Can Rangers win next season’s Scottish Premiership?
Robbie Purves | May 19, 2016
After a four-year absence, Rangers will now join Scotland’s top-flight after galloping to the Championship crown. Gers will now hope to challenge their bitter rivals Celtic after the Hoops lifted their fifth consecutive title.
Scottish football has severely missed the Teddy Bears’ presence in the Premiership, both financially and for the prestige of the league. The division has become a rather dull, predictable affair with the Bhoys stomping their way to victory after victory.
As Mark Warburton’s men prepare for life in the Premiership, we take a look at Rangers’ chances at causing an upset next term, by winning the title with Coral having the Gers at 3/1 to lift the league title next year.
Warburton key to Rangers renaissance
Manager Warburton – the first Englishman to manage the club when he succeeded Stuart McCall in June last year – has instilled a winning mentality that saw them conquer the Scottish Championship by 11 points with an incredible goal difference of +54.
Under the guidance of Warburton, the team blossomed as he carefully cultivated his side.
The ex-Brentford boss introduced an attacking style when he took over last summer and worked with a select group of players, none of which were big flashy signings, and moulded them into a fast-passing, athletic, ruthless unit with the help of his assistant David Weir.
Even before Rangers’ promotion was confirmed, the manager was asked if they could provide a credible challenge to their Glasgow rivals, he replied: “My expectation is that we have to go into that league and be highly competitive. I view highly competitive as that we’ve got to be a very, very tough team to beat and to break down and that we go into games expecting to win.”
Gers brimming with talent
Rangers are oozing with Premiership level talent and have a few individuals that really lit up their campaign this year.
Veteran Kenny Miller and Martyn Waghorn formed a formidable partnership up-front and registered an impressive 38 goals in all competitions this season. Miller possesses a fantastic record against the club’s Scottish Cup final opponents Hibernian and will hope to take this into this weekend’s Hampden clash.
Captain Lee Wallace remains a reliable performer, with the left back registering an outstanding nine goals and 13 assists in all competitions.
Wallace, who has been part of Gers’ journey from the depths of Scottish football, is a player that could have easily gone to a higher level elsewhere throughout his career. This could also be said for skilful midfielder Jason Holt, a talent that had English Championship sides interested on his services following an encouraging loan spell with Sheffield United last term.
On the other side of the defensive line, there is the immensely talented James Tavernier – who Warburton plucked from Bristol City. The 24-year-old right back scored 10 and notched a superb 18 assists in the club’s various competitions.
Another positive is local boy Andy Halliday, the midfielder started 47 of a possible 49 games this campaign and is the linchpin on which the Glasgow side operate – his battle with Scott Brown in the Scottish Cup semi-final was fascinating. Speaking after the clubs promotion Halliday said: “We’ve got to be challenging for the title, that’s not me being arrogant or disrespectful to Celtic at all.”
Incoming Ibrox overhaul?
If Hearts’ fantastic campaign in which they finished third after being promoted tells you anything, it is that you do not have to overhaul a winning, quality squad for the sake of it. The Jambos were not subjected to wholesale changes and are now one of the best teams in the league with superb coaching and management. Organic growth and development has served the Tynecastle team well so far and why shouldn’t it be the same at Ibrox?
Gers are not totally out of the troubled chopping financial waters just yet, and the transfer budget is understood to be largely still determined by the number of season ticket sales.
Warburton is capable of identifying talent available for a small price and has extensive knowledge of the football league; James Tavernier and Martyn Waghorn are noteworthy examples. Josh Windass, son of English Football League cult hero Dean, and Matt Crooks have already been signed on pre-contracts as Rangers look set to continue their sensible spending.
Niko Kranjcar and Joey Barton have been rumoured to be heading to Ibrox this summer and would add extra quality and experience to a young side. Barton in an Old Firm derby would be a sight to see.
Hearts finishing third on their first season back in the top flight should spur Rangers. If Gers keep the talented core they have and pepper the squad with some extra talent, then there is no limit to where the side can finish next year.