So an unbeaten season at the halfway stage of our first season, could we keep this up? Well, no we couldn’t but we’ll go through that competition by competition later. In the last update we had played 23 league games and had amassed 57 points giving us a comfortable 10 point gap over surprising second placed Raith Rovers, we only had 13 games left so this would all be about continuing our good form and we had the small matter of going for a potential quadruple with a League cup final against Hearts to come, Challenge cup final versus Hibernian and a fifth round Scottish cup tie against Hibernian again.
Ladbroke Championship table
As you can see we did continue our strong form, winning 10 games, drawing 2 and losing one time in our last 13 games to see us win the league title by 24 points and a goal difference 40 goals better than second placed Raith, dominant.
With how strong we were, I was concerned at the last 4 games only picking up 1 win in 4 games but we bounced back sort of, with wins over Alloa and Queen of the South 3-0 and 3-1 respectively with Ryan Hardie scoring a brace against Alloa and following it up with an incredible solo goal against Queen of the South.
Next up was a tough run with us again picking up just 1 win in 3 games, we beat Raith 1-0 in a big result at the top of the table through a Barrie Mckay strike and held on despite Jordan Mcghee being sent off on the 51st minute, either side of this result we drew 0-0 on both occasions to St Mirren and Hibs.
The Hibs fixture was one where we dominated the game but couldn’t find the back of the net, we had 24 shots to their 9, 9 on target to their 2, 6 half chances to their 2 and 57% of the possession so it was a really frustrating game but against St Mirren we only mustered 7 shots in 90 minutes, awful stuff.
We then won 7 games in a row which sealed the league title and in this period we just battered teams in terms of control of games and creating chances, we started this period of dominance off with a 3-0 win over Morton with Hardie and Duelund excelling and getting on the scoresheet, we make amends against Falkirk with a 2-1 win before beating Queen of the South, Raith Rovers and Dumbarton 3-0, 3-1 and 2-0 respectively – Ryan Hardie scores 4 goals in this 3 game period and is starting to make the false nine role his own.
We end the season with an incredible 6-1 away win over Livingston with Gedion Zelalem hitting a brace and both of them being screamers, Hardie and Duelund again scoring, followed by a comfortable 2-0 win over Alloa at Ibrox before it comes to the last game of the season, away to St Mirren who were in form, if we avoid defeat here an unbeaten season is complete.
As FM does best, it screws you over sometimes and this was a perfect example, we lost 2-0 to St Mirren despite going being the much better side, we had a poor start when SImon Murray broke our high line and finished well, then Danny Wilson scored a calamity own goal on 14 minutes and despite hitting 31 shots and 2 clear cut chances and 7 half chances we couldn’t reply.
When we left this on the last update we had surprisingly struggled to progress against Turrif United but over 2 legs we managed to and faced Hibernian in the fifth round tie (last 16). It is important to note that winning the Scottish cup is the only way to secure European competition for next season.
Well, what can I say we had as you can see 17 shots to their 3, 60% of the ball possession but come away with a 0-1 defeat and we’re out of the competition early with the board not happy with the Scottish cup run as they expected the semi final at least
We faced Hearts who although finished 35, yes 35 points behind Celtic in the top flight were their nearest challengers and finished in 2nd place so the league cup final would be a decent test but I’ll be honest we’re Rangers and everything about this club demands and expects success so I went in confident.
My confidence was well placed as we ran out 2-0 winners in a relatively comfortable victory with a brace coming from Ryan Hardie in the 69th and 89th minute.
Ryan Gauld was fouled just inside the box by Zanatta and Hardie stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way from 12 yards, the second goal however was a thing of beauty, a corner we were attacking was defended well and headed out, Waghorn picked the ball up around 30 yards from goal and spread it wide right to corner taker Duelund, who took his man on and played a delightful cross to Hardie inside 6 yard box who headed the ball back to the opposite top corner.
So as I mentioned in the past update we faced Hibernian in the final of the Challenge cup, we had little pressure as the board didn’t care but by getting to the final I knew the fans would expect another trophy so we went with our strongest team with giving Robby McCrorie a start as sweeper keeper as he does in cup competitions.
We started the game the much better team and duly took the lead on the 26th minute through Barrie Mckay, we defended a corner well and Mckay started the move on the 18 yard box, a smart through ball to Hardie who occupied the left wing he held on to the ball allowing for players to get forward, a switch to the centre of the pitch around 30 yards out and first time pass to Mckay who was on the left hand side of the box breaking the offside trap perfectly, he cut inside and finished well, 1-0!
We then lost a goal to James Keatings using his pace to cause us some damage on the 49th minute, not a great start to the second half and despite us going for the second goal we couldn’t get it however I told the boys to go for it in extra time and to keep doing what they were doing and it worked.
Mikkel Duelund pressed high and won the ball from Gunnarsson on the half way line with every Hibs players up for a free kick we had a 3 on 1 advantage could we play this right? Yes we could, Duelund played in Hardie who went 1 0n 1 with the keeper but very smartly he had the vision to see Gauld had a made a delightful run to his right and a simple 5 yard pass meant Gauld rolled it into the empty net.
Challenge cup winners at the fourth time of asking and yet the fans exuberance was kept in check within the stands, incredible stuff..
There was literally no decent prospect from our intake so I signed deals for a few between 2 and 2.5 stars potential however this was mostly due to assistant recommendation and to give the youth team more squad depth, so I went out and looked to bring in a few of the better young talents from other Scottish sides.
Stephen Japp is the best talent I signed and he joins from Hibernian at 16 years of age, my assistant feels he could become a key player for the first team if he reaches his potential and is a 4 star potential talent, with passing at 15, first touch and pace at 12 I thought it was too good to pass up on him for £30k initial fee with a further £20k over the next 12 months.
Robbie Gordon is a ball winning midfielder and signs from Livi who are renowned for a good youth system for £16k, he has tackling of 13 and positioning of 11 and while reports only put him at between a 2 and 3 star potential talent, I think this is a solid signing.
Like Robbie Gordon, Allan Donaldson is a 2-3 star potential player however some of his stats as a keeper stood out for me, 14 reflexes and 15 for rushing out which is key for a sweeper keeper and communication of 12 he seems to have a solid base.
In James Tavernier we had a great complete wing back on our right side, 14 assists, 10 man of the match awards and an average rating of 8.39 is simply phenomenal, I have and continue to make efforts to improve his positioning as this is something that lets him down defensively.
Our number 10 Jason Holt had a good season with an average rating of 8.06, that alone is very impressive although I would like him to get amongst the goals/assists a bit more for his role he did contribute 4 goals, 8 assists and 7 man of the match awards.
Ryan Hardie is a product of our youth system so it’s always something I like to do in promoting from within and hopefully this is something I can do more as we move on and improve within the game, he returned 25 goals in 30 starts, 7 assists and an average rating of 7.83
Our loan signing Ryan Gauld was a top signing, he gave us a bit of a creative spark and opened up games where the opposition were trying to shut games out, it’s a shame Sporting aren’t willing to sell and that we aren’t currently in a strong financial position to sign him permanently however an average rating of 8.06, 6 goals and 7 assists within 25 starts shows how valuable he has been.
We recorded a £1.94 million loss for the season, it may sound bad however we’re just in the black in terms of balance and we paid £4.17 million of the £5 million Mike Ashley loan which is incorporated into the game, by the start of the new season we will be debt free and in a positive balance due to season ticket sales which I’d hope would both increase in price and see more supporters buy season tickets.
So all in all, this was a successful first season securing three trophies although the poor efforts in the Scottish cup has cost us european football next season which will be gutting however it does allow us to focus on securing our 55th top flight league title and stop Celtic domestic dominance.
We used the loan market well due to our finances however must be smart in recruiting for a tougher league but we still retain Harry Winks and Mikkel Duelund for a further season.I was also rewarded with a contract for a further season to see how I would progress with the team in the top flight.
I hope you enjoyed reading and any feedback will be appreciated in the comments section or you can interact with me on twitter, I’m @johnmcintosh19.