Barry Ferguson believes Rangers should sort out their managerial situation by giving current incumbent Graeme Murty, in place until the end of the season, a new long-term contract. Craig Fowler looks at the situation at Ibrox right now and whether the club’s board should be listening to their former captain
At first glance this certainly feels like an overreaction. It’s only been a month since Rangers lost to Hibs at Ibrox for the second time this season, the latest in a string of humbling results that pull the rug out from under the club as they look to finally sustain some momentum. Since then they’ve won five straight in all competitions, but only one of those teams was against a top six opponent. Even then, visitors Hearts were not in great form when they visited Ibrox last Saturday.
Taking a step back, the bigger picture looks a little more positive. The Hibs defeat was preceded by three consecutive wins following the season’s restart after the winter break. And if we go back to a crucial meeting with Motherwell on 27 December - where it really looked like Murty would do well to last until 2018 had he lost - they’ve won nine and drawn one of 11 fixtures. Sure, there are a couple of cup games against lower league sides in there, but it’s certainly the most impressive run since The Banter Years started.
The January signings have certainly helped. If we discard Glenn Middleton for a second, as he was signed as a young project, the other five have all made an impact since coming in. Pedro Caixinha and Mark Warburton did get a few things right in the transfer market, but not with such consistency of acquisition, even if it is a small sample size. Exactly how much say Graeme Murty has in identifying targets is up for speculation, but this would be the case with any successor while Rangers have a director of football structure in place. The official line coming out of Ibrox is that he has final say on which players join his first-team squad, and this approach appears to be working better than anything else they’ve tried in recent seasons.
The next step the club want to take is a return to their pre-2012 embodiment. They need to be laying waste to the riff-raff of the league. Embarrassing black-eyes on the frequency in which they’ve experienced since their top flight return need to be reduced dramatically. The signs have been positive in recent weeks - the 4-1 destruction of St Johnstone was like a blast from the past in that respect - but you never feel like they’re very far from slipping on another banana skin. They need a manager that puts an end to all that.
With Celtic’s Champions League berths bringing in added financial clout, not to mention a manager the quality of Brendan Rodgers pulling the strings across the city, they won’t be fancied to become champions next term, regardless of who they hire. They just need someone who can at least get them into a legitimate race and then take it from there. Needless to say, the decision, whenever it comes, is of the utmost importance to the club and its fans.
If they were to make this decision now, they’d have to carefully weigh up the pros and cons, and the latter would to appear to outweigh the former. Solidifying Murty’s position as the boss beyond the next three months should certainly strengthen his voice within the dressing room. He would no longer be the substitute teacher, the fear factor would rise a couple of notches.
Furthermore, the players too could play without the concern that, regardless of how well they perform between now and May, they may still find themselves looking for new employment if a different coach walks through the door and decides he doesn’t like the look of them.
There is purpose in pulling the trigger for those reasons, as well as rewarding Murty for a job well done, but having waited so long to appoint a manager in the first place and continually stressed the importance of finding the right person for the job, it would represent a rather bizarre U-turn by the men in charge at Ibrox.
It would also be an unnecessary gamble. Rangers are going along fine at the moment and appear to be heading for second place and, if they can avoid Celtic in the semis, a Scottish Cup final appearance. But you never know which road bumps you’ll meet along the way. Even right now there’s the possibility that Jamie Murphy will miss some action with a broken toe. If he does, will the fluid attacking system constructed since the January additions continue to flow so effortlessly? How often have we thought Rangers were poised to turn a corner and show themselves, objectively, to be the second best team in the land, only for it to become another false dawn?
Human beings don’t handle uncertainly all that well, so it’s only natural to want a resolution quicker rather than later. But when it comes to giving Murty the job on a long-term basis, the Rangers board are actually right to do what they’re best at - wait. Give him time until the end of the season, see what he does and take it from there.