Going into the 2016/17 season as a Rangers fan was, probably, the oddest experience I’ve had in 25 years of supporting the Gers. The summer of 2012 was horrible for it’s own, obvious reasons but this year I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a wide range of expectations for the season ahead. If you listened to the quotes coming from within the club then everything was geared towards being “competitive” with Celtic but, realistically, being happy with a second place finish (although anyone who follows the club’s social media channels would, maybe, have been more enthused by the Going for 55 hashtag). Supporters demanded everything from a league title at the first time of asking to simply avoiding the drop back into the Championship but after the first quarter of the season, what makes a successful season for the Light Blues?
It’s probably fair to say the league is over. Too many draws, added to the 5-1 thumping at Celtic Park, have killed off any hope of securing 55 and securing second place HAS to be the priority now for Rangers. Being this far off Celtic so early in the season isn’t good enough but there’s still a long way to go in the season to, at least try, close the gap. Aberdeen and Hearts will both want to make second place their own but with the players at Warburton’s disposal anything less would have to be considered a huge failure. Finishing second would mean a place in Europe and Europa League qualification through the league would be a nice boost and bring European nights back to Ibrox for the first time in far too long.
Any hopes of lifting the League Cup are after being knocked out by Celtic in the semi-final and the Scottish Cup is the only chance now at any silverware. The club last won the Scottish Cup in 2009 and, after last year’s final, there will be more than a few players in the squad desperate make amends and win it. If the Gers DO make it to the final and win, it’ll probably come down to the side’s league position if the season can be viewed as a success.
With difficult games against Aberdeen, Hearts and Celtic coming up soon there will need to be a real turnaround in form to have any chance of the season not being a write-off before the calendar has changed over to 2017. Put together a run of wins though and it could really be a turning point in Rangers’ season. Second place and a cup win is as good as it can get now this season but there’s absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t be the aim. The loss of Kranjcar will obviously have an impact, and the Joey Barton farce, but, if only for the sake of his own long-term employment prospects, Warburton HAS to finish second.
And then the hard work really begins.