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Alex McLeish is needed to lift Rangers gloom

Warburton's undignified exit leaves club looking for replacement with a proven track record of success

By Julian Taylor

Not for the first time this season, Rangers had the appearance of a team stifled by anxiety and lacking potency.

The Ibrox men, following the departed Mark Warburton's subterfuge, hope to bring drive to a mediocre, slovenly campaign, as they hunt for a new boss.

Warburton's cloudy, undignified exit was still being digested at yesterday's clash, a workmanlike 2-1 home Scottish Cup victory over Greenock Morton.

The agitation accompanying Rangers' squeeze into the last-eight, fully illustrated the need for a multi-tasking leader; a hearty blend of manager, soothsayer, guru. Rather like nemesis Brendan Rodgers, given the green light to run every aspect at Celtic these days.

Someone, with an established track record of success, unlike Warburton. A figure of gravitas - even short-term - to galvanise a desperately average team.

The contemporary Ibrox hot seat will probably be viewed by some as a stepping stone. Warburton was an example, although wherever the embellished Englishman ends up now will be undoubtedly at the much humbler end of England's spectrum.

The Rangers support is busy examining the gradually emerging prospects: the realistic, if uninspiring, the yesterday's men - and the extraordinary.

If only Walter Smith wasn't enjoying the fruits of his retirement, to answer yet another call. Surely even Sir Alex Ferguson, at 75, must be a bit bored these days and homesick for Govan?

For now, of significant interest is former boss Alex McLeish.

With pressure on chairman Dave King to make an interim appointment, he will find someone who fits most, if not all, demands.

Rangers need to claim second place in the Premiership, and McLeish has an intuitive understanding of the club.

Between 2001-2006, the former Scotland chief provided the Glasgow giants with joyous moments. Dramatic title victories and a place in the Champions League last 16, at a time when the club was downsizing financially. On the debit side, a long sequence of Old Firm derby failures.

McLeish is based in London, but would relish another chance to care. His career over the last few years is, frankly, disappointing. Short spells with Zamalek in Egypt, Nottingham Forest and Gent have probably contributed to his name falling off radar to many clubs.

But this is Rangers; unconvincing, jaded - and they require help with the basics. McLeish is a pragmatist with a proven record of achievement in Scotland. Compelling qualities for King who, despite making around £12m available to improve the squad, is endeavouring to keep a 'realistic' budget.

McLeish's man-management is second-to-none. Ronald de Boer, during his Rangers pomp, viewed McLeish with suspicion when he replaced Dick Advocaat. Within weeks, the Dutch legend declared "I would run through a brick wall for this man". McLeish is certainly capable of getting Rob Kiernan and the rest of a fragile Rangers defence to adopt a similar stance.

Playing safe, affordable - but hardly causing a box office scramble - are other SPFL managers.

Tommy Wright is a born organiser and has been known to frustrate the Gers with his overachieving St Johnstone. The Perth outfit's disappointing weekend elimination from the Scottish Cup, though, plus questions over the Northern Irishman's ability to fill the berth of a massive club, just when Rangers demand a bigger name probably reduces him to an outsider in the debate.

Realists point to Derek McInnes. The ex-Rangers midfielder lifted Aberdeen from the bottom half of the table to a third, second and second place in consecutive seasons, in addition to a League Cup at Pittodrie. McInnes, like Wright, knows the environment.

Elsewhere, Portuguese coach Vitor Pereira was close to an Ibrox switch when Warburton was appointed in 2015. The quiet 48-year-old won a double at Olympiakos and has less than a year's contract remaining at 1860 Munich. Left-field appointments are risky, but as Wim Jansen, who helped Celtic to a 1997/98 Premier League, halting the Gers' ten-in-a-row dream, is proof they can work.

If Rangers are ambitious, within reason, as Celtic were last summer when they replaced Deila with Rodgers, then a phone call to Frank de Boer could prove extraordinary. De Boer may be tempted for a couple of seasons rather than waiting for a lucrative call in the meantime from the English Premiership.

Given the fresh energy and commotion caused by Rodgers' arrival at Celtic, Rangers, even with their economic constraints, must consider speculating to accumulate.

De Boer would also probably demand a solid £25m transfer budget, a considerable issue to overcome.

Meanwhile, Rangers are still in the Scottish Cup.

If King chooses caution, an old friend could be back on familiar terrain - at least for a while.

Belfast Telegraph


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