It may only be November but the upcoming January transfer window looks like it could prove critical to Mark Warburton’s long-term aspirations as Rangers manager. Last summer saw a massive departure from Warburton’s typical signing and a move towards bringing in more experienced players, and much older. players; of the eleven who joined Rangers in the summer, five were over the age of 30 while none of the thirteen players signed in 2015/16 had hit the age of 30. There were also a number of younger players who came in like Jordan Rossiter, Matt Crooks and Josh Windass who are in the early part of their career and come with undoubted potential but the additions thirty-somethings of Matt Gilks, Philippe Senderos, Clint Hill, Joey Barton and Niko Kranjcar hasn’t had the effect Warburton would have hoped it would have on his side. With Celtic streets ahead in the title race and second place looking nowhere near a formality, is January Warburton’s last chance to get it right at Ibrox?
Despite the Scottish Cup semi-final win over Celtic last April, few Rangers fans expected to return to the top-flight and instantly go back to challenging for the league title without a massive injection of quality in the side; something which was made even clearer after the Scottish Cup final defeat to Hibs. The signing of Joey Barton early days after the final had fans thinking the club, maybe, a title challenge could be on, and when Niko Kranjcar followed soon after there was, despite their ages, even more confidence amongst Bluenoses that incoming Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers wasn’t going to have it all his own way in his debut season in Scottish football.
With a glaring need for defensive reinforcement, Rangers looked at a variety of options throughout the summer (including Steven Taylor, Adrian Mariappa, Oguchi Onweyu and Joleon Lescott) before settling on signing Philippe Senderos and Clint Hill and adding Northern Ireland international full-back Lee Hodson. Joey Barton and Niko Kranjcar joined Jordan Rossiter, Josh Windass and Matt Crooks in an expanded Rangers midfield and Joe Dodoo and Joe Garner were added to an attack that relied far too heavily on Kenny Miller. Completing the summer rebuild was ex-Scotland keeper Matt Gilks to provide competition/back-up for Wes Foderingham. It wasn’t exactly the quality same 1992/93 team or Advocaat’s first season but there looked to be reason to have some hope that 55 could, maybe, just happen. And then the season started.
Niko Kranjcar was a mile off the pace before going down with a season-ending cruciate tear, Joey Barton was all-talk, got himself suspended by the club and walked away with a cheque for £250k, Philippe Senderos played a couple games and hasn’t been seen since and Jordan Rossiter will be ready for Saturday. With the best part of £70k per week doing anything other than playing for Rangers, Warburton really needs to get his signings right in January. Barton’s ‘mutual termination’ will free up some money for wages and Warburton has already spoken about possibly bringing a loan signing in from the Premier League. Ex-West Ham midfielder Diego Poyet is the latest name to have been linked with a move to Ibrox in the winter window; Poyet left the Hammers during in August and we spoke to a Charlton fan who watched him make the breakthrough at The Valley before returning for a second stint on loan a few years later.
Come January, Rangers wont be looking at anything like the number of new signings that came in during the summer but if Warburton is to have any chance of seeing his plan through the he’ll need to make sure that, alongside head of recruitment Frank McParland, he gets his transfer business spot on in the new year.