“What is Carlos Pena bringing to the Rangers team if he isn’t putting the ball in the back of the net?”
This is the most recent accusation doubting the Mexican’s footballing ability and worthiness of a start in a Rangers jersey, highlighted this week by Rangers legend Derek Johnstone.
As a former striker himself, DJ should know that the hardest thing in football is putting the ball in the back of the net. Whereas on the opposite side of the argument the easiest thing in football is playing the simple 5-yard pass, play what’s in front of you. Granted this is something which the Mexican has looked uncomfortable with at times this season.
I for one cannot understand why both Rangers and Pena, in particular, have come away from last week’s victory in Perth being criticised when they should be receiving praise regarding the result and performance.
There’s definitely a player within Pena. Don’t underestimate the skill and intent of the deft glancing header which he scored at Firhill in September, not many other players in the country would have had the awareness and ability to execute that finish, had it been a player in a green and white hooped jersey you can be sure it would have been given greater praise within the media circles.
The thing with Pena though, like Joey Barton before him, everything he does BADLY is scrutinised and blown up way out of proportion, yet the things he does well or better is downplayed because of his price tag and reputation.
MORE RANGERS STORIES
Listen, if people are going to criticise the guy for not linking play and being unable to make simple passes then it should be the polar opposite when he does something positive.
Outwith the 2 goals at McDiarmid Park, Pena did contribute to the overall team performance. Unsurprisingly missed by BT’s commentary duo of Sutton and Butcher, in the moments leading up to his first goal, Pena took a 55 yard pass out of the sky on the halfway line with the most delicate of touches, Instantly killing the ball with sublime control, so good was the first touch it allowed him to immediately send the ball forward with a controlled volley finding his teammate to continue the attack.
It wasn’t the resurrection of Paul Gascoigne in a Rangers jersey and by all means one small piece of skill and ability isn’t going to win over the doubters. Pena needs to turn these small flashes of ability into regular 90-minute performances. But there IS ability in abundance in him.
Pena isn’t going to get in people’s faces like a Gattuso, nor will he have the ball retention of Barry Ferguson or Pedro Mendes. His game is about finding pockets of space and creating or finishing chances within the final 3rd. He is not a typical central midfielder nor an out and out striker, but his attacking threat should not be ignored.
The frightening thing is, Pena cannot speak English as yet and despite all the nonsense that he should have acclimatised to the Scottish game by now, he has scored the same amount of league goals in the PREMIERSHIP for Rangers in October as Kris Boyd had scored in a full season in the CHAMPIONSHIP.
There was never a week went by in Boyds initial more successful spell at Ibrox where the same question wasn’t asked,
“If Kris Boyd isn’t scoring for Rangers what is he bringing to the team?”
Not much would be the answer. From the outside it looked like Boyd joined his boyhood heroes in 2006 hungry and humble, desperate to be a success, upon his return in 2014 it felt like this was a guy who had made his money in the game from his moves overseas and had lost his desire to be a success, still believing in his own hype and scoring exploits from his first spell at the club.
Quite simply if Boyd had shown the same effort and dedication as his old striking partner Kenny Miller then he may well have been finishing his career in light blue, trying to close in on Ally McCoist’s goalscoring records and further endearing himself to the Rangers support.
Sadly for Boyd he remains quite bitter about how his Rangers career ended.
This question posed by Derek Johnstone “What is he doing in a Rangers jersey if he isn’t scoring goals ?” Was eventually answered by Kris Boyd in a negative way. Kenny Miller started this season in the starting 11, was not playing well and more importantly WAS NOT SCORING. Pena has the jersey and with 4 goals in his last 6 games the manager has every right to stick with him.
Goals win football matches, but it appears that Pena’s goals coupled with Rangers victories these days should be reported negatively.
Don’t be surprised if Pena scores a double in the BetFred semi-final tomorrow against Motherwell and to wake up with the headlines on Monday showing both he and Rangers in a negative light.
Pena was brought in to make an impact on the big occasions. Yes he was posted missing in the Old Firm game last month and it further gave leverage to DJ’s argument of perhaps spending the money on Walker, McLean and Moult. Spare me the idea though that Aberdeen were ever going to allow Kenny McLean to come to Ibrox for anywhere near 1.5 million or less. In the classic case of Scott Allan the club have a right to say no thanks to being held to ransom when there is an opportunity to sign these players 6 months or 12 months down the line for next to nothing.
A semi-final victory against Motherwell is never going to be the pinnacle of any Rangers players career but this might just be the start of Pena and Co starting to further justify their worthiness of wearing that Rangers jersey.
Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller have been the heroes in light blue at Hampden before, I’m backing Pena to add his name to that list in the coming months, hopefully starting tomorrow.