RANGERS’ loan signing of five players from Newcastle has already caused considerable disquiet, and the concern is sure to grow if any of the five makes a notable difference to the on-field fortunes of the troubled Ibrox club.
There is no legal problem with the signings in themselves, but the involvement of Mike Ashley, and the pending Scottish Football Association complaints against both the businessman and Rangers, makes the matter murky.
The hearing against Newcastle owner Ashley, relating to his interests in two clubs, has been set for 2 March. The hearing against Rangers themselves will be held two weeks later.
Of course, it is entirely possible that both Ashley and Rangers will be cleared of all charges, but what if the SFA finds against them? What if it is decided that the five loan signings were contributory factors in the case?
And what if, by the time such a verdict has been reached, those five players have already made a big impact on Rangers’ results?
Before any ruling is made, it would be unjust and possibly illegal for the SFA to refuse to register the players – midfielders Gael Bigirimana and Northern Ireland international Shane Ferguson, defenders Kevin Mbabu and Remie Street, and Slovenian international midfielder Haris Vuckic.
But, after any adverse ruling, it is all but inconceivable that the SFA would annul the results achieved with them in the side.
In other words, the whole affair, like so much else at Rangers, is a mess.
Former Rangers player Olivier Bernard, for one, thinks the new signings will be instrumental in winning his old club promotion to the Premiership.
“Rangers are desperate for points to ensure promotion,” said Bernard, who also used to play for Newcastle and still lives in the north-east of England. “These players are good enough to see them back to the SPL. Rangers will finish in the top two now and will be good enough to go through the play-offs, that’s a guarantee.”
Of course, it is possible that the five players will make little difference, and that Rangers’ results will continue much as they have been doing. After all, it’s not Newcastle first-team players that we’re talking about here, but some fringe players who have been unable to break through.
The fact is, Rangers already have the playing resources which should, if properly handled, have them at least competing with Hearts at the top of the Championship.
If you can’t contend for the title with Kenny Miller, Kris Boyd, Lee Wallace, Lee McCulloch, Nicky Law and Ian Black in your team, there is something wrong. Something – whether it be the quality of the coaching or some more general problem with morale – that is unlikely to be rectified by the likes of Bigirimana and Street.
Still, while it remains to be seen how effective the quintet will be for their new, temporary club, one player loaned out during the last few days of the window has already made an impact. Having signed Genero Zeefuik and welcomed Osman Sow and Soufian El Hassnaoui back from injury, Hearts decided they could afford to allow Dale Carrick, another striker who has been sidelined in recent months, to go on loan to Raith Rovers for a month.
The logic was clear – Carrick needs games to get back to match fitness, and the fact that the five games in question for Raith are against Hibernian, Rangers twice, Falkirk and Livingston can only have added to the appeal.
Carrick, despite only getting on for the closing 20 minutes at Easter Road on Saturday, still made a difference, winning the corner that led to his new team’s stoppage-time equaliser by Christian Nade.
Half an hour before Hearts took the field for what would become a 4-1 win at Alloa, one of their own had already helped deprive their city rivals of two points.
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