DAVID Robertson thought Premier Division title celebrations with Rangers two decades ago were an anti-climax because they had just lost their third away league game in a row.
Having just seen the Ibrox side record the same sequence of results for the first time since, he’s adamant his sheepishness then is nothing compared to the shame that should be felt now.
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Robertson was part of the Rangers team which limped over the finishing line to claim the sixth of their historic nine championships in a row in 1994.
Without a win in any of their final five games, they were only confirmed as overall victors after their penultimate fixture as closest challengers Motherwell drew at Raith. Having lost on the road consecutively to the Steelmen, Hibernian and Kilmarnock, it was the last way Robertson and his team-mates wanted to retain the silverware.
And as Walter Smith’s men marked their achievement off the back of a 1-0 reverse at Rugby Park, it was little wonder they were more muted than usual. Back then, Robertson and his colleagues could at least take satisfaction from finishing top of the table on a regular basis, but these are changed days at Ibrox.
Saturday’s 4-0 Championship mauling by Hibs followed recent 2-0 losses at Hearts and Queen of the South to leave Rangers 15 points behind the Jambos halfway through the campaign.
Favourites to win the league in the summer, they’ve now been written off by most as also-rans who will make the play-offs at best in the months ahead.
Former left-back Robertson, 46, can’t believe how far on-field standards have fallen at his old club and insists the players have nobody to blame for that but themselves. The ex-Elgin and Montrose manager, currently coaching youths in America, said: “I’m surprised at what has happened because it shouldn’t be hard to lift yourself to play for Rangers.
“Normally when a manager moves on, as was the case when Ally McCoist left, there’s a bit of a spark but we didn’t see that at all at the weekend. The players must have it in their minds they’ve a new man to impress, whether it be Kenny McDowall, Billy Davies or someone else.
“Whoever takes that job in the long run is going to want players they can count on but there weren’t many who showed at the weekend they are reliable.
“It was different when we won the league in 1994. Winning cups with Rangers was great but sometimes it was hard to get over the line in the league because we were so far ahead.
“I’m not saying we couldn’t motivate ourselves but we just expected it to happen at some point and knew it would come.
“I remember the game at Easter Road where we lost and to then win the league without winning at Kilmarnock once again was just an anti-climax.
“We celebrated a bit but with it being the club’s sixth championship, it had become a habit and we were disappointed not to do it in style. It’s not that there wasn’t excitement. The first time we won it when I was in the team it was great but that year it was just a relief to win the title. At least we could say then we had delivered that. Now I think the players will be a little bit ashamed of what is happening.
“I’ve coached in the lower leagues myself so I know what it’s like. There are some places that aren’t the most glamorous to play at and can be hard to lift yourself there.
“But if you’re going to Easter Road or Tynecastle, where there’s a good atmosphere and it’s like playing in the top division again, there shouldn’t be any problem with motivation.
“If you can’t get yourself set to play there for Rangers there’s something far wrong. The players can feel sorry for themselves that they’ve lost their manager all they want. But they’re getting paid well and they’re playing for a huge club. You can talk about the club’s money problems but when you’re out on the field you don’t think about any of that.
“That’s just an excuse. They are professional players who are getting well looked after and they have to do more. There are so many footballers who are out of work who would love to be in their position and they’ve got to do a lot better.”
A total of 12 Rangers players will be out of contract at the end of the season, including Kris Boyd, Kenny Miller, Jon Daly and recently-appointed coach Lee McCulloch.
Kyle Hutton, Bilel Mohsni, Steve Simonsen, Lee Robinson, Ian Black, Richard Foster, Stevie Smith and Darren McGregor are also on deals which are due to expire in the summer.
Robertson is adamant if current performance levels continue very few will be kept on.
He added: “If they’re showing no heart playing for Rangers in a lower league that’s not good for them. It will be hard for them to get another deal at Rangers. But if it doesn’t work out for them there, who is going to take a chance on them elsewhere?
“They can come out in newspapers and say they are disappointed with how they played but if it keeps happening there are serious problems. Rangers were a bit unlucky at Hearts because they were the better team for a lot of the first half, even for a spell after they had a man sent off. But to go two goals down in 12 minutes at Hibs then not respond is not good at all and if that kind of thing is going to happen it is maybe time some of the players moved on.
“In the Third Division and League One, where Rangers were strolling to titles, even a draw with somebody resulted in talk about the wheels falling off.
“This is different. You’ve got to win every game and the older players should be experienced enough to bring the rest through and back into form but it isn’t happening. When you’ve got players such as Miller saying they’ve lost their bottle, that’s really sad. Him and Boyd should be helping the others.”
Robertson sees no way back in the title race for his old side. He fears if Rangers’ slide doesn’t stop soon things could get worse and they could be in danger of missing out on the play-offs.
Robertson said: “You would think at worst they will end up in the top four but if they continue the way they are going even that won’t be assured. Hibs are only four points behind Rangers now and Queen of the South and Falkirk aren’t far off after that. It could be a real embarrassment. They’ve got to be careful they don’t finish third or worse.”
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