Joel Sked gives his take on Rangers’ comfortable win at BT Murrayfield as Kenny Miller thrived and Hearts wilted.
You couldn’t make it up.....actually you could
The last time Kenny Miller featured in competitive action was Rangers’ meek 2-0 home defeat to Celtic. As long as Pedro Caixinha was in charge at Ibrox it seemed that those 37 minutes would be his last for Rangers.
Speaking to Sky Sports after the game he said he kept the belief that he would pull on the Rangers jersey again, and he did just that at BT Murrayfield, leading the team to a significant victory against a poor Hearts side after a trying week.
Miller’s absence and the speculation it created led to an abundance of noise which Caixinha and Rangers failed to deal with sufficiently. What it did do was overshadow just how poor Miller had been up until that point. He was slowing attacks, while filling in as an unorthodox and unnecessary left-back, central midfielder, right-winger etc. That, it could be said, is just part of his character.
Miller requires direction and he got that from Graeme Murty. The interim boss said he brought Miller back in because the forward knows how he wants his teams to play. It could easily be vice versa.
When Miller is not contributing in the final third he gets frustrated and frustrates fans who don’t want him playing as an auxiliary defender. Against Hearts he played as a forward, linking with Morelos and making positive runs beyond the Colombian.
There were still the usual Miller foibles, failing to make simple passes and unnecessarily chasing after the ball. However, that can be forgiven when he is a pest out of possession and finds the back of the net, as he did in Edinburgh. Twice.
Miller should not be the talisman for Rangers as he was last season. But what he can be is a useful squad player if giving the right direction.
• READ MORE: Hearts 1 - 3 Rangers: How the Hearts players rated
Murty’s managerial magic
Will Graeme Murty become the new Rangers manager? No. Should he? Probably not. Is he the ideal interim? For sure.
The 42-year-old is in his second spell as caretaker boss at Ibrox. If the 3-1 defeat of Hearts is anything to go by this spell will be as fruitful as the previous one. He did lose twice last season but his final three games brought two wins and an impressive showing and draw at Celtic Park.
By the time Pedro Caixinha took over, Murty had grown into the role. He proved he could organise a team and get the most out of the tools at his disposal.
One game and one win into his second spell it appears that little has changed. He’s picked up further experience and used his previous games in charge to allow him to get the ball rolling straight away.
He will likely move aside when the new boss is appointed. Some may tout him for the role after this result but it would perhaps be too big a risk when the club can’t afford to take a risk that size. A manager with a proven track record is needed, one who will galvanise the club and the support.
Yet, Murty’s presence allows the club to do all their due diligence, perhaps more than they did with Caixinha, take their time and choose the right man.
• READ MORE: Hearts 1 - 3 Rangers: How the Rangers players rated
Morelos and Berra do battle as Holt comes to the fore
Sky Sports awarded Kenny Miller with the man of the match award. It is understandable they did so; two goals and NARRATIVE. However, two team-mates outperformed the 37-year-old.
Alfredo Morelos was fantastic alongside Miller, involved in a fascinating battle with Christophe Berra, Hearts’ star man. Both players complained to Craig Thomson about the use of arms by each other, but by the end they had embraced the physical challenge; giving their all and taking everything.
While Berra tried to hold together a defensive line which was as robust as a digestive biscuit which had soaked in coffee for three hours, Morelos was aided by a supporting cast.
Much has been made of Morelos’ goal threat, and rightly so, but he hasn’t hit the back of the net in the last seven matches. Yet, what he has shown in that time is his ability to lead the line, bring others in to play and a general selflessness in terms of his running to create space or close down opposition.
It was wonderful play to set up Miller for the opening goal and he continued to occupy Berra allowing others to target the weaker players making up the defence.
Then there was Holt. He’s had to bide his time but when he has played he has had a positive influence. Against Hearts he produced a superb all-round display.
During his time at Hearts, questions were asked about his best position. Holt offered glimpses of his ability in different midfield roles at Murrayfield. He was breaking up play, calmly keeping the ball and making forward runs. Everything he did was done with an intensity and aggression. For a slight frame he didn’t wilt in the physical battle either.
For Rangers to reach the level they want Holt is perhaps not the player they require down the line. But at the moment he is putting in performances which more than suggest he is deserving of a starting berth.
Not British, just better
Charlie Adam (started on the bench in Stoke City’s latest win with seven foreign players starting) tweeted that Rangers needed more British players to solve their problems. There have been similar complaints at Tynecastle over the years. However, at Murrayfield there were 18 British starters - nine apiece.
Rangers were decent, Hearts were rubbish. Both require massive improvements to progress and reach their stated aims. To do so, a substantial improvement in recruitment is required. Players don’t have to be British, they just have to be better.
While Rangers might not possess much depth and flexibility they do possess quality in certain areas which makes them competitive in trying to at least finish second. There is a more pressing issue at Hearts. The squad is simply not very good and unbalanced.
Injuries haven’t helped, forcing Craig Levein’s hand in fielding youngsters who are still in the embryonic stages of their career. However, that doesn’t mean he should not face criticism. His role as director of football should have ensured more joined up thinking in terms of the recruitment strategy.
Questions marks have rightly been asked of chief scout John Murray and Levein. They supported Ian Cathro and Austin MacPhee with regards to players but something went wrong to leave the squad as it is.
There is no pace, no width, little creativity and still no competent left-back. The worrying thing is that the left-backs seem to be getting worse rather than better.
Both Hearts and Rangers have a director of football. The role is treated with scepticism within Scottish football. Neither are winning over the doubters.
Sow lucky to have Lafferty
One positive for Hearts fans is another goal for Kyle Lafferty. The Northern Irishman is quickly becoming a talisman and the first forward the fans can have trust in since Osman Sow.
Hearts’ stagnation and subsequent deterioration goes back to February 2016. The day Osman Sow left in a big money move to China, things began to unravel at Tynecastle. While he had a more than respectable goalscoring record (23 in 52), more than anything was his influence. His ability to take the ball and create something out of nothing.
He was a fans’ favourite because of his talent. He played off the cuff, had skill and pace and was exciting, even if, at times it was unorthodox and ungainly. Sometimes he never looked interested but that was forgiven because he delivered.
Lafferty couldn’t be any different to Sow. He is clumsy with the ball and can’t dribble the way Sow did. But what he does is win headers, battle, all that nitty gritty stuff. But like Sow, he scores and is capable of the spectacular.
He produced a wonderful free-kick to open the scoring and, similar to Easter Road on Tuesday, unnerved defenders with his Go Go Gadget arms and awkwardness.
He’s hit nine goals in 15 games, and if Hearts are to challenge for the European spots, he’ll have to continue scoring. No matter how ugly he does it.