Rangers, All In The Mind?

By Tommy McIntyre
 March 5, 2020

As I did in my last article for This Is Ibrox let me start by saying once again Gerrard must stay.  

Some of you reading may disagree, all comments on that are welcome. For me the direction Gerrard has taken is the correct one in creating a modern football club. He is wholly being let down by those crossing the white line (no not referees). These players have wilted in the face of potentialachievement.

There is such a thing in Government as Cabinet responsibility (when all members show a unified accountability) but that sloughs off when individual members are caught with their pants down.  Too many of this current team have been caught in flagrante, exposed, and need shown the exit door.

Go online and you will find multiple articles discussing Rangers’ stats, from passing to shots created and ‘expected goals’ (never really understood that one, almost like it takes the keeper out of the equation). I’d recommend Jordan Campbell’s recent article via The Athletic if that is your thing (after you’ve read, liked, commented on and shared this of course).  The jist being Rangers are still creating (as they did against Hamilton), they just aren’t taking the chances and are then tightening up and making mistakes.

As the erstwhile Ebbe Skovdahl once said though: “Statistics are like miniskirts, they give you good ideas but hide the important things”.

He was right, no amount of XG statistic chatter can lay out the nature of a players thinking, the intensity of play or the psychology of success (or failure as we have it). 

So what can?

Well, let’s take a quick look at the psychology of it all shall we?  I’m in robust mood having cycled through grief, anger and acceptance last night with only a Bovril and thousands ofboos to keep me company.

There should be no debate that these players are receiving the best in terms of preparatory work.  An expanded physio, recovery and performance team has been installed with state-of-the-art facilities.  Here’s Jordan Milsom, Head of Performance in February 2020 on Rangers’ CryoAction chamber: “This squad has to deal with a game every three-four days and the physical and mental strain associated with this is high.  It is our job to help the players to return to their physical and mental baseline as quickly as possible.  Since its installation, over the past six months we have seen subjective and objective benefits of this modality and it has become firmly ingrained in the player’s daily routine”.

There are also detailed analysis sessions, individual video clip sessions, more briefings and debriefings than after a 1-2-1 with Priti Patel as well as individualised dietary and training plans.  All designed to maximise performance and ensure peak conditioning.

Rangers have placed a lot of stock and money into ensuring the payers have everything they need to perform.  It is one of the reasons visiting clubs/nations are so taken with the Rangers Training Centre.  Be under no illusion, it is fitted out like a luxury liner (akin to the Titanic perhaps given current circumstances)

The players also have access to sports psychologists if and when required, poor bloke must have been screaming FFS since January and is probably now in therapy himself. Welcome to Rangers mate. This is where I think we have ourissues, specifically the players’ ability to maintain aggressive, composed and in control when the chips are down. As Neil McCann has previously stated; “Fire in the belly and ice in the veins”. Before we look at that, let me say I also understand that we have hit a bit of bad form and any team can suffer that. As Andy Halliday recently stated, though, 10 weeks isn’t a blip.

In sports psychology there is such a thing as the fear of success.  Why would anyone fear success I hear you ask, who wouldn’t want the adulation that comes with winning at the elite level.

Well, the mind is a funny thing isn’t it? 

Prior to the end of 2019 Rangers were flying; I disagree with our erstwhile ‘captain’ James Tavernier (more on him later) that teams were “standing off us”.  Rather, I think such was our belief and play teams just couldn’t get close. Dynamic, ruthless play, especially at Ibrox was the course de jure. Feast days if you will.

A serious defeat in the League Cup Final was overturned by another fantastic Old Firm performance where we got our just desserts. I think that final stayed in the players’ minds though. A hail of praise in defeat isn’t really helpful in my opinion as it helps set a second best might be good enough mentality.

Then came the famine (don’t) and this is where the fear becomes apparent in my opinion.  Like a golfer 2 ahead with a final fairway stretching out in front of them like a green carpet to glory (Monty at the USPGA, jeez) the overthinking gets in through a crack in the minds’ window.

That fear to push on and accept the success, to reach out andtake it when resting on what you have achieved instead of stretching for what you could achieve.  The requirement to raise the bar on your last performance, to match and exceed the levels previously set.  

To do what needs to be done.

Or…

You can take the easy option, the non-threatening pass, decline that run, shuffle inside, let someone else create.  Sound familiar?  You end up with barbershop football.

Short. Back. Sides.

Better put, you get Hearts, Killie, St Johnstone.

Hamilton.

Quite frankly, these players, when confronted with the chance of success have sidestepped potential achievement in lieu of keeping their heads down under a hood of ‘progress made’.  Charlatans and not something a manager can do much about. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest were we to beat Bayer Leverkusen. Zero expectation, zero pressure, zero responsibility if defeated.

So to James Tavernier. Current holder of the armband, as previously stated I believe the guy to be a serial loser. It may be the amount of defeats he had accumulated prior to the Gerrard reign has just made mediocrity acceptable to him, or that he just isn’t mentally capable of getting through (remember he’s played in two cup finals and lost both now)and mediocrity isn’t a word Rangers players should know.

It is a truth we can now hold to be self-evident that the squad needs some changes (not wholesale) in the Summer.  A tougher midfield, right back, and perhaps a striker or two being high on my personal list. Ross Wilson’s phone will be in melt-down from now until June with both ins and outs.

The players collapse is mirrored in size by my belief both he, Gerrard and the Board can get this right.  

I look forward to next season as we romp the Ladbrokes Coronavirus Cup in a post-apocalyptic wasteland overseen by Duke Tavernier on a throne of bloggers skulls.

Rangers, Then, Now and Always.

Written by @Tommynglasgow

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