BEFORE yesterday’s game against Cowdenbeath at Ibrox, the problems facing Rangers appeared obvious to many observers: put simply, their strikers don’t strike, or at least not often enough.
Prior to that encounter, Kenny Miller, Kris Boyd, Jon Daly and Nicky Clark had scored a mere 17 league goals between them.
I don’t think we have performed well individually
To put that into perspective, 16 players from other Championship clubs had found the net more often.
Hibernian’s Jason Cummings, with 13 goals, had more than four times as many as Boyd, who has endured a miserable campaign, recently admitting that he did not deserve to be offered a new contract this summer.
His strike partner, Kenny Miller, disagrees. His controversial goal in the 2-0 victory at Easter Road last weekend was only his fifth in the Premiership but he is convinced that the fault lies not with the players at the business end of the pitch but with those behind them.
“I don’t think Kris is doubting himself about whether he’s doing the right thing,” said the 35-year-old. “I’ve worked with Kris long enough and I haven’t seen any change in the way he works.
“Personally, I don’t feel we have performed well individually – no individual has stood out this season.
“But I don’t think it’s a coincidence the strikers haven’t scored as many as they should have. Nicky Clark came here off the back of scoring more than 40 with Queen of the South. Jon Daly scored regularly for Dundee United. Kris’s record speaks for itself and I’ve always scored goals wherever I’ve been.
“You can always look at yourself and do more. But when you have four lads in the same boat, you have to strip it back and look at why this hasn’t happened.
“I’m not using the lack of ammunition as a cop-out but it goes hand in hand – if we aren’t getting chances, we’re not going to score goals.”
Miller and Boyd are among the 11 players whose contracts expire at the end of May and the former believes he deserves the opportunity to extend his time at Ibrox.
“Of course I want to stay here,” he said. “I never came back here just to have one year in the Championship.
“I came back with a long-term plan and that was to get promoted and get us back to the top end of Scottish football. That remains the same. Everyone involved who is out of contract now has an opportunity to impress. At this stage we don’t even know whether the manager will be here or not at the end of the season. In terms of players, whether we are going to be here or elsewhere, we have to impress somebody if we want to have a job next season.”
Failure to take Rangers into the Premiership for the first time would have repercussions for players, coaching staff and beyond and Miller has been around for long enough to appreciate that most of the senior professionals will be considered surplus to requirements should they lose out in the play-offs.
“There’s no guarantee that we’ll go up,” he said. “Obviously, the league’s gone now and we’re firmly focused on the next seven games, although it could end up being 11 or 13 games.
“We’ll be aiming to build on last Sunday’s result and finish as high up the league as we can.
“Like probably everyone else in the dressing room, I’ve been disappointed in the performances, individually and collectively.
“It’s been a tough, tough season for everyone involved with the club. We’ve not got up to any real level of performance.
“We’ve seen it in the odd game here or there but the levels of consistency haven’t been what we were looking for.
“It’s definitely not what we set out to achieve at the start of the season, that’s for sure.”
Interim manager Stuart McCall, meanwhile, was missing from the Scotland team hotel this week for the first time since Gordon Strachan appointed him to his coaching staff in January, 2013.
McCall was forced to remain at Murray Park in order to focus on Rangers’ promotion battle and admits to having suffered withdrawal symptoms.
“I went down to Mar Hall on Friday to see the staff and wish them good luck,” he said. “Personally, it would have probably been worse if I’d been missing the games against the Republic of Ireland and England.”
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