Now Or Never
A quick look at the current squad shows a real lack of depth and experience of players who have been over the course and knowing what is required to secure a domestic championship. However our management team do have this experience and must transfer this to the current squad as well as they can. Smith and McCoist's role is now more important than perhaps it has have ever been to us in the last few seasons. Turning our current first team squad into a team of title winners will be a difficult challenge over the next nine games but not an impossible one.
There is no great quality gulf between us and our rivals as we head into the business end of the season but vast improvement is needed especially with tricky away trips and a must-win Old Firm game on the horizon with the much needed psychological boost it provides. It was no coincidence that our form after winning at Parkhead in August was as good as it has been over the season. Smith has come in for much criticism by increasing sections of our support over the last few months and justifiably so. Though with C*ltic looking likely to drop points in their remaining fixtures there is still cause for hope that we won't spill as many as them and that's where strong management comes in.
Team selection over the remaining games becomes absolutely crucial and the remaining fixtures at Ibrox are must-wins. The defence seems fairly settled and hopefully a settled team can be established as soon as over the next few games. Attacking line ups obviously seem to be our best chance of creating chances and with Lafferty out for the season and Miller likely to be missing for a week or two it will be down to Boyd and Novo to provide the main attacking goal threat. Boyd's success rate will come from the amount of chances he is provided with as time has shown us which suggests that using Beasley wide may be a useful option on the left if the latter can improve his consistency in our main problem position on the left. Perhaps even giving Fleck a run in his most natural position would not be the worst decision in the next few games.
Unlike Boyd we will not have to worry about Novo's work-rate or sheer commitment to the cause however his finishing and decision making can be very rash at times. Nacho is still the most popular player at the club at present and has embraced the club and fans as well as any foreign player to play for us, his playing style being the main factor. His best goal scoring form came in the season he linked well with Prso but has never looked like re-capturing that form due to the amount of games he has played or being shunted to the wings. Many argue that Novo is now better coming off the bench in an 'impact player' role rather than a starter and I tend to go along with that line of argument and perhaps now he also has never been so crucial to our cause.
Mendes and now Davis will be required to provide the creativity and drive from the middle of the park and hopefully the recent International break will see them both return to their early season form that seemed to desert them of recent. Whittaker may also be an option on the right with the jury still very much out on him. Steven Naismith is another who now must also step up to the plate. He's had enough time to get over his injury and we need him also to re-pay some of his transfer fee in the next few weeks.
All in all it's going to an interesting (if nerve racking) couple of months and hopefully we can now all focus on the big picture after recent events and hope the current squad show the attitude that is demanded from Rangers players. Smith's managerial experience is needed more now than it has ever been if he is to finish ahead of Strachan and questions on the benefits of his long term future are shelved till the summer. Be it ugly or otherwise we don't care how you get us over the finishing line, just as long as we get there first this time. It might just be now or never for this current squad.