Rangers’ liquidation saw them placed under a transfer embargo, forcing them to blood youngsters from their youth academy to play games in SFL3, now Scottish League 2. Having been given 2 months before the embargo was enforced, and enjoying this summer without it, there’s incredulously a long, long line of Scottish Premiership players queuing up to join Rangers, but is it the best move for these talented players’ careers?
The argument is still rife in Scotland, does Rangers’ liquidation mean they are a completely different club or not? Do they retain their world record 54 league titles? The stark reality is that it simply does not matter. The club is made up of the same men behind the scenes, the youth set-up, training complex, stadium and most importantly fans. The fans of Rangers have turned out in force to see their team, with more than 30 000 regularly turning up to watch lower league football. It’s this impressive support that allows Rangers to attract some of the best players in the country, providing the players with the opportunity to play in front of big crowds in a UEFA approved 5 star stadium, collecting a tidy weekly sum in the process.
Marius Zaliukas is the latest Premiership name to be linked with the Govan side, after leaving Hearts under freedom of contract at the end of last season, the Lithuanian former Jambos captain is training with Rangers with a view to signing. Zaliukas is not the first defender to switch from Hearts to Rangers, Lee Wallace was one of the first Premiership players to quit for the lower leagues. Since his move to Rangers, Wallace has played almost every game at left back, and is one of the Bears’ most consistent performers. His turnouts have been so impressive that he’s even managed to get himself a call up for Scotland, with left back being a problem position for the national team.
Wallace is walking, talking proof for other Scottish youngsters to see that they can switch to Ibrox and still have opportunities to get into the national team, which is extremely beneficial to the club in order to improve their squad.
But it’s not always a happy ending like Lee Wallace. The most bizarre capture for Rangers was Nicky Law.
Law moved up north to Motherwell, having impressed Motherwell manager Stuart MacColl during his time at Bradford. Law instantly set the SPL alight, with consistent, scintillating performances in the centre of the park, providing guile and creativity to contrast Keith Lasley’s combative, tough tackling style. Much of last season’s POTY drama in the media was based on why not one Celtic player was involved, but the real mystery was how Nicky Law did not even get a nomination.
When the end of season came, Law turned down a new deal at Fir Park and was free to join whoever he wished, and I thought he was nailed on to join a Championship side, with no doubt in my mind he’d be able to hold hos own. However the lure of Ibrox (and probably a five-figure wage) proved to be enough to sway the Englishman, who, at 24, has swapped the English Championship for Scottish League 1. There can be no arguments that the championship provides many more opportunities to progress and develop as a player than any league in Scotland, so it seems a strange decision to many on the outside.
Gary Hooper is proof that no matter how good you are, you won’t get a game for the English national team if you play in Scotland, and Law has sacrificed his (albeit low) chances of ever getting an England call-up.
Law is joined in the Rangers midfield by former Hearts winger, David Templeton. Templeton when on form is a class act. Picking the ball up in deep areas and taking on defenders, with a final ball to match. An old fashioned winger, he broke onto the scene at Hearts at 18, and made the right wing position his own. His final game for Hearts was a UEFA Europa League tie against Liverpool at Anfield. With the reds off form, Templeton lit Anfield up, undoubtedly the best player on the park and scoring an away goal that forced extra time. Whilst Hearts crashed out to Liverpool after extra time, national newspapers were all about David Templeton. With Hearts in a difficult financial position, Templeton had put himself right at the front of the shop window, and Hearts would have been resigned to accept almost any offer.
They did – but it wasn’t a club down South. Templeton joined Rangers, and has failed to hit the level he did in his last season at Tynecastle. His place in the Scotland squad has been lost to Dundee United ace Gary Mackay-Steven, and he now competes with an another former SPL star, Dean Shiels, for the right midfield berth.
No fewer than 8 players have left Scotland’s premier division for Rangers, and whilst some of them are getting on a bit (Daly, Shiels, Black), the club does retain some of their old power to attract good, young, quality players. Players willing to give up their international careers to star for Glasgow Rangers. As a Celtic fan, there will always be accusations of bias, but for me, it seems these stars are sacrificing a lot for a little. While the moves for the ageing Daly and Shiels make sense outside of Rangers, the moves of Law, Templeton and goalkeeper Cammy Bell, don’t. I would love to say that it’s the lure of playing at Forfar Athletic’s Station Park on a freezing col Saturday afternoon, but I would not be surprised to hear their bulging pay packets have something to do with it….