Scottish Daily Mail
REVOLUTION’S IN THE AIR AT IBROX
But boss Beale and his fellow mid-season arrivals Cantwell and Raskin can only really be judged on a clean slate next term, says former Rangers star Thomson
STARTING at Easter Road on Sunday, Rangers’ three remaining games this season are likely to have a valedictory feel to them.
For a raft of players at Ibrox, the sands of time have slipped by. Others have found injuries insurmountable. Some will depart having failed to live up to expectations.
Change is in the air. What Michael Beale recently admitted would be ‘the biggest rebuild in years’ is now upon us. Its success, or otherwise, will determine the club’s chances of silverware in coming seasons.
In one sense, the man who replaced Giovanni van Bronckhorst as manager last November will see the upcoming transfer window as one of opportunity.
Ten players are out of contract. Others may be moved on. When hostilities resume after the summer, it will be very much Beale’s team.
Sweeping judgments about the Englishman’s eye for a player will not be long in coming.
‘Mick is going to be judged on his recruitment, really,’ stated former Rangers midfielder Kevin Thomson.
‘Celtic have got an opportunity next month to win another Treble. If they go on to do that — and the odds are they will — then it will just bring more unwanted scrutiny to Rangers’ door.
‘So they’re going to have to get this summer bang on. I know Mick has got a great network when it comes to English football and identifying Championship players he thinks will want to come.
‘The two he’s already signed in (Nicolas) Raskin and (Todd) Cantwell have shown he’s a good judge when it comes to recruiting.
‘Celtic will respond to that by saying: “Well, they won nothing”.
‘But the harsh reality is that they came in when Rangers were already behind, so I think it’s only next year with a clean slate that these boys can be judged. And that goes for Mick, too.’
On the limited evidence to date, Thomson is cautiously optimistic about what lies ahead.
Having joined mid-season, it would have been understandable if Cantwell and Raskin had been slow out of the blocks, yet they’ve hit the ground running.
It’s early days for the pair. And Thomson is acutely aware that Beale will need to continue to hit the bullseye with new recruits.
But if the youthful energy and hunger of Cantwell and Raskin are typical of those who subsequently arrive, it can only bode well.
‘The one thing I would say is that I can’t envision him bringing in older players,’ added Thomson.
‘I think if he’s going to have those types, he’ll keep the likes of Ryan Jack and Scott Arfield around.
‘But I do think the general profile of the new boys coming in will be closer to the likes of Raskin and Cantwell, guys at 22, 23, 24, who have maybe been and done it elsewhere, who have stalled a wee bit and need a fresh challenge.
‘Mick seems to like that profile and, if he can get lads who are as good as the pair he’s already brought in, it bodes well for the club going forward.’
While the side that defeated Celtic last weekend is likely to bear little resemblance to the one that goes again, Thomson would be surprised if we hadn’t already seen its central defensive partnership in action.
Scorer of a thumping header, John Souttar looked a far more solid proposition to partner Connor Goldson than Ben Davies. The Scot’s error in the last league derby at Parkhead now consigned to history, why would Beale even consider changing a winning formula?
‘I’m sure what happened at Celtic Park will have cut him deep, and you know what it’s like at this club,’ said Thomson.
‘You make that kind of mistake at such a critical moment as a Rangers player against your arch rivals and there will be some looking for you to be “sine died”.
‘So to have recovered from that, especially after that tough, tough year he’s had, to get a goal and perform the way he did was terrific. That shows some amount of character, but then I think having Connor Goldson alongside him helps. That’s not me doing Ben Davies a disservice, but I think having Connor alongside John will be a big help.
‘John has a lot of experience himself and is an international player, but Connor is the leader of that back four and brings so much calmness to the group.’
Without a win over Celtic this season, Thomson felt that Beale got the monkey off his back by finally getting the right blend on the field.
Asked if the team’s intensity levels had been raised, he said: ‘It felt like that. You saw that with Raskin, (Ridvan) Yilmaz and Cantwell, who was the standout player for me.
‘You think of these guys as being ball players, with the likes of Ryan Jack and John Lundstram there to be the guys putting their foot in.
‘What does putting the foot in mean? I just mean being a bundle of energy, getting to the ball first, being hungry.
‘Listen, I watched Scott Brown for a decade do that. He might not always have had the best game when it came to the Old Firms, but he was effective and helped the team get on the front foot.
‘That’s what Rangers have needed more of. But, on Saturday, I thought all across the pitch Rangers showed that intensity.’
A veteran of these clashes, Thomson’s enjoyment at witnessing a Rangers’ victory at close hand didn’t blind him to the reality.
With half a team either injured or rested, Celtic lost a game that they could afford to. One swallow does not make a summer.
‘Saturday doesn’t change the fact Ange Postecoglou and the Celtic boys are rightly champions but I think it will have instilled a bit of belief in the Rangers fans,’ he said.
‘More than a few of the players proved in front of those fans that they’re more than capable of competing with Celtic.
‘I just think that, when you move into the summer off the back of a good result against your arch rivals, it brings a wee bit of a feelgood factor back to the place.
‘The reality is they’ve not really had that this past year.’