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Rangers can win the Premiership title this season...


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...but will Mark Warburton's side match the Ibrox expectations?.

 

By Christopher Jack

 

CAN they win it? Yes. Will they win it? Maybe.

 

It took four years to complete "The Journey" and for Rangers to take that final step back into the Premiership. Now a stride forward is required if they are to become the best team in Scotland once again. It will happen, but it is a question of when.

 

It is an ambition that has been held at Ibrox since Ally McCoist’s side set out in the Third Division at Peterhead in August 2012. It is a dream that could be realised by May 2017.

 

The road to recovery has been a long and winding one for Rangers. It has taken them up the leagues and all over the country, brought moments to savour yet several to forget. There have been dark days, yet just enough silver linings to give supporters hope that they would once again see the red, white and blue ribbons on the Premiership trophy.

 

They have stood on the terraces in the freezing cold and driving rain, seen their side humbled by part-time teams on plastic pitches. They have also taken to the streets in protest and seen their efforts rewarded by arguably the most important change that has been made in a trying, testing and tumultuous period.

 

The Rangers story has been scarcely believable at times, but another chapter will be written in the coming months. It could yet be a fairytale ending and it is Mark Warburton who could be the hero.

 

Warburton delivered, as expected, the Championship title and Petrofac Training Cup in his first season at Ibrox, and took his side further than anyone would have thought as they came within minutes of a unique Treble and the Scottish Cup. That was then, this is now, though.

 

"Highly competitive" is how the 53-year-old has answered when asked what the expectations should be for his side this season. For some fans, that will be enough in Rangers’ first season back amongst our highest-ranked clubs. For many, only top spot will do.

 

It is an expectation that comes from history, from the times when, year after year, Rangers were always in the mix for the league flag. It is what everyone at Ibrox became accustomed to, a state of mind passed through the generations and their default setting at the start of each season whether the manager was Struth, Wallace, Souness, Smith or Advocaat. All delivered, and now the pressure is on Warburton’s shoulders.

 

There aren’t many clubs, in any country, that could win promotion from the second tier and consider themselves title challengers the following season, but few things about Rangers in recent years have been ordinary. With the club back at the level they are accustomed to, and where many feel they belong, there is a sense of familiarity about the forthcoming season. There is excitement, and at Ibrox confidence.

 

It is not a misplaced sense of optimism, either. This need not be a campaign of consolidation for Warburton’s side and nothing less than a top two finish should be expected this term.

 

The wins over Kilmarnock, Dundee and Celtic in the Scottish Cup last season were positive signs but it is the business Warburton has completed in the transfer market that means the title could be a realistic proposition.

 

The squad that won the Championship was too good for the second tier but didn’t have the required experience, quality or depth to compete in the top flight. They are issues Warburton has smartly addressed, with the Englishman doing the majority of his deals before a competitive ball was kicked this summer.

 

Another centre-back and a striker would be the final pieces of the jigsaw, and are probably needed before a stronger case can be made for Rangers’ title credentials, but Warburton has competition for places all over his squad. Some signings, like keeper Matt Gilks, defender Lee Hodson and midfielder Matt Crooks, may find it more difficult to break into the side than others but every member of Warburton’s first team pool will have to contribute this season.

 

There are those who will do so more than most and, in midfielders Joey Barton and Niko Kranjcar, Warburton has two players who could easily be in the running to be the top performers in the country in the coming months. The former Premier League pair will bring very different attributes to the side, but their quality is undoubted, even in the twilights of their respective careers.

 

They, like Clint Hill, the former Queens Park Rangers defender, add nous and knowledge to a squad that, as exciting and at times unpredictable as it was last season, lacked the miles on the clock that every title winning outfit needs.

 

It is not just wise old heads that Warburton has recruited, though, and in Jordan Rossiter, Josh Windass and Joe Dodoo he has young players who have promise and potential. The Premiership may be the ideal stage for them to showcase their talents on.

 

There remains an uncertainty as to just how good Warburton’s side really are and how they will fare against a higher calibre of opposition week in week out. In that regard, only time will tell.

 

With a trip to Parkhead to come just five games into the season, Rangers have to quickly find their feet at Premiership level and those that impressed in the Championship - the likes of James Tavernier, Andy Halliday, Barrie McKay and Martyn Waghorn - must make the step up and prove themselves all over again.

 

After four years of being overwhelming pre-season favourites for the title, Rangers will be the underdogs this time out. It is a feat few believe they can achieve but one that is possible. That in itself says plenty about the work Warburton has done, and the opportunity Celtic have squandered to put daylight between themselves and their Old Firm rivals.

 

Another top flight title would rank as one of their most famous successes and would be the ultimate conclusion to a journey that so many have been on for so long.

 

Now they have got promotion, they are going for 55.

 

http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/sport/14653209.Rangers_can_win_the_Premiership_title_this_season___but_will_Mark_Warburton_s_side_match_the_Ibrox_expectations_/

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were far too slow moving the ball up the park. everytime we got the ball yesterday we had to make 5 or 6 passes along the back line before making a forward pass. We need to make tactical changes to our game play pretty sharpish. We will lose more than we will win playing the way we do.

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After seeing some of the pre-season games, I'd be surprised if we won it this year.

 

Kranjcar looks way off the pace and unless he improves fitness and sharpness markedly, top tier sides will close him down very quickly and he'll become a bit of a luxury we won't be able to afford at times.....On the positive Windass has looked decent.

 

I've preferred Rossiter to Barton tbh. JR looks a real player in the making.............. but at least that is a positive dilema.

 

Without going through the whole team, when MW talks about a forward and a defender........if he were to get a decent one of each we'd be in a better place.

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The "problem" with a player like Krancjar is that they tend to look lazy for spells, then deliver a handful of killer-passes that makes you think: Wow! Somesuch is good to have, in games like yesterday it is not though. At least not from the start.

 

It wasn't laziness yesterday, he was just way off the pace.

 

His style is languid but he needs to be sharp to carry this off against decent opposition and not get closed down and become a passenger. I think you'll find the ICT's and Dundee's of the league will look to close him down quickly and it'll be up to NK to get up to a level where he'll be able to cope with that.

 

We all know NK was a quality player and that we'll see glimpses of that but he'll need to get a lot fitter and sharper to make a contribution that helps make us a team who can win the league.

 

To compete for the league we'll need to win most of our games from the get-go and it starts next weekend.

Edited by buster.
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The very fact we're being touted as potential champions is staggering when you consider it's little more than a year since the Motherwell disaster. Obviously we all have high expectations as I do but I would hate to see the manager get any flack if he didn't deliver the title in his first season back.

 

A title winning season is a prospect but top 3 is more of a priority as we need that Euro income.

 

As he has stated repeatedly from day one this is a project that will take years to reach the end point he has in mind. In such a short space of time he has created a squad capable of challenging on a relative shoestring budget. The squad will improve from year to year as will our finances.

 

The plan is on track and in my view well ahead of any schedule we could have envisaged pre Warburton.

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