There are several reasons for taking a punt on a seasoned professional. Your club might need a short-term solution, for example, Andy Goram playing for Manchester United. There may be a lot of good young players at the club but they need a wise head to offer guidance and leadership. Every club does it and Rangers are no different. These are my “Three Of A Kind” veterans that made a difference for the boys in blue.
Probably the most obvious one if we are being honest. Weir had spent eight years in England’s Premier League defending against the best strikers European football had to offer. When he was signed at 36 (nearly 37) there weren’t many fans that thought it was more than a stop gap to the end of the season. Along with Ugo Ehiogu, he was brought in by Walter Smith after the departure of Paul le Guen to solidify the defence and they performed admirably.
Weir hadn’t always been a centre half though. He was a free scoring centre forward in his US College days, indeed, earning a MVP award one season prior to his return to Falkirk at the age of 22.
Weir stayed for five trophy laden seasons, winning the league three seasons in a row. With Carlos Cuellar he formed the spine of the 2007/08 season including the run to the UEFA Cup Final. Incredibly Weir hardly missed a game, playing 61 times at the age of 37. A testament to how he looked after himself and how well he was playing. He left the club and retired in the week of his 41st birthday, I reckon he could easily have continued as a squad player at least.
Yes, the Mark Warburton era sullied his reputation, many Rangers fans felt he was the manager in waiting. We all know how that ended though.
I prefer to remember Weir for his time at the club as a player, hardly missing a game, forming great partnerships with Cuellar and Bougherra. Not only was he one of the best veterans, you could argue he was one of the best free transfers ever signed.
World Cup winner playing at Dundee? Even to this day it must be one of the most bizarre transfers in football history. Claudio Caniggia at Dundee. Imagine if Gabriel Batistuta turned up at Hamilton or Romario at St Mirren? He was some player, Caniggia.
He had years of personal and mental health issues in what should have been his “peak” years. His body had a few years of not playing very often, maybe explaining his longevity at the top level.
He stuck out like a sore thumb at Dundee. In true Rangers fashion (under Dick Advocaat) any opposition player who was decent against us would invariably get signed. Caniggia was no different, even at the age of 34.
Caniggia was ridiculously fit, still rapid and not just “for his age’. He was also a very clever footballer. Some of his link up play in his 50-odd games for Rangers was exquisite. His recall to the Argentina squad demonstrating his consistency. I always felt Caniggia suffered under Advocaat’s reign of 23 strikers and only 2 places available. If he was part of a group of three or four we might have seen greater consistency in our front line. I always thought he linked particularly well with Tore Andre Flo and added a good balance to the attack.
He won a League Championship and two League/Scottish Cups each in his two seasons at the club. Alex McLeish getting the best out of him winning five trophies in a row including the 2002/03 treble winning season.
If you didn’t see him the first time round or have forgotten just how good he was, have a look on YouTube, he always rose to the big occasion. He was instrumental in most big games in Big Eck’s team. A pleasure to have a true great not only grace our club but perform so admirably in the twilight of his career.
A case of what might have been for Niko. He was never the quickest or fittest and having been playing pub league football in the USA he was always playing catch up when he joined Rangers in 2016. Just as he was starting to impact games he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, effectively ending his football career.
He returned the following season but was noticeably slower and could barely make the sixty-minute mark. If we had been watching a successful team at the time we might have enjoyed his cameo appearances. But he was hardly part of a vintage Rangers squad.
What we did see was flashes. Flashes of his touch, passing range, finishing and free-kick taking skills. An outstanding technical player, he just had no legs left, his brain miles ahead of his own body and those around him. Wrong place at completely the wrong time for the uber talented and ridiculously handsome Croatian.
That’s this week’s “Three of a Kind”, we’ve signed plenty of old timers over the years, for me, these ones stick out and will never be forgotten.