With Joey Barton suspended by the club and looking like he’s played his last game for Rangers, the news that Niko Kranjcar’s season has been ended by a torn anterior cruciate ligament won’t be particularly well-received by Rangers boss Mark Warburton. After strolling to promotion last season with a young, hungry squad Warburton looked to add more experience to his squad for Rangers’ first crack at the Premiership in five years. Kranjcar and Barton were joined at Ibrox by another NINE new faces (including fellow veterans Clint Hill, Matt Gilks and Philippe Senderos) but does the loss of two of the clubs ‘marquee’ signings really pose much of an issue?
The signing of Barton was heralded by most (if not all) as something of a coup for Rangers and, despite Barton’s bluster on Twitter, he never really delivered what was expected in his brief stint. Then there’s the whole suspension thing. Kranjcar was a little different. No-one questioned his ability as a footballer but after a stint in the, perceived, footballing wilderness of North America there were questions about his fitness.
A slow start to his Ibrox career finally started to show signs of reaping rewards as Kranjcar began to show his quality; his two appearances before injury were probably his best, and he was winning over early doubters. When news broke of his injury, there was a definite sense among fans that Rangers were losing a player of real quality but the Rangers midfield haven’t missed a step since the Croatian was hurt.
The trio of Josh Windass, Andy Halliday and Jason Holt have looked comfortable together in the middle of the park and appear to be more at ease with the high-tempo, pressing game Warburton prefers. Halliday is in a run of goal-scoring form, Windass has consistently impressed since his move from Accrington and Holt is the type of player every team should want. A constant ball of energy, harrying opponents and making space for teammates to pass into while regularly looking to get beyond the striker and drag the opposition defence all over the place. Saturday’s win over Kilmarnock was as good a performance from a Rangers midfield as any since the Scottish Cup semi final win over Celtic back in April and with Matt Crooks nearing full fitness and Jordan Rossiter, apparently, close to a return there is still a wealth of options available.
Harry Forrester and Barrie McKay could also move into a more central position if needed so the loss of Kranjcar and Barton doesn’t seem to be a huge issue. Both are talented players and both should definitely be able to perform in the Scottish Premiership but as it looks like we’re not going to see either in light blue again for a considerable time, if again, we (to borrow a phrase from Mark Warburton) move on and go again.