James Tavernier and Martyn Waghorn's rejected contract offers from Rangers have caused a considerable stooshie since the news broke. We had the predictable claims that we were skint and couldn't afford to keep our players from the usual suspects, some worries from elsewhere, some claims it was all an invention, and some folk telling us to not worry about it and that it'd all be fine.
In this case, the latter group are probably closer to the truth. This is hardly a crisis - it's a normal event for any football club which is exacerbated because we're the biggest side in the country and have a media profile to match it (as well as recent financial problems which obviously cast a different light over things like this.) It is going to be widely reported and speculated on, because that's just what happens when it's Rangers. Nothing big to worry about.
And yet, it is still a task to be negotiated. Most of the tests that have come to the board and staff at the club have been passed with flying colours, so there's no real reason to assume the right decision won't be made here, either. Mark Warburton said to Sky Sports News today that the media had "gotten the wrong end of the stick" To get a little insight into the club's thinking on the matter, we can look at our chairman's thoughts. Just a few days before the story broke in the press, Dave King had this to say to the fans:
Once an employment contract is in place we expect both parties to enforce their rights and perform their obligations until the contract ends. However, it is an unfortunate feature of the modern global football world that agents often agitate for their players to be moved on while still under contract and in many instances use media leaks as a mechanism to promote and achieve this. From the agents' point of view it is a one-way bet. If a player is injured or due to a loss of form is not playing regularly then the Club is still obliged and expected to pay full wages as stipulated in the contract. If the opposite is true (which is every Club's hope) and the player is performing well for the Club then that agent wants to immediately renegotiate the contract upwards or agitate for a transfer of the player. That has obvious unwanted short-term complications for the Club.
In instances where we feel that a player, coach or manager is performing at a level of consistency above what was anticipated at the time of the original contract we will not wait until contract maturity to recognise this. The present Board is happy to reward improved performance and effort with an early renegotiation of the terms in favour of the employee but, in all instances, will require something for the Club in return. This will typically include an extension to the contract period, improved buy out clauses etc. Only under circumstances where we consider demands to be unreasonable and not in the interest of the Club and its supporters would we either hold the employee to the contract terms and if this was practically difficult for footballing reasons would we agree to transfer a player on terms that are acceptable to the Club.
So, that gives you a pretty clear idea of the club's philosophy over these matters. Take a look at the part that applies to this situation: if the player "is performing at a level of consistency above what was anticipated at the time of the original contract." That's really the key issue here.
Could we say that Martyn Waghorn has played at a level above what we would have expected at the time? He's scored quite a lot of goals, but many have been penalties, he couldn't effectively lead the line, had injury problems and was ultimately outperformed by an ancient Kenny Miller. He'll still be an important player for next season, but he's hardly gone above and beyond the call of duty to give us a far better player than we might have expected.
Tavernier, despite his showing in the Scottish Cup Final, is a different case. It's fair to say we weren't expecting our League One right-back to rack up a quite ludicrous number of goals and assists. There may still be question marks over his defending, but these are, frankly, outweighed by his absurd contributions at the other end. It's hardly been running rings around amateurs, either - many of the most important goals of the season have come from Tavernier, who had long, long periods of being basically unplayable and was instrumental in the team's attacking play.
So, by the strict criteria laid down by the boss, we have something of a dilemma. Tavernier should clearly deserve a new contract, while Waghorn arguably doesn't. Whether to go ahead with this will be a question for the board. How to manage the two and keep harmony within the squad will be solely down to Mark Warburton. Given that he himself had warned against the problems of marquee signings on high wages, it'll be interesting to see how he handles it.