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Comment: Axed Murty's lack of presence demonstrated precisely how unsuited he was to Rangers task

By Julian Taylor

It says much for the current magnitude of Rangers' troubles that the club's board couldn't wait a mere three games until the end of the season to dispense with manager Graeme Murty.

Nine goals without reply across two recent Old Firm defeats sealed the fate of the embattled coach appointed, initially, as a temporary measure with the Light Blues attempting to find a successor to Pedro Caixinha last October, before being given the job for the remainder of this campaign in January when Derek McInnes opted to remain at Aberdeen.

Murty, Rangers' Under-20 boss before being asked to step into a role subsequently far beyond his aptitude, has left both psychologically damaging results behind and a dressing room frayed of confidence.

With Ibrox assistants Jimmy Nicholl - also the Northern Ireland assistant boss - and Jonathan Johansson taking charge for crunch games which will determine if the Gers are to experience European football next term, Aberdeen, Hibernian and Kilmarnock - all in-form rivals - now take on a threatening appearance.

Nicholl's ability to relate to players, unlike Murty, needs to be implemented straight away to those still feeling whiplash effects of Celtic's title-clinching 5-0 rout on Sunday.

All of Rangers' most successful managers have had a presence, and an edge. Bill Struth, Jock Wallace, Graeme Souness, Walter Smith and Dick Advocaat commanded instant respect in public and behind the scenes. The sort of aura, if you like, that has stimulated the club's ongoing courtship of Steven Gerrard, who is expected to finally take over in what can potentially become a fascinating battle of wills with the Celtic chief, Ulsterman Brendan Rodgers.

Murty was ill-suited to the spotlight and the task of organising a group of players whose form has often been desperately disappointing, lacking a concrete big game mentality.

Statements such as "I'm just the guy who stands on the touchline" portrayed a man of limited conviction, although he was to appear bizarrely emboldened as the Glasgow giants progressively slumped in Old Firm derbies. If Rangers ever feel tempted in future to cost-cut in the shadow of rivals who spend big on their manager, they should recall the scene at Ibrox on March 11 when Murty froze in contrast to Rodgers, who swung into action to cajole 10-man Celtic to a 3-2 victory.

An absence of micro-organisation and an ability to assess moods left Murty totally exposed from the moment Celtic striker Odsonne Edouard curled home the winner that day.

Since then, Rangers have been all over the place, losing crucial games to both Celtic and Kilmarnock. In the minds of the Ibrox squad, from a wild moment of possibly challenging for the Premiership to this juncture, they sensed Murty's ineffectiveness. They too, though, must accept some responsibility for a threadbare season of silverware and inner faith.

Former Reading defender Murty, a somewhat remote individual, failed on two fundamental counts - the installation of essential fighting spirit and dreadful man-management.

The marginalisation of veterans Kenny Miller and Lee Wallace, after the 4-0 Old Firm Scottish Cup loss last month, revealed Murty's inexperience.

Andy Halliday may be symptomatic of the dearth of genuine quality available to Rangers at present, but the midfielder was, to paraphrase Rodgers, "thrown to the garbage" with a 40th minute Hampden cup substitution before being compressed into an unfamiliar left-back role at Parkhead on Sunday.

Murty's team selections also lacked energy and consistency. Graham Dorrans and Russell Martin are increasingly slow and awkward, while a wilful belief that the frivolous Josh Windass is somehow a Ronald de Boer in waiting has left supporters perplexed.

Early victories against Hearts and Aberdeen may have lulled Rangers chairman Dave King into a fleeting, false overview of Murty's capabilities.

However, the attendance of Gerrard in the Ibrox directors box in that morale-sapping defeat to Celtic suggested the interim manager's days were numbered.

The brutal lessons dished out by Celtic of late have purely hastened the act.

Belfast Telegraph

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