It was reported last week that Rangers are in the market for at least four new players in the January transfer window. Those are said to be a new defender, midfielder, creative midfielder and a striker.
While Steven Gerrard’s squad could do with bolstering as they aim to keep pace with Celtic at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership table, there is the little matter of the club’s annual reports and the £14.3 million loss made.
It therefore stands to reason that the type of funds granted to Gerrard in the summer, thought to be in excess of £9 million, will not be available at the midday point of the campaign. As a result, we should probably expect the club to look for a few bargain buys as they seek to improve their fortunes on the park, with future targets quite possibly coming from the humble surroundings of Scottish football.
So, with that in mind, let’s have a look at some potential SPFL targets Rangers could pick up on the cheap this January.
Defender - Craig Halkett
At present, and in January, Rangers may not need a centre-back as there are already four on their books through to 2019. However, with Joe Worrall only on loan and Gareth McAuley signed to a one-year deal, they could proactively look to the future and ensure dependable cover for Connor Goldson and Nikola Katic. And the way the latter has been playing recently, he’d be lucky to get in a team ahead of the 23-year-old.
The Livingston captain has been arguably the best centre-back in the league this season as the Lions continue to defy expectations by flying well above the relegation zone. A Rangers player until 2016, his former club’s mistake at releasing him without giving him a chance in the first-team can be rectified next summer at zero cost as he’ll be available on a free contract. Get such an agreement tied up in January and a modest fee may convince Livingston to part with him sooner.
Alternatively... Graeme Shinnie
The Aberdeen captain would be a controversial target, to say the very least. Not only is he a dyed-in-the-wool Dons fan, he’s also the type of combative opponent that any fanbase, baring his own, loves to dislike. That being said, Rangers could use a left-back with Lee Wallace seemingly always injured (and out of contract himself) and Jon Flanagan looking uncomfortable on his weaker foot. Shinnie has largely played in midfield since arriving at Pittodrie, but Aberdeen supporters have long called for him to be restored to his natural position. It’s expected he’ll sign a new deal before January arrives, but if not then a significant increase in wages could see him follow the route taken by old team-mate Ryan Jack.
Midfielder - Glen Kamara
Rangers have reportedly monitored the Finnish midfielder in the past and they could take advantage of his expiring contract to scoop him up for a nominal fee. They’ll also be helped in their attempts by Kamara’s poor form to start this season, though that in itself presents a quandary for the recruitment staff. Has Kamara played well below expectations because of how poor Dundee are? Or was last season a flash in the pan and he doesn’t have the quality to succeed at Ibrox?
While the 23-year-old wouldn’t be expected to command a place when everyone is fit, Gerrard has shown a penchant for rotating his squad. And while he’s undoubtedly an important part of the side, Ryan Jack has hardly had his injury problems to seek since arriving at the club. Kamara is a similar type of player to Jack and would represent a solid back-up choice.
Alternatively... Chris Cadden
Cadden’s form over the last year should not necessitate a move to a bigger club, but it’s almost certain to happen if he decides against a new deal at Motherwell. With incredible athleticism and more than enough football ability, he should already be performing better than he is. It’s easy to imagine someone like Gerrard looking at all that natural talent, in a position he used to play, and believing he’s exactly the right man to get the best out of him.
Creative midfielder - Jordan Jones
Jones was the subject of interest from Rangers in January last season and is the obvious pick if the Ibrox side wish to strengthen that area of the park in the coming transfer window.
What they need more than anything else is a No.10. Jones is a natural winger, but he has played as a second striker on occasion and performed quite well in the role, including a starring turn in a 1-1 draw at Celtic Park last season. And while they wouldn’t necessarily need the extra option on the wing right now, with Ryan Kent, Eros Grezda, Daniel Candeias and Glenn Middleton all capable of playing there, Kent is expecting to return to Liverpool when his loan deal expires next summer.
Alternatively... Scott Allan
Can you imagine? It would be worth it just for levels of seethe that would sweep through Scottish football. Rangers fans would hate it because of Allan’s 2015 move to Celtic. Celtic fans would hate to see one of their players go straight to their rivals, regardless of how little he contributed in a green and white shirt. And Hibs fans would hate to see Allan sign anywhere else that wasn’t Easter Road. Admittedly, the chances of this happening are slim to none. However, if we could put tribalism aside for a second, Allan is a type of player that Rangers could use in their squad. They don’t have a natural No.10 and he’s the only one playing in Scottish football right now who’s a good enough standard and wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. Make it happen, Rangers!
Striker - Eammon Brophy
Trying to find a cheap forward is almost impossible. This is the list of forwards who would undoubtedly make the team better - Odsonne Edouard, Leigh Griffiths, Florian Kamberi and Steven Naismith. There is zero chance of the two Celtic boys moving to Ibrox this January (or ever), Kamberi would cost upwards of £1.5 million (maybe more) and Steven Naismith is on a season-long loan deal and would not be able to move in January unless Hearts were OK with that (and why would they be?). Even gambles like Jamie Maclaren, Greg Stewart (both on loan deals) and Uche Ikpeazu (injured until the spring) are unavailable.
Therefore, by process of elimination, the best forward in the league available on a reasonably fair price is Kilmarnock’s frontman Eammon Brophy. The 22-year-old is a rising star in Scottish football. He’s got a great goals-to-starts ratio with 13 strikes in 27, but he’s more than just a predator. Brophy works his backside off in attack, constantly harassing defenders and can link and hold up play very well for a striker under six foot. With a contract until 2021, he’d cost significantly more than anyone else on this list, but with his relative low profile there’s a possibility his signature could be secured for a price less than £1 million.
Alternatively... Tony Watt
OK, I may have gone too far here. Similar to Allan, Rangers fans would not welcome a man who didn’t make it at their arch-rivals, while they wouldn’t be blown away by Watt’s return of two goals in 12 Premiership games. But the man who once put Barcelona to the sword is about much more than scoring goals. He’s a great leader of the line with excellent technique and a general chaos factor about his play. While he may not have scored many goals so far this league season, there’s no chance St Johnstone would be in the top half having won five games on the spin without his input. And, when you really boil it down, is he much better than Umar Sadiq? Absolutely.