THE one upside to Rangers’ financial meltdown was the expectation they would turn to homegrown talent and build up a cash reserve as they worked their way up to the top flight. That hasn’t happened. They have burned cash in signing a busload of players to push their own youth once more to the periphery.
Hearts, in their current plight, have had no option but to field a glorified under-21 side. But Rangers manager Ally McCoist refuses to accept it is a damning indictment of his club’s player development programme that he has not felt able to have youngsters at his team’s core in an otherwise part-time environment, while Gary Locke’s side have been proving competitive while doing so in Scotland’s upper tier.
“Hearts are different,” says McCoist. “It’s harder playing for the Old Firm than other teams in Scotland. It’s easier breaking into any other team as a youngster. Hearts have done fantastically well and I’m delighted for Gary. I know better than anyone what he’s going through. I happen to think our younger lads have done fine. I congratulate the youngsters at Hearts too. But we’re in a different position from Hearts.
“We’re expected to win every game we play and that’s not the case with them. But I don’t want to take anything away from Hearts because they are competing very well but there is a different pressure on the Hearts youngsters. Our boys are under a pressure that no one has ever had before and no one knows what’s right or wrong. We won the league by 24 points last season but no one knows if that’s good or bad.
“Our youngsters had to win the league last season and they had that pressure on them. People say we won it but performances weren’t great. We have to get that level of performance, simple as.”
And have to be willing to rack up a £6 million wage bill – roughly 25 times that of any other League One team, such as Forfar, who knocked them out of the League Cup, and who they visit today – to do so.
Forfar boss Dick Campbell gave his players plenty of time to be ready to face Rangers this afternoon as they were told on Tuesday night who was playing.
The Station Park outfit may have beaten the Ibrox side 2-1 at the beginning of last month but Campbell looked back only as far as last Saturday’s 3-1 league success over East Fife to pick his men for the job.
Campbell said: “I was very happy with that win so I will be going with the same team and the same substitutes. I watched Rangers play Queen of the South on Tuesday night while the players were being told the team at training.
“We will change a few things tactically and telling the boys early allowed us to work on that on Thursday. It will be a very different side to the one we faced last month. Rangers looked a very strong team at Palmerston and I thought Lee McCulloch and Jon Daly were outstanding.”