Could He Be Magic?

When Rangers first signed Michael O’Halloran from St Johnstone I thought instantly of one player – Allan Johnston.

Johnston used to torment Rangers, the hat-trick at Ibrox the obvious highlight. He only scored a dozen or so league goals for Hearts but I could swear they were all against us! Johnston was your archetypal maverick. He reeked of inconsistency. But he could also be a magician.

And this brings me on to O’Halloran.

He can single-handedly win points for your club. St Johnstone would be seriously struggling but for the early season form of O’Halloran. When he first arrived, we knew we were getting a player with pace, power, a player that could beat a man and get a cross in. He would also chip in with a goal or two. What’s not to like?

The problem when MOH arrived was Mark Warburton’s tactics. They weren’t designed to get the best out of players like O’Halloran, Josh Windass, Barrie McKay or Martyn Waghorn. Slow possession led to wide attacking players getting the ball, more often than not, with two defenders in the vicinity. Rangers had plenty of pace but attacked at a pedestrian rate.

Warburton also had a bad habit of playing players out of position and/or not giving them a run in the team. Destroying confidence of players in positions where confidence is key to success.

But, it wasn’t all The Bread Man’s fault. O’Halloran seemed to have lost his spark. He wasn’t attacking the full backs, he wasn’t creating many chances and he wasn’t scoring goals. Soon it looked like he wasn’t interested and he fell out of favour. Things only got worse when Pedro arrived. We’ve heard various stories about their relationship not being great from the beginning of Pedro’s ill-fated reign. Pedro going as far to say that some footballers just can’t handle being a Rangers player. The jersey is too heavy.

Michael O’Halloran has a second chance. He only needs to look at Windass for inspiration on how to turn fans’ opinion 180 degrees. It helps being played in the right position though! With the signing of Jamie Murphy and Daniel Candeias’ form as the league’s best chance creator MOH needs to realise he has to bide his time and contribute when he is called upon. Without being spectacular, he showed a good attitude in his 45 minute Florida Cup appearance. He got to the by-line a few times and looked threatening. He also worked hard to get the ball back if he gave it away. It’s a start at least. He needs to learn how to make his own space, don’t always sit on the last defender. Look at Candeias’ assist for Windass the other night, he dropped deeper dragging the full back with him and created the space in behind to run into. He needs to be smarter otherwise his second coming may be short-lived.

The comparison with Johnston is that he has a great chance to succeed at a big club. He is 26 and will not get a similar opportunity. He can either flit in and out of the first team or he can make a real effort to adapt to Graeme Murty’s plans and get stuck in. Murty seems to be a carrot rather than stick sort of guy and this could suit O’Halloran. He’s never going to be Laudrup, Walters or Cooper but he has shown he is more than good enough for this league at St Johnstone, he now needs to do it for us.

We all (some of us) wrote off Windass but you could argue that he is our most dangerous attacking player now when utilised through the middle, and who would have seen that coming……?