Written by Andy
It feels like years but finally the journey will continue on Sunday at 4.05 pm when Rangers face Albion Rovers at Almondvale Stadium in Livingston in the Ramsdens Cup Round 1.
We have added a few players into the squad which has been beefed up a little to help our young players and the remaining players from last season’s title winning squad and of course could be in for another two or three players before the window and transfer ban ends in September.
Hopefully a couple of centre backs are added to the team and if we were to sign Bilel Mohsni and Boris Pandza that would be good business for the club. I’d personally be letting Emilson Cribari or Ross Perry go to ensure we get both of the lads I mentioned before.
We have had a very impressive pre-season campaign this year which of course was always going to be a bonus as we never had one last season so the players will certainly be a lot better prepared this time around.
The only small concern initially of course is we have to pick and choose what players to play from our new guys as trialists in our league games in July and August but I feel we should still have enough to see off Brechin, Stranraer, Airdrie and East Fife.
So onto the title of todays blog what is the Season Expectations for us this season?
I’ll try and be as realistic as possible in regards to league and cup showings but I’ll also be discussing my hopes and expectations for a few of the players as well.
So what can we achieve in the league campaign this season?
Well there will be no excuses in regards to pre-season this year as the lads as mentioned before have actually had a full pre-season and have looked solid in the games so far so my hopes are the team will hit the ground running and get into an early groove hopefully hitting some consistency early on to get a lead in the table.
Last season’s record in SFL 3 was Played 36, Won 25, Drew 8 and Lost 3 Scoring 87 goals and conceding 29 which was the best goalscoring for record by 20 goals but only the second best defence in the league to Peterhead’s 28 conceded.
We don’t need to go over the performances again we all know the drill and it was way below standards, the playing style, the fitness, the tactics…not Rangers Class by any stretch of the imagination but its a new season we have new players, a new fitness coach and hopefully a manager who has learned from SFL 3 to give us a more attacking team going forward who play good football and of course a solid defence that will hopefully be better at defending set pieces as they seemed to be our weakness last term.
I see no reason why we shouldn’t expect to beat last season’s SFL 2 Champions Queen of the Souths winning record which was Played 36, Won 29, Drew 5 and Lost 2 scoring for 92 and conceding 23 ending up with 92 points.
We have better players and facilities all we need is better attitudes and fitness levels than last season and I don’t see why this can’t be beaten. Yes first and foremost lets win the title that is the bare minimum but lets entertain the loyal supporters at the same time.
There will always be someone in the support either happy or not happy such is the size of the club and diverse nature of the fans so even if we won every game 10-0 you’ll still get someone complain about a chance the opponents had or a chance we missed or whatever but thats just passion for the club as we expect the absolute best in EVERY scenario and thats why we are the biggest club and most talked about club in the country!
So my league expectations are this, I’d be hoping for us to target 30 wins in the league and at the very most 1 loss in the entire league campaign. If we could go unbeaten that would be fantastic but we have to be realistic as well because if we go into an unassailable lead the motivation factor could come in and the players might slip up, that is of course where the manager and coaches come in to ensure that doesn’t happen but thats my hopes 30 league wins and at most 1 loss. If we could break the 100 goals for and 100 points mark along with staying unbeaten that for me would be the ultimate goal.
Onto the cups and this was probably our most disappointing performance last season.
The Ramsdens Cup should be used for the young players at the football club, the way the likes of Arsenal use the League Cup in England they play the youngsters all the way through the cup and I feel thats what we should use the Ramsdens Cup for. I believe our young players would not only benefit from this but go a long way in the tournament also. You’d possibly have to play a few older heads in the team such as a Lee McCulloch and Dean Shiels just to give the lads someone to look up to if it wasn’t going well on the pitch. It would also be a good opportunity to play the likes of Scott Gallagher in goal and possibly one or two fringe players but mostly with our young talent to enhance their experience.
The League Cup and Scottish Cup of course will depend on the draws we get, we have a pretty decent squad at the moment IF Mohsni and Pandza come in as the defence needs those two guys to challenge in the cups for me. I don’t think it would be unrealistic to ask for at least a Quarter Final place in the League Cup and Scottish Cup, again this will all depend on the draw and we take each game as it comes. Last Season we got to the Quarters of the League Cup and I’d be hoping we can go at least one better this time. The Scottish Cup was terrible as we know and the surrender job in the 5th Round at Tannadice was the biggest low of the season on the park in my view, but again draw dependant I’d be hoping we can get to at least the Quarter Final. Falkirk of SFL 1 got to the semi’s last season as they had a very kind draw all the way to the semis so if we got the same kindness thats what I’d be hoping for.
So to break it down my hopes and expectations are
League : Win 30 games, only lose once
Ramsdens : Use this as a platform for younger players and make the final and win
League Cup : At least Quarter Final maybe even get to the Semi Final
Scottish Cup : Quarter Final and take it from there
So thats my expectations for Rangers domestically this season and I’d like to mention a few of the players at this point and my hopes for some of them.
Ally has already said he plans to use the tactic 4-3-1-2 so the assumption is the team could be like this below for most games… (Click on image to enlarge)
You could maybe be thinking is there a place for Lee McCulloch in this team? I’m not sure the big man will get as many opportunities this season unless he is just used as a handyman and plays when needed at Centre Back, Midfield or Forward. With this formation does Andy Little feature as much? McCoist sees him as a winger not a striker so does Little play off Daly and the goal machine Nicky Clark gets dropped? Quite a few variables there and I’m not 100% on the formation, on the positive side it does give the likes of David Templeton his perfect position as he plays the hole behind the forwards extremely well for me.
But thats just a quick look at the formation and a guess at what the team might be what I want to discuss more the number of games a few of the lads play and more specifically the youngsters.
At this point the signings of Pandza and Mohsni aren’t done yet but either way I’d ideally like to see Luca Gasparotto get a fair number of starts this season. If he could get around 15-20 starts that would help his development immensely as the lad clearly has quality at centre half and if he got the game time that would be fantastic.
Our star young player Lewis MacLoed is back from injury and already looking the part in pre-season, I know we have the likes of Law,Black and Peralta but for me MacLoed is still the main man in the middle and I’d be expecting him to play the vast majority of our games this season which is hopefully an injury free season as this lad is a superstar in the making.
Robbie Crawford is a young lad who I rate very highly and I know a few other fans do also, the problem is we haven’t seen him in his natural position a lot and he has been played all over the park. If you look at the picture above in the 4-3-1-2 formation where Templeton is that is the position Crawford plays and would excel at. Robbie was only given a handful of starts last season and hopefully Ally gives this lad at least 10-15 starts as he really is a quality young talent our fans haven’t seen enough of. He is a game changer if given the opportunity.
Fraser Aird and Barrie McKay are two excellent prospects on the wing for us but in that 4-3-1-2 formation the position of winger doesn’t get a look in. That being said tactics can and I’m sure will be changed when circumstances dictate and in terms of game time I’d be hoping these two can get at least 15-20 starts to help their development. Both are still very young and have plenty time and of course the position of winger is possibly one of the most difficult to be consistent in as not many wingers play exceptionally well every single week but the raw talent is there, both will get bigger, faster and stronger along with better technically if given a number of games so hopefully we see those two on a regular basis.
Nicky Clark showed last season how its done in SFL 2 when his then manager Alan Johnston moved him from defender/midfielder to centre forward and he scored for fun. At only 22, Clark is a player who can be developed into a star and if he is given 25 starts you can rest assured his goal return will match that number of starts if not better it. It remains to be seen if Ally opts for the big one and little one duo of Daly/McCulloch and Clark or if he goes for the Clark and Little combo but given his comments about Little ‘not being a striker’ that partnership may not be one we see often but either way I hope Clark gets a lot of game time as there is a really good aura around this lad and for me there is a Nacho Novo like popularity with the fans Clark could have.
So that is my hopes and expectations for the team and a few of the players in the side
Lets hope we get off to a winning start on Sunday and I’d like to wish each and every player at the club all the best for 2013/14 make us proud lads!