Rangers final word: Summer revolution ahead but St Mirren starting line-up will not be completely dismantled
Back in November, it took a late James Tavernier penalty to spare Rangers from a third defeat in four matches. Giovanni van Bronckhorst, six months after leading the team to the Europa League final, was running out of time and excuses. Already nine points behind Celtic, the Dutchman was sacked nine days later.
It has not been all plain sailing either for his successor Michael Beale but this victory, that arrived courtesy of a Fashion Sakala double and another from Antonio Colak, has Rangers in a far better place than when he took over.
For months now, Beale has been promising a squad revolution over the summer but there is every chance the crux of the side that started here will again feature heavily in the next campaign. Robby McCrorie will likely have to settle for a seat on the bench behind Jack Butland or whatever goalkeeper comes in but James Tavernier, John Souttar and Ridvan Yilmaz should form three of the starting back four.
Nico Raskin and Todd Cantwell – whose strong performances after arriving in January will give Rangers fans hope ahead of the recruitment drive – could be joined in midfield by Ryan Jack or John Lundstram (who played in defence on Saturday), while Ianis Hagi and Sakala will likely be prominent in the forward areas.
Beale said all the right things about second being the same as last in Glasgow but will have been sufficiently encouraged by performances in recent months to know there is little need for a wholesale dismantling of the squad. Many of those who featured in this win – including substitutes Colak and Borna Barisic – will be back again for more.
Judgement on Beale himself has been difficult given the size of the deficit he inherited – he ended up eating into only two points of Celtic’s lead by the end – but there will be no asterisks or caveats come the Champions League qualifiers and then the recommencement of league action. Rangers need to be fully prepared by that point.
The air of what might have been at full-time was one shared by their hosts. St Mirren have surpassed all expectations this season by claiming a top-six berth although the rising excitement at the thought of a first European voyage since 1987 was soon punctured by their post-split struggles.
Unlike Rangers, it is holding on to their existing talent rather than securing new faces that will be key to St Mirren’s future success. Among those they will be keen to retain is Keanu Baccus whose achievement in becoming the first player to represent the club at a World Cup earned him an award from the fans among the post-match festivities.
“I'll see where the future takes me but who knows?” said the Australian. “Every player wants to progress and help their family. It's not all about that but it’s what we want to do at the end of the day. We will see if there are any options, talk to the club and see what happens.”
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.