Following a short hiatus – I’m back in the land of the living and, more importantly, FM..!! The one constant at a footballing institution such as Rangers, and a point I’ve never avoided since day one is the emphasis placed upon winning and accumulating trophies. Hoovering up silverware is a prerequisite for me keeping my job as manager.
This, however, is not the rationale behind managing my boyhood heroes on Football Manager 2020. It’s all about the talented youth prospects within the club’s academy – and creating a pathway for each graduate from the under-18 side and into the senior squad. So, after our first successful year in the West-end of Glasgow, I’d to take a closer look at how we’ve managed to promote from within, trim some fat from a bloated squad, whilst seriously bolstering the clubs coffers in the process.
A quick glance at the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership table and everything looks present and correct once more. The main point of note being our domestic supremacy; halting our rivals’ march to a successive ninth league title in a row. Claiming a domestic treble shouldn’t ever be sniffed at, and I’ll freely admit that this season might very have been our best chance of doing so with the strength of squad available. From this point – it’s a case of out with the old and in with the new. That also means experience and quality making way for raw, untried potential.
We were able to surpass the lofty European expectations of our board by reaching the last sixteen of UEFA’s Europa League competition – losing cruelly to Lazio on away goals. Making the round of thirty-two was a requirement for Dave King and the board of investors so, to go one better is kudos to everyone involved within the club.
Can you re-build an all conquering side to go again, when supplementing senior departures with untried youth?
Throughout the initial campaign we’ve been quite aggressive in our approach to promoting talented academy graduates into the senior squad. Handing debuts to no fewer than fourteen players, with at least seven of those being able to provide sufficient rotational cover for their more experienced team mates; and in some cases we’ve even witnessed starting roles being made available due to player departure.
Following the close of the first season – a selection of influential players vacated the club – with Sheyi Ojo returning to Liverpool following his loan spell, and Steven Davis’ additional one year contract coming to an organic end.
This immediately provided scope for further promotion from within and, it’s my intention to fill these gaps in the team with returning loanees.
This was a tough call to make and, to be honest, one that I almost couldn’t give my seal of approval. Allan McGregor will undoubtedly earn his place on the Rangers hall of fame within time, but his second spell at Ibrox was to be cut short following a fallout over my apparent over-reliance on youth. With Robby McCrorie waiting in the wings following a productive loan spell at Queen of the South – I simply had to accept the £1 million offer for McGregor from relegated Leicester City. The difference in quality is there for all to see, although, with a successful few years as Rangers’ number one – we’re hoping Robby can make the position his own.
Our captain has left the building.
This was perhaps the toughest decision I’ve had to make since becoming Rangers manager. Tavernier is arguably the best player at the club, and has been instrumental in our approach to the game. However, we prepared for Tav’s departure well in advance, as I envisaged this day could very well be on the horizon. £28 million simply cannot be rejected for any player, never mind a full-back approaching his twenty-ninth birthday.
It was a tough call to make. When Brighton tabled their initial offer, Tavernier had already made his feelings known regarding a new and improved contract.
You can read more extensively about the wing-back situation and how we prepared for this eventuality well in advance – HERE.
I’ve been fielding a ball playing defender [cover] on the right side our central defensive pairing. I like one CB to attack the ball and the other to sit off and deal with scraps. Connor Goldson had a fairly strong season and remained ever present at the heart of our defence, however, when Norwich City tabled an initial offer of around £15 million, which I managed to drive all the way up to an eye-watering £30 million, simply by holding firm – not allowing the club to be undercut again in the transfer market. Clubs in the Premier League certainly have the money so, let’s see it..!!
George Edmundson steps directly into Goldson’s place. There’s not a great disparity when it comes to ability and, I’m sure you’ll agree that with time on Edmundson’s side – there’s scope for him to develop and perhaps earn the club a similar cash windfall when the time comes. Thus – the conveyor belt keeps turning, and so too the process of developing players to be sold on for maximum profit.
Sheyi Ojo returned to his parent club Liverpool, having been lured north of the border by my predecessor Steven Gerrard. Ojo managed to hit the net eight times and assist once during his stay in Glasgow, as the player racked-up eighteen appearances. I baulked when I clapped eyes on the agreed loan contract. £32,500k p/w and a monthly contribution of £83,000k. The Englishman was predominantly utilised as an inside forward on the right side where he was able to cut infield and onto his much favoured left foot – and that’s specifically where our very own returning loanee, Glenn Middleton will be deployed for the coming campaign. We don’t need to scrutinize each every attribute but, for example – let’s look at long shots. Middleton sees this attribute increased by four and, granted we don’t expect Glenn score with each shot he takes; at least he’s more likely to test the opposition goalkeeper with long range shots. Middleton is also our asset, therefor, freeing Ojo from his more than luxury loan deal was appropriate.
Messrs Kelly, McPake and Kennedy are maturing and developing as anticipated – with all three being integral parts of the senior squad.
Stephen Kelly takes the Steven Davis role following the legendary Northern Irishman’s retirement from the game.
Josh McPake returned to the club mid-season one after I decided to end his loan spell with Dundee – giving us more time to work with him in training. Josh has already contributed when called upon – and has been used effectively as an inside forward on the left side of the pitch – rotating with the mercurial Ryan Kent for a place in my starting eleven.
Kai Kennedy has been used in a similar fashion to McPake; dropping in-and-out of the side in central midfield [attack] or mezzala [attack] – normally making way for the excellent Joe Aribo if the situation fits.
I’m pleased with how things are shaping-up within the save game. Everything appears to be adhering to the original concept of the save.
We’ve now covered most of the young players making a name for themselves at Rangers.
I think – as we cultivate the squad and as it organically morphs into what we envisaged at the beginning; a side teeming with academy graduates – I’ll start focusing more and more on match tactics, performance and player progression as a whole.
Season two has the potential to be infinitely more difficult than the first. Brendan Rodgers and his Celtic side have bolstered their ranks to the tune of £54 million whilst we have arguably weakened ours by promoting directly from the academy.
Time will tell…
Oh, we did make two vital transfer acquisitions, however.