IN what appears to be a spiral of never-ending decline at Ibrox, Kenny Dalglish has made it known that his sympathies lie with the Rangers supporters.
Things are going from bad to worse on the football pitch at a club in perpetual crisis off the field, as well.
Although a former Celtic player of great repute, Dalglish was once linked with a position of European scout at Rangers in the late 1990s at the start of a period of catastrophic spending by the Ibrox club.
Dalglish pointed out yesterday that the malaise runs deeper and is more profound than what is occurring on the pitch at present, and he absolved the players from some of the criticism following Sunday’s latest setback at the hands of Raith Rovers in the William Hill Scottish Cup.
According to Dalglish, who grew up supporting the Ibrox club before joining Celtic as a teenager, players are suffering the effects of long-term uncertainty as they continue to stumble from crisis to crisis. Sunday’s defeat at home to Raith, following on from the League Cup semi-final loss to Celtic, is just the latest blow to befall a beleaguered Ibrox support.
“There has been an accumulation of circumstances that has got them to where they are,” said Dalglish. “It’s not just the poor performances on the pitch. A lot of it has been administrative and you can’t blame the players, so you have to take that into consideration.”
Dalglish explained that events off the park are bound to take their toll on personnel. Indeed, he pointed out, they already have. “Off the field matters have influences on the field – vis-à-vis Ally McCoist isn’t there any longer,” he said.
The consequence of his departure is that Kenny McDowall, McCoist’s assistant, is now in charge of first-team affairs. McDowall is, however, a reluctant conscript and is working a 12-month notice period.
These circumstances don’t help when hoping to avoid a first defeat by Raith Rovers at Ibrox since the 1950s. Neither does a situation whereby McDowall has apparently been encouraged to play five recently-recruited Newcastle United loanees, providing they are fit. That is not something Dalglish had come across before in his time as manager, at Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle and Celtic, when he took interim charge of the side following John Barnes’ departure. “It’s different circumstances but I think the manager has to be allowed to manage,” said Dalglish, before quipping: “Maybe in the minds of the directors I was on my 12-month notice period but they never actually told me!
“If the people who own or run the football club start interfering and selecting teams does that allow Kenny [McDowall] the right to interfere in how well the club is being run?” he added. “Each one to their own, I would have thought. It’s best to leave Kenny to his work on the pitch. I think the only way you can get a game is if you are good enough. Against Raith Rovers, two of the five [Newcastle players] were injured and one got injured during the game. So he might not have them to pick.”
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Dalglish believes there is a cycle of failure at the club at the moment that will be hard to break free from, however hard the players try.
“Kenny is working his 12 months’ notice period and a lot of the players go on the pitch as committed as they have ever been but if it’s not happening it’s going to end with the same result,” he said.
“It must be hard for the fans, but also hard for the players. I’m sure the players go out on the pitch and as every bit as committed as they have been at any other club they have been at. But if it’s not happening for you it’s going to be the same result.
“The people it’s most difficult for is the Rangers fans but it’s got to be really difficult for the players as well. It’s a sad state of affairs.”
With reference to next month’s planned General Meeting in London, Dalglish added: “It looks like one way or another it might be time for a change. If that happens and they get a change in fortune it would be great for Scottish football. But, more importantly, it would be great for Rangers and their supporters.”
Whether or not the current crop of players deserve to be branded the worst Rangers side ever, something former club skipper Richard Gough did recently, Dalglish replied that he wasn’t qualified to say. He does believe the Ibrox side were aided by the appalling state of the Hampden pitch in the 2-0 League Cup semi-final defeat by Celtic two weekends ago. While the Rangers performance was abject, it was still a better outcome than some had feared. Had the park been in better condition, Rangers could have been on the end of a greater hiding than just 2-0, suggested Dalglish.
“I’ve never seen every Rangers team so I wouldn’t know,” he said, referring to Gough’s strong words. “If that’s what he wants to say then that’s up to him. I don’t need to confirm or go against what Richard Gough says, but the quality they produced against Celtic – well, most people in the build-up would have thought it would be one-sided.
“But you can’t take that for granted in any game and yet Celtic won quite comfortably,” he added.
“I wasn’t surprised that Celtic won and I wasn’t surprised they won convincingly. Everyone knows the trials and tribulations that Rangers have been through over the last few years. So no, it wasn’t a surprise Celtic won convincingly. What was a surprise was the state of the pitch. That was a concern.
“Maybe the pitch being as poor helped Rangers a little bit.”
• Kenny Dalglish is urging local communities to recognise a #GrassrootsHero and nominate them for the 2015 Scottish FA Grassroots Awards, presented by McDonald’s. For more information and to nominate a club, league, coach or volunteer, visit www.mcdonalds.co.uk/awards