SOME among the Rangers support may have had cause to reflect this week on the curious nature of their club’s approach to team construction.
The return of 34-year-old Kenny Miller only days after 18-year-old Charlie Telfer left for Dundee United hardly suggests Ally McCoist is building from the bottom up, taking a long-term view, or really driving down wage spend to meet their environment.
As Rangers have appeared beset by fears over their fragile finances, these aspects haven’t much figured in their player dealings since their 2012 meltdown resulted in them starting life again in Scotland’s fourth tier. Telfer, only made his first-team debut once McCoist’s side had sealed the League One title at the end of last season. Yet he is sufficiently highly-rated by Jackie McNamara, in charge of one of the country’s leading sides, that the Tannadice club will pay a compensation fee for his services.
Telfer, a Scotland under-19 cap, might have appeared precisely the type of player Rangers should be developing through regular first-team exposure as they made their way through two, essentially, part-time leagues. Instead, the way forward appears to be taking the, arguably, backward step of recruiting Miller for a third tour of duty.
“Every club in the world wants to bring young players through. But you can’t just go into a drawer and pull out a young player,” said the amiable character, who “just loves” a club that feels “like home”. It was as a 20 year old, in a move that netted Hibernian £2 million, he first did so. “You have to find them, you have to nurture them. If they are here already, great. If they are not, you have to bring players in. For me, I’ll be the same player as I was three-and-a-half years ago when I left this football club. If people are happy with that, great. There are always going to be people who like you and there will always be people who don’t. But I’ll go out and try to play the game the same way and I will try to win over the fans again, the same way I did six years ago when I came back and we won three titles and cups every year. If that’s enough, that’s great. If it’s not, I can live with that.”
There’s a “getting the band back together” feel to Miller’s latest return to Ibrox, his fourth spell with one of the Glasgow news-munchers after his title-winning 14 months with Celtic between 2006 and 2007. If his old Ibrox strike partner Kris Boyd were to follow him through the door, then the assault of McCoist’s men on the Championship really would seem akin to a reunion gig.
The fact that the club, despite their state of penury, were apparently able to offer Miller a one-year deal worth just shy of £4,000-a--week, suggests Boyd could well be coming back. Although Dundee United and Aberdeen have been credited with an interest in the Kilmarnock goal-plunderer, they could not afford the sort of terms that seem available at Ibrox for players few would dispute could be key to seeing off the challenges of Hearts and Hibs and earn a place back at Scottish football’s top table.
The attraction of linking the two men isn’t hard to see. In two seasons together between 2008 and 2010, before Boyd moved to Middlesbrough, they combined to bag almost 100 goals as Rangers became the pre-eminent team in Scotland, Of course, Boyd was the main goal source. However, after he left, Miller took up the slack, netting 22 times before he was tempted away mid-season by Bursaspor with a contract offer more generous than was then being offered by Rangers.
Miller reveals there is every prospect that second tier defences might be facing up to a twosome that top-flight backlines had little answer for five years ago. “I think that would excite everyone, when you see what he brought to the club in the four-and-a-half years he was here,” said the forward of the possibility of being reunited with Boyd next season. “He scored an incredible amount of goals. That’s what he does. Last season he scored 22 league goals for a struggling Kilmarnock team, which is phenomenal.
“I’ve spoken to Kris and I think that, if the opportunity was there, it’s something he would be interested in. Personally, I’m just happy to be here and I’d like to thank the chief executive [Graham Wallace] and the manager for giving me that chance. Whoever comes in or whoever I’m asked to play alongside up front, I’ll be delighted to do it. Just pulling on that jersey again will be enough but if the big man comes back he will definitely be an asset for the club.
“I still play the game the same way – I don’t think I could play any other way. I still train as hard as I can, as hard as I ever did. So even though I’m a few years older I still give everything I’ve got for the team. I feel strong and I feel fit so I’m sure you and the fans will see the same guy that they remember from my last time here. There is no sign of the end for me yet. I can play on for the foreseeable future and, hopefully, that will turn into a second season here [with the option] and maybe a third year as well. It will depend on how I’m feeling and how I’m performing and whether the club thinks I’m doing my job well.”
Miller doesn’t feel inclined to have a rethink over his retirement from international football. He took the decision last year, when the transatlantic travelling required to bring him from his then Canadian posting at Vancouver Whitecaps was taking its toll. Although that is no longer an issue, there are other considerations.
“Scotland’s results in the last year have been excellent and I hope that we continue to make progress under Gordon Strachan,” he said. “We have a lot of fantastic younger boys available to play in my position and I’m sure we have more than enough to make sure that we’re challenging for a place at Euro 2016.”