Being a football hipster is serious business with knowledge about the young starlet making waves for a non-mainstream mid table side often a prerequisite rather than a feather in the cap. To further enhance your, perhaps, burgeoning reputation as a true hipster, Outside of the Boot is on hand to provide an in-depth guide to some of the less celebrated teams around Europe. In this edition of the series, Jamie Currie tells us about his beloved Rangers.
THE PREVIOUS CAMPAIGN
Rangers’ season was one that was filled with excitement and hope, following on from losing the play-off final to Motherwell. Mark Warburton and David Weir took charge of the management team and they gave the fans a club and team to be proud of again. Not only was the style of play great to watch, but the players where giving 100% for the shirt and for each other – something that may not have happened in the three years prior to their arrival. Even though they only had a few weeks to get a squad together after 11 players left on Bosmans, they not only managed to do that, but also managed to win the first competitive fixture 6-2 against their closest league challengers Hibs in the Challenge Cup, which they also managed to win beating Peterhead in the final.
League-wise they played some great stuff, and managed to win the first 11 games in a row. They created a significant gap and that allowed them to win the league by a comfortable 11-margin over Hibs and Falkirk. They did go through a few rough spells, especially around the Christmas period, but the opening 11 games did really help the squad get over the line and get back to where everyone at the club feels that they belong – in the top flight.
The Scottish Cup run gave the fans hope of a return to the European arena. They had some great performances and results in this competition. They dismantled an on-form Dundee side in the quarter-final at Ibrox 4-0. Dundee couldn’t live with the new brand of attacking football from Rangers – that day Dundee looked like the Championship outfit.
The semi-final victory on penalties against Celtic was one of the most incredible fixtures in recent memory. Celtic, of course, were fancied by everyone to easily turn over the new-look Rangers, but that didn’t happen. In a pulsating 2-2 draw, Rangers then went on to win 5-4 on penalties and effectively put four years of hurt to rest.
The final itself was a let down. Rangers never turned up on the day and despite leading 2-1 with 20 minutes to go, they contrived to end the season on a sour note by conceded two goals from set-plays.
All in all, it was a season to be happy with, and the team and the manager did their jobs by getting promotion at their first time of asking with relative ease.
Mark Warburton has had an unorthodox route into football management. He spent a large portion of his working life as a City Trader in the city of London. He took the decision to leave the high-paid role and used his own cash to travel around Europe to the likes of Sporting Lisbon, Ajax and Barcelona to watch how they train and how they set up their youth academies. Warburton was also one of the figureheads of the NexGen series, which helped promote youth football across Europe. The 53-year-old managed to get involved in Watford’s youth academy but he decided to leave in 2010 after a fall out with a few people at the club.
Warburton’s journey would continue. He was unsuccessful in applying for the Brentford job in 2011 but he managed to become their sporting director. And after 2 years in the role, he became Brentford manager in 2013 when Uwe Rossler (who was the manager at the time) left the Bees and joined Wigan Athletic. Warburton won back-to-back promotions at Griffin Park and in the club’s first season in the Championship he led them into the play-offs, but they lost to Middlesbrough. In the February of that season, it was announced he would leave Brentford over a difference of footballing philosophies with Brentford owner Matthew Benham.
Warburton then in the summer of 2015 took over the reigns at Rangers and he is the man in charge of leading them back into the top flight after a successful first season.
Rangers manager Mark Warburton was named PFA Scotland Manager of the Year for the 2015-16 season. LYNNE CAMERON / Getty Images)
Warburton’s formation is a quite simple 4-3-3. But the philosophy is to dominate the ball and play attacking, attractive football. Both full-backs will routinely get involved in attacking moves – underlapping and overlapping the wingers, who will more than likely cut inside to make space for them.
Most of the time, Rangers will look to score the perfect goal and perhaps overplay in the forward areas. However, when they lose the ball, they like to press in twos and threes to win the ball back as high as they can in the opposition’s half to get on the front foot and attack again.
Also, they never tend to throw aimless balls into the box from set-plays. They tend to take them short from wide areas or have James Tavernier shoot at goal.
One flaw of the tactical system is that it is very easy to play through. When Rangers lose possession, they tend to have very little defensive shape, if any, and with the two full-backs pushed high to support the attack the central defensive pairing are always exposed in 2 vs 2 situations.
When it works, it looks beautiful to watch, but there is no doubt that the defensive side of the approach and system is the major drawback.
TRANSFER MARKET ACTIVITY
Rangers have brought in nine players over the summer. They have been a mix of youth and experience. Experience and quality were two of the main qualities Warburton was looking to add to his squad after it was clear to many that they lacked some of that in the previous campaign in the Championship.
Joey Barton came in on a Bosman from Burnley and the 33-year-old will add some steel and leadership to the midfield. He was seen as a big coup for the club after he turned down Burnley’s contract offer to play in Scotland.
Joey Barton’s experience and reputation will be immense for the success of Rangers this season. LYNNE CAMERON / Getty Images
Niko Kranjcar joined from NASL side New York Cosmos; again the experience element came into play with his signing. He has proven his quality in the four League Cup matches, but the 81-time Croat is still lacking in match fitness. His quality will be useful to break down those tight defences, but we may have to wait to see the best of him.
Niko Kranjcar brings experience into the Rangers side. LYNNE CAMERON / Getty Images
Joe Dodoo came in from Leicester and he scored on his debut against East Stirlingshire in the League Cup. He certainly looks like he could trouble defences in the coming season. It will be interesting to see what role he will have and how he develops.
Jordan Rossiter was the first recruit of the summer, all the way back in May. The young midfielder missed most of the pre-season due to being away on under-19 England duty, but in the outings he has had in a blue shirt, it is going to take some great performances by the other midfielders to keep him out the side. One to watch.
Josh Windass and Matt Crooks came in from Accrington Stanley. Crooks, unfortunately, has been injured and has played no part so far. But Windass has scored one goal and he has caught the eye of the fans. He offers something different in the midfield area: he is direct and he takes players on from the central role. He is another that is an exciting prospect, and he has shown up well in pre-season.
Clint Hill on a Bosman from QPR has been the most surprising of the signings so far. At 37, and almost 38, he has been brought in to help steady the ship at the back. However, it remains to be seen how much game time he manages to get under his belt. Personally, I would doubt he will see much game time, but if he can help mentor the other centre-backs at the club he will prove a shrewd acquisition.
Lee Hodson joined from MK Dons. He has looked pretty decent so far, but his main role, one would assume, would be as a backup to both Lee Wallace and James Tavernier in the full-back roles. He was badly needed as both full-backs played every match last season and as they are vital to how Rangers play some competition in that area will only serve them well.
Matt Gilks was brought in as experienced cover for Wes Foderingham. Much like the full-back area, Foderingham had no competition to push him last season, so Gilks will prove an able deputy.
Mark Warburton has gone on record saying he wishes to add two more to his squad – a defender and a striker.
THREE KEY PLAYERS
Wes Foderingham – Rangers have had a history of top goalkeepers that would help propel them to title success in Scotland, from Andy Goram in the 90s to the most recent times in Allan McGregor. Foderingham had a very good debut season last year as he got into double figures in clean sheets and if Rangers are to challenge Celtic for the title he will have to step it up a notch and improve on his performances last season.
Joey Barton – He is the marquee signing of Rangers’ summer. Barton comes with big expectation and he will have to deliver. He will be looking to replicate his performances that saw him win Championship player of the year with Burnley last term and one would suspect his performances in Rangers blue will have a big say in how the team gets on this season.
Martyn Waghorn – He already has four goals this season so far. He is looking sharp and Waghorn’s luck in front of goal will have a bearing on the success of the team this season. He grabbed 28 last season and he will be the man that Rangers pin their hopes on to get them goals in the top flight.
Barrie McKay – He is the poster boy of Mark Warburton’s reign so far. The 21-year-old wide man has improved in every aspect since he came under the Englishman’s tutelage last July, and even with the host of new signings, he is one of the first names on the teamsheet.
It will be McKay’s first season playing top-flight football in Scotland, but he is more than ready for it. Without doubt, he is one of the countries top talents and his technical ability is second to none.
He is going from strength to strength and playing in the top flight will only allow him to enhance his ever-growing talent.
Barrie McKay’s strike against Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final was voted goal of the season for 2015-16. LYNNE CAMERON / Getty Images
CONCLUSION AND EXPECTATION
It’s an exciting time for Rangers and their target is clear: win that 55th league championship. It’s not going to be easy, of course, but the fans are enthused the new players seem up for the challenge, and the manager won’t accept anything less than being the best.
It will be interesting to see how the Light Blues fare in their first season back in the top flight.
Read all our 2016-17 Hipster Guide articles here.
Jamie has a keen passion for La Liga, EPL and Scottish football. He's written for publications such as the Set-Pieces. He's also a Rangers fan.
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