Tensions clear to see at Rangers as critical week begins for Giovanni van Bronckhorst

It is not unusual for Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst to not encounter the press at away matches, but you did not need a face-to-face meeting with the Dutchman to see how the club’s current situation is affecting him.

Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst leaves the SMiSA Stadium after the 1-1 draw with St Mirren.
Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst leaves the SMiSA Stadium after the 1-1 draw with St Mirren.

Van Bronckhorst wore a haunted look as he left the SMiSA Stadium in the wake of Saturday’s 1-1 draw with St Mirren that leaves the Ibrox outfit trailing bitter Glasgow rivals Celtic by nine points in the cinch Premiership after just 15 matches. The Dutchman knew that only two wins in last week’s pair of fixtures would keep the heat off him going into the World Cup break after a damaging 2-1 defeat by St Johnstone. While Rangers managed to navigate a home match against Hearts, winning 1-0, their fragility was exposed by a spirited St Mirren outfit on Saturday, requiring a James Tavernier penalty six minutes from the end to salvage a point after Jonah Ayunga had put St Mirren ahead.

The Rangers’ board decision on whether to stick or twist with Van Bronckhorst might have been made easier had VAR not intervened and advised referee Kevin Clancy to overturn his original decision to book Ryan Kent for simulation rather than point to the spot. As it is, all parties are due to sit down imminently to discuss what’s next at Ibrox. A crippling injury list, with at least half-a-dozen first-team players currently sidelined, might offer the 47-year-old a get-out-of-jail card. It would likely cost Rangers north of £4million to fully compensate Van Bronckhorst and his full coaching staff if the axe were to fall, although that amount seems slightly more palatable given a promising set of financial results posted just a few days ago.

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On the pitch, there are clearly tensions. Captain James Tavernier, in full earshot of the press box at the SMiSA Stadium, had a disagreement during the second half with Van Bronckhorst about whether he should push so high up the pitch. The half-time substitution of the usually mild-mannered midfielder Glen Kamara prompted, according to some reports, a row between the two. Kamara had played poorly and has not been the flavour of the month under Van Bronckhorst this season, partly due to injury, so the decision to replace him with Scott Arfield seemed justified. The exchange with Tavernier – his skipper – was more telling.

Van Bronckhorst said after the recent 1-1 draw with Livingston that he felt he had the backing of the squad. Whether that has been further eroded by continual Champions League horsings and brittle league form is a question for the players. The manager’s selection decisions have been hampered significantly by injuries, particularly in central defence. Teenager Leon King was taken off with concussion in the second half of the St Mirren. If Rangers were asked to play tomorrow, they would have no recognised centre-half to call upon: Connor Goldson, Filip Helander, Ben Davies, John Souttar and King are all sidelined. It is a wretched hand for Van Bronckhorst to hold.

However, despite the constraints, there is an increasing belief that the former Rangers player is playing the cards he has badly. The performances don’t lie and the results are there in black and white. There are nearly five weeks to pass before Rangers play next against Hibs. If the desire is there, this the perfect time for change.