Is That Really The Best The Scottish Sports Media Has To Offer?

Sometimes, it’s pretty easy to dismiss criticism of the club. It’s even easier to find yourself railing against it from an emotional viewpoint, especially when said criticism seems to be nonsense. Those reactions are often more than adequate. There are occasions, though, where it’s worth a bit of engagement and deeper analysis, and in the case of Keith Jackson’s piece yesterday, I think that’s true. This is someone considered an important voice in many circles when it comes to Scottish football. In 2017, he was Sports News Writer of the Year. This year, he was runner-up. He should be pretty good at his job, yes?

There will be many who haven’t read it. I wouldn’t advise going on to the site or buying the newspaper to do so. There’s quite a bit being said, so let’s break it down and see how we feel.

“On Friday Gerrard will clock on for the first time as the new manager of Rangers. And when he walks through the doors at Auchenhowie flanked by his old friend and long-term mentor Gary McAllister, the pair of them will be stepping into the single biggest challenge of their combined careers.”

In truth, that’s not entirely unfair. For all of the challenges Gerrard faced as a player, management will be far more difficult. Gary McAllister obviously has managerial experience, and it’s worth noting that this isn’t mentioned in the article. His time at Coventry, Leeds and Aston Villa when all three clubs had their own struggles will give him some indication of the challenge in front of him. That’s something which shouldn’t be ignored, I’d have thought.

So what’s the challenge in the eyes of Jackson then? He praises Gerrard and McAllister before spelling out what he sees from the club.

“A youth department that fails consistently on its duty to deliver players fit for the first team.”

With regards to the first-team, Ross McCrorie is the only one from our youth department playing regularly right now. Does that mean we consistently fail? I’d argue not. Bigger clubs who are expected to win every match rarely have a number of their own youth players in the team. You get exceptions over the years, but a return of two or three players over the course of a few seasons is probably the average. If you consider Bates to have been a signing rather than a developed player, we’ve had McKay and McCrorie in the past few seasons who were fit for the first team. There’s been contributions from others in limited matches, but we probably sit around the level expected. Our youth department has seen some huge changes in recent years, none more so than losing a number of prospects when the club was demoted. We’re nowhere near consistently failing here, and I fully believe we’re about to see some good return from the improvements we’ve made.

“A director of football not remotely qualified or equipped for the position.”

This is a nonsense statement. Mark Allen has a full UEFA Coaching A licence. The role of a Director of Football has to include some business nous, which Allen certainly has. Seven years as Academy Director at Manchester City is a pretty decent grounding for a role as a Director of Football. If these are things Jackson sees as “not remotely qualified,” I’d love to know what is required.

“A managing director who can’t decide what colour of underpants to put on unless he’s told in an email from Johannesburg.

A board without a chief executive that brings new meaning to the word dysfunctional but refuses to give up any of its power for the betterment of the club.

An absentee chairman on permanent combat mode who also happens to be locked in a long-running feud with the Takeover Panel which could yet have very serious ramifications all around. A chaotic backdrop of internal squabbling, uncontrollable egos and personal agendas which all seem to come before the actual job of putting a winning team on the pitch.”

It’s all getting a bit personal now, isn’t it? I’m not too sure why the lack of a chief executive is such a big deal if the role is somewhat redundant in the structure at Rangers. This was the part Jackson hoped would make the biggest impact, yet it’s the most easily ignored. You don’t like Dave King – we get it.

“Overseen by a PR machine that belongs to Soviet Russia.”

I think there’s plenty of mistakes made by the PR team at Rangers. Hyperbole like that is just Jackson trying to wind up James Traynor. Their ongoing public spat is pretty boring now.

“And that’s before Gerrard and McAllister have even made it across the training complex and into a dressing room that is awash with averageness and littered with no-hopers, clinging for dear life to the kind of contracts no other club in football would have been daft enough to give them.”

And here is the crux of it. Rangers fans know that there’s a number of players who haven’t performed, and many who need to be sold. The wage bill is manageable despite that. If you look back at the sort of comments Jackson and many others were making about the Celtic squad when Rangers beat them in the Scottish Cup semi-final, there wasn’t much difference to the above. At that time, he was adamant Lawwell had run the club poorly and should be held to account. Celtic made a good move bringing in Rodgers, who has used the squad he inherited more than signed players to replace them, and now the very same media can’t stop praising them.

The notion that Gerrard could have a similar effect on some of the current Rangers players doesn’t even get entertained. I understand that it won’t be easy. This was a squad who finished top scorers in the league and had a very strong away record. They’re not a completely lost cause, but a lot of work is required.

“Brighton’s third-choice centre-back Connor Goldson is not quite in the Skrtel category so Gerrard will not expect Rangers to have any difficulty getting that deal across the line. That negotiations have already been ongoing for longer than seems necessary is just another indication of the difficulty this Rangers regime has in getting things done.”

It’s the summer. Gerrard isn’t even in the door. Transfers are rarely done overnight these days, and earlier in the piece Jackson was critical of the money Rangers were spending on wages. Somehow, the club trying to negotiate the best deal it can is a sign of dysfunction. That just doesn’t stack up.

It’s the language used throughout that makes it difficult to give this piece any credence. The phrases are over the top, and the tone desperately negative. There is no doubt everything at Rangers requires improvement, but this article is typical of punditry in Scottish football. Fans are crying out for constructive, intelligent discussion, and this is what we’re served up instead.

If the points held up under scrutiny, that would be fine. They don’t even come close. If anyone wants an example of why print media and the “established” discourse on Scottish football is dying, Keith Jackson has provided the ultimate piece of evidence.