Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Over and out

It seems hard to imagine now, having seen them dumped out of Europe with a match to spare, that Rangers’ Champion’s League group was actually interpreted as a cause for optimism when the draw was made. Not looking quite so easy now.

It was, in fact, a group of modest talents but one that still proved too much for Rangers to handle. Only Seville stood out as offering a top European pedigree and duly humiliated Rangers at Ibrox. Unirea, the newcomers from Romania, matched that 4-1 scoreline in Glasgow before Stuttgart completed an unfortunate treble with their 2-0 victory last night.

All very depressing for Rangers fans and for anyone who likes to keep an eye on Scottish football’s European co-efficient.

Where do Rangers go from here? The fans will point to the European travails as an excuse for more investment rather than more cost cutting. The businessmen and bankers currently trying to steady the ship are likely to take the opposite view.

January’s transfer window looms large. Allan McGregor has re-established himself and quality goalkeepers are always in demand. Madjijd Bougherra’s inability to catch a plane points to a man who knows his Glaswegian journey is coming to an end. Kris Boyd enjoys more popularity with the fans and suitors down south than he seems to with the Ibrox coaching staff.

Those would be the three most obvious departures, there may be more.

While Neil Alexander is a solid enough deputy in goals, Bougherra’s departure would leave Walter Smith dependent on a 17 year old, a 39 year old and a converted attacked to cover the two positions at the heart of defence. Boyd might lack something against the better sides but which team would not fear losing a man with an uncanny knack of scoring in the run of the mill league games that win titles?

All this will be occupying Walter Smith’s mind just now. But will he be around to oversee the transition after January? So far there is no word on his future or what sort of package Rangers would be able to put together to attract a replacement of the calibre that will be demanded.

By then, of course, a new owner might be in place, the debts eased and the club again building for the future. Or they might be continuing in this same, uneasy limbo.

Last night finally gave us the answer we had been expecting since the Romanian’s knocked in their third in Glasgow a few week weeks ago. Rangers out of Europe and deservedly so.

But most of the questions that have been asked of Rangers this season, both on and off the pitch, remain unanswered.

For now the fans, complete bystanders in most of this saga, can simply wait and hope.