Giovanni van Bronckhorst is out of road at Rangers and costly severance is only start of major overhaul required
But that’s the thing about dead ends. If butting up against one, it means you have run out of road. And that certainly feels as if it is the irretrievable position in which the Dutchman finds himself. It is astonishing to consider that the Ibrox side’s recent propensity for dropping league points, or almost doing so, flatters them. They might easily have lost to St Mirren at the weekend, and Livingston three weeks earlier. Instead of scrabbling draws from both. Meanwhile, they were entirely unconvincing in the 1-0 home win to Hearts last Wednesday. Chuck in the defeat away to St Johnstone nine days ago, and Rangers are fortunate not to have taken a mere four points from their past five cinch Premiership outings – the 4-1 battering of Aberdeen an aberration.
As it is, the fact the Ibrox men’s actual haul from this sequence of eight points is academic. It can be no other way when they have slid nine points behind Celtic. Out of sight, frankly, when Ange Postecoglou’s men have unerringly churned out victories across the same period. The title race effectively being over in November, over as the Rangers support and their board have a five week World Cup pause to stew over this unpalatable reality, allows no great case to be made for the retention of van Bronckhorst. The 47-year-old isn’t daft about where such a precipitious decline in fortunes can easily lead for those charged with leading one of Scotland’s two monolith clubs. A brief spell when Rangers’ on-field failings have been horribly exposed by St Johnstone, St Mirren and Livingston. Three teams on a 10th of their budget; three teams they have had no problems racking up league wins over in recent seasons. As is an absolute must for a Rangers manager. In not proving the case, van Bronckhorst acknowledged the precariousness of his situation – and this even before his team’s largely lifeless toils in Paisley on Saturday. “No manager is safe if he’s not winning games. Why should it be different for me?” he said.
If that wasn’t exactly a resounding assertion regarding his job prospects, the Rangers manager betrayed even greater uncertainty in a post-match television interview following the draw with Stephen Robinson’s team. It is fair enough for him to quietely retain belief in his ability to turn Rangers around. His unassuming demeanour has too easily been read as defeatism. It would seem now, though, he isn’t so sure the Rangers board possess the same conviction. “We will have to see what happens,” he said of any discussions by the Rangers power-brokers over his future. “It’s football and if you have a run like this then a lot of things can happen. I have the backing of the board and they’ve given me confidence, but in football you never know.”
European participation and the possibility of championship success parked for this season as van Bronckhorst has presided over only 14 wins from 27 matches. In football, the great majority – including the man himself – know this represents precisely the conditions being met that create an irresistible clamour for managerial change at a club such as Rangers. The worst that could happen for the Ibrox side through placing a new man in charge is that matters do not improve. Brutally, such is the current bottoming out – hollowing out, even – of the Ibrox side’s competitiveness, their verve, the only way could be up.
Van Bronckhorst has had his personality picked apart across his year in the Ibrox post. As if he is somehow flawed because he is an amenable, sober and sensible individual. He isn’t in the least flawed, but the screamingly-intemperate world of Scottish football can be a place that doesn’t lend itself to such reason. The Dutchman isn’t teeming with charisma and bite. That won’t be at odds with some of the more cerebral domains in which he has operated. It might be, though, when it comes to the kick-arse, passion-matching demands placed on the Glasgow clubs. A consequence of forever facing opponents prepared to strain every sinew for the kudos to be earned through taking them down across the entire country.
It has been reported that the £4m compensation package required to dispense with van Bronckhorst and his backroom staff could engender a reluctance from the Rangers board to act now. For all that he took them to a Europa League final in May, the Rangers accounts published last week still showed a near £1m loss. However, with the club having banked £25m from the sales of Calvin Bassey and Joe Aribo, and likely to rake in around the same again for progressing to the Champions League group stages, cost should not be the decisive factor in determining whether to cut their losses with van Bronckhorst.
When a team becomes as moribund as Rangers have begun to appear under their present stewardship, providing them with a fresh voice and fresh approach in a bid to infuse new life seems the unavoidable step to take. Only the first step, mind you. Van Bronckhorst is far from the only problem within the footballing department for Rangers. A squad that could be shorn of 10 players between now and the summer is deficient in myriad ways. His recruitment is partially responsible, but in that area sporting director Ross Wilson has far from covered himself in glory. Rangers require a complete overhaul - and affordability is a serious issue on that front - but any club finding themselves at such a crossroads inevitably must start that process by switching drivers.
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