Ten years is a long time in football. For a Rangers fan it is an eternity! Ten years ago, Rangers were in the Champions League drawing with Barcelona and beating the French and German champions. They were also about to embark on an incredible run to the UEFA Cup Final with a squad providing the nucleus of the Scotland National Team, where at various times 13 different Rangers players were called up over the 2007/2008 period.
Fast forward to the current day. Out of Europe at the first hurdle and no players in the Scotland squad. There are, of course, Scotland caps in the current team with Graham Dorrans, Lee Wallace, Danny Wilson and Kenny Miller. Ryan Jack is in the top ten list of all time for under 21 caps and has a call up to the Senior squad but has yet to make a full appearance. Michael O’Halloran is in great form for St Johnstone and was capped at Under 21 level, but Pedro Caixinha has already stated he won’t be back at Rangers, you never know though the troubled left-hand side/number 10 role needs to be sorted and I’d take MOH over Miller any day of the week!
Let’s face it though, Wallace is third choice left back. Dorrans, even when he was in decent form for Norwich last year was miles out of the picture, Barry Bannan, James Morrison and James McArthur blocking his path. Morrison and McArthur is one thing but Bannan? With the emergence of John McGinn, Gordon Strachan has catapulted him into the Scotland squad and doesn’t look like dropping him anytime soon either, making it even less likely for a return for Dorrans.
Miller has obviously retired from international football and Wilson even if he was playing his best football would still be behind Grant Hanley who could go through the whole season without kicking a ball and still get selected! I’m not suggesting Wilson should get picked but Scotland are very short in his position with Charlie Mulgrew, Russel Martin (who is never a centre half by the way!) and Christophe Berra the only experienced options. Wilson is young enough to make a return to the squad but only if he learns from Bruno Alves.
Ryan Jack is probably the most likely to get a call-up. Scott Brown and Darren Fletcher are currently the players in possession of the water carrier role. Given their experience, they will not be losing their place in the squad any time soon. However, both, for differing reasons do not have long at international level and Jack, like Wilson, must put himself into the position where his club form makes it impossible not to call him up. He has started his Rangers career positively and the Old Firm games this year will be the biggest indicator of what Jack is truly capable of.
If Rangers do improve and are successful in the next 2-3 years, with a core of Scottish players, there is no reason why there shouldn’t be 4-5 Rangers players in the Scotland squad. Unless, like Wallace, there are players ahead of them playing at a higher-level week in-week out then there can’t really be any complaints. But there will continue to be an apathy towards the Scotland team from Rangers fans if the likes of Barry Bannan and Grant Hanley are selected with more competent alternatives available.
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Pedro Caixinha announced his transfer policy by declaring he wanted a core of Scottish players. Ideally, players that support the club too, knowing that would give them the extra 5% that we saw ten years ago with the likes of David Weir, Lee McCulloch, and Barry Ferguson etc. He has openly targeted Kenny McLean and Jamie Walker, both parent clubs setting unrealistic transfer fees so Rangers will no doubt go again when the valuation is significantly reduced or when the players are available on free transfers. As long as the players are good enough this is always a good strategy to adopt, even the controversial Naismith has to be considered as a viable replacement for Miller.
It will be interesting to see who else he goes for in the New Year, I can’t help but think we have missed out with Jason Cummings and Calum Paterson both leaving for around £1m combined. Add an interested and motivated Barry McKay to this duo and for £1.5m you have three decent, young Scottish players that could easily have been plying the trade at Rangers together. With Liam Kelly, Ross McCrorie, Robbie McCrorie, Liam Burt and Ryan Hardie all regular under 21 players there is hope for the future if they can break through into the first team of course. Rangers are also well represented at under 17 and 19 levels. Caixinha seems keen to promote these players if they are showing the level required to play for the club.
Out of the players Pedro has bought so far only Dalcio (on loan thankfully) hasn’t really looked up to the job with Pena improving every game and Herrera being an asset if the team plays to his strengths. Rangers fans should have every trust that he will sign the right players for the club, you never know we might even see Rangers players getting called up for the Scotland squad in the future, stranger things have happened!