Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Naughty boys

Thanks to Scotland's relationship with the demon drink the extra curricular activities that attached themselves to the legend of Walter Smith's first time at Rangers are now looked back on with a certain fondness by some:

Ah, the drinking. What a laugh. Team bonding. The results proved that it worked.

Well, to an extent.

Maybe careers weren't ruined but how many were extended? Ally McCoist can come out unscathed, cheeky chappy image enhanced. Fair enough, but Gazza's excesses were tolerated as well.

His eventual car crash of a life may always have been inevitable but it would seem that Rangers, in common with his other clubs, did little to divert it as long he delivered on the pitch.

We choose to forget too that Rangers did bring some youngsters through at that time but how many stayed on track after exposure to the first team culture?

Yet Smith remains a man with an authoritarian reputation. His recall to Murray Park was partly to put an end to the stories of alleged insurrection and lack of professionalism that dogged the Le Guen era.

Last season all seemed fine. Smith's disciplinarian aura not only licked the team into shape, it also seemed to transform their whole effort in a UEFA Cup campaign that was, in a word, disciplined.

But at the same time persistent stories of Allan McGregor's apparently excessive "exercise" regime when off duty still hinted that some of these players harboured a certain disregard for keeping their heads down.

Then McGregor and club captain Barry Ferguson returned from Amsterdam and went on a bender. Smith made his feelings clear and told them to sit tight. In flicking two fingers at Scotland Ferguson and McGregor showed exactly what they thought of their manager.

Smith took action then and no doubt warned his entire squad over their future conduct.

Which can only lead you to the conclusion that Kyle Lafferty, perpetrator of one of this season's most shameful on-field incidents, has displayed the same callous disregard for Smith as Ferguson and McGregor did before him.

Would anybody be surprised to hear that Walter Smith had specifically told Kirk Broadfoot to eat only scrambled eggs?

Does any of this matter if Rangers win the title on Sunday. No, if we take the precedent of Smith's nine in a row heroics at face value, it doesn't.

But Smith himself will be aware that problems remain. Budgets are strained. The owner wants out and has charged Smith with delivering a profitable commodity. A team of winning idiots is preferable to a team of losing idiots but it remains a team of idiots.

Ferguson and McGregor look like being on the way out. For all his talk over the last week Smith would really be sending a message to those that replace them and those that they leave behind if Lafferty was shown the door as well.