilst turning to 2 strikers and 2 wingers, a positive step many might argue, then cutting off their supply line. In removing Luongo, arguably Rangers’ best player by some distance, who had struck the woodwork twice earlier in the match, Rangers’ best hope of conjuring up an equaliser had gone. Crazy. Once Luongo had departed, Rangers hardly strung a pass together for the final 20 minutes. Awful, yet hardly a surprise. Leaving the ‘terrible twins’, Henry and Toyzer, in the engine room was destined for disaster and indeed that’s how it turned out. Toyzer’s wild shot at the end summed it all up. The jeers that followed told their own story.

These are not just isolated incidents. Every supporter will have their own example. The same was true towards the end of last season. Rangers were in a parlous state when they needed victories to stay in the Premier League. Games were slipping away, time was running out, and goals were required. The manager needed to change things especially in home games where they had the best chances of victory. Whatever anyone might say about him, Taraabt has arguably been Rangers’ most creative player for a generation and constantly leaving him on the bench towards the end of matches was suicide. Rangers suffered an ignominious and painful death as they slipped out of the Premier League, which was certainly not aided by Ramsey’s refusal to throw a a little caution to the wind by injecting his mercurial talent to the cause.

It is always easy to criticise your team’s manager, every fan does it. Such is the fickle nature of football. We are all the best managers in the world and hindsight, as they say, is a wonderful thing. Even Arsenal supporters constantly whinge about their whinging manager yet they play some glorious football and are currently on a long unbeaten run, taking the scalp of Bayern Munich into the bargain. It can be grossly unfair and managers can have a hard particularly hard time.

However, patience can run thin, especially when the same perceived tactical errors seem to be repeated week after week, without recognition. It would appear  from many quarters that Ramsey just does not ‘get it’, he looks like the perennial ‘rabbit in the headlights’ and a confused one at that. Post match comments can be quite instructive as to a manager’s thinking and philosophy. In reaction to the Brentford defeat, Ramsey lamented that we missed our chances and that at times we need to play ugly to win in this league. Granted that Luongo was unlucky with his efforts onto the woodwork but these were hardly gilt edged chances, more half chances created by Luongo’s skill, as Rangers hardly created a chance of note all night. As to the comment about needing to play ugly to win, this was simply laughable. In the second half Rangers played the ugliest football imaginable and never looked remotely like scoring a goal, let alone winning. The only time that the team showed any fluency and put Brentford under pressure was in the last 15 minutes of the first half when the team got the ball on the ground and strung a few passes together, playing football for the want of a better definition. This was arguably the only time when the team did not play ugly.  The situation was not much improved at Derby either where many of the same faults were in evidence again. One look at the team sheet told it all and the subsequent largely lacklustre display, especially in the second half, and somewhat inevitable defeat was hardly a surprise.

So the pressure is building to a crescendo. Ramsey is hanging on by his fingernails and looks a beaten man. He appears to be a decent man with his own ideas, but those ideas sadly appear to be flawed. A manager never wants to be influenced by the crowd as it may be seen as a sign of weakness, but when the dissenting voices are so loud, the majority cannot all be wrong. Clearly a manager cannot do everything the fans want, but to consistently ignore the vocal majority may be his death knell.  Ramsey’s plans, strategies and tactics are clearly not working and his days may be numbered.
So what advice can be given to Ramsey in his hour of need ?  Well, it is often said that fortune favours the brave. So, be brave, release the shackles, show some enterprise, be positive in both selection and strategy.  The club has some skilled and talented players so let them off the leash. If you are going to go down, then go down fighting and unless you try, you will never know.  Have no regrets.

As Del Boy famously once said, “He who dares wins. He who hesitates… doesn’t”.

Leave a Comment