Last week it was 2-1 to Hearts, this week it is 7-1 to Rangers. Last week the Rangers fans were in outrage over the manner in which we lost, the same place we won 4-0 last season. The cries came from everywhere; “Walter, your time is up!” and “Take McCoist and McDowall with you!”. It was the same old sentiment we have heard since last season, everytime we lose or draw and even sometimes even when we win, the fans are not satisfied. Such is the managerial seesaw.
This week however, the fans stopped in their tracks and read the final score just that little bit closer to let it fully sink into their conciousness. 7-1 it had finished at home – Rangers had closed the gap to 4 behind Celtic, our goal difference to had risen to 28 and we had recorded the biggest win in the SPL this season. The very same fans that were so sure the week before that it was time for a change were now left clearing their throats and changing their tunes.
Let us then take a brief look at what Walter Smith has accomplished since his return and his shortfalls – the ups and downs of his second reign in charge of the greatest team on the earth.
Smith had arrived at Ibrox Stadium after the semi-disastrous reign of the one-time rising star of European football management, Paul Le Guen. He brought with him Ally McCoist following a successful stint with the Scottish National side and a former Celtic youth coach in Kenny McDowell. All the ‘Gers fans rejoiced and quite rightly so considering the success he had brought to the club at his first reign during the 1990’s.
The fans were not disappointed either as uncle Walter promptly led the team on an unbeaten run at the end of the season to safely secure the club European football for the next season in second place. He has subsequently managed to win four games in a row against Celtic without conceding, something that has never been done before. This Indian sign he has over the Green and White side of Glasgow was highlighted at the start of this current season of course with the emphatic 4-2 victory at Celtic Park – something that will live long in the memories of many.
Yet it hasn’t always been sunny days for the managerial veteran. He has received a lot of criticism from the fans for his somewhat narrow team selection, his decision to leave out what many fans feel are key players and the making substitutions too late in matches to make any difference – just ask Kris Boyd about the UEFA Cup Final!
We have not yet won the SPL since his return, something that irks with many glory-hungry supporters who demand instant success from their team; especially since there was considerable investment in players last year. However, there was still considerable successes on the pitch since his return.
Last season he delivered twice to the trophy room in the form of the CIS Cup and the Scottish Cup; ending what felt like a very long trophy drought. To add to this, he dragged an unfavoured team to the UEFA Cup Final, along the way giving a whole new generation of Bears stories to tell their grandchildren and then but a mere matter of weeks later , he took the league to the wire on a final day where either side could have taken home the silverware.
On the surface it seems that progress was made in the league, yet when you take into consideration the fact we threw away a seven point lead over our rivals, it takes the gloss off it somewhat. Again though, compared to Paul Le Guen, he has done us very proud, albeit sometimes with negative tactics or “anti-football” as Lionel Messi so affectionately branded it after struggling to beat a dogged Rangers last season.
His team selections have also came under fire during his tenure. Last season his exemption of top scorer Kris Boyd from the vast majority of matches and his love of the 4-5-1 formation, ultimately may have cost us the league. He seems to have learned from his mistakes this term though as he is playing 4-4-2 and Boyd is getting regular appearances alongside other first team regular Kenny Miller. Perhaps this shift to 442 was player dependent and he is now confident that Miller is bringing out the best in Boyd. Or perhaps Boyds resurgence can simply be put down to the players personal drive and determination to be a success at the team he loves
In terms of the transfer market, Smith has bought and sold a number of players, something he was not shy to do during his first term either. The two most notable have been the acrimonious release of Carlos Cuellar to Aston Villa, our best player last season and the re-signing of Kenny Miller. Miller has been a revelation this term and no one would have guessed at how pivotal he has become and that he would be our second top goal scorer on seven goals – slotting two past Celtic in the first Old Firm game of the season. He has also brought in such players as Madjid Bougherra, Aaron, and midfield magician Pedro Mendes. Bourgherra eased the defensive transition since the departure of Cuellar and the capture of Mendes has brought more spark and culture to a midfield that looked at times bedraggled and heavy legged last season.
There is always two sides to any story and Walter Smiths time at Rangers is no exception. Every fan is entitled to his or her opinion and I will leave it up to every one of you out there to answer the question of Walter Smith. Should he stay, or should he go? It’s nothing more than a fairly typical managerial seesaw.
One minute you’re up, the next you’re down.
This article was written by UlsterBear91 and first published on Rangers Media. Please visit Rangers Media for more articles and discussions on all things Rangers FC.