2016 isn’t even a week old yet, but it has already been an action-packed start to the month for Rangers.
The second half of the season started in a similar vein to the first with a resounding 6-0 win at the Cheaper Insurace Direct Stadium against Dumbarton. After what was arguably the most impressive performance of the season so far, Mark Warburton now turns his attention to strengthening his squad ahead of the Scottish Cup clash at home to League One side Cowdenbeath this weekend.
The additions of winger Harry Forrester from Doncaster and Polish goalkeeper Maciej Gostomski have been well received by the Rangers supporters, and both will be available for this weekend’s game. They will be looking to make an immediate impact in Scotland after signing on until the end of the season. Forrester will provide another option out wide and will increase the pressure on Barrie McKay, Kenny Miller and Nathan Oduwa as they compete for a starting jersey. The signing of Gostomski looks to signal the end of Cammy Bell’s Ibrox career with the 6’5″ shot stopper challenging Wes Foderingham to start between the sticks. Bell’s spell at Ibrox has been blighted with injury, as well as horrendous form at the end of last season, and it remains to be seen if he can overcome his shoulder problems and re-establish himself at another club.
Rangers have also begun talks with highly-rated Accrington Stanley duo Josh Windass and Matt Crooks over a summer move north of the border. Both players are enjoying a growing reputation and a move to Ibrox could help take their career to the next level. Windass was recently linked with a move to Arsenal, although it appears Warburton has beaten the Gunners to the midfielder’s signature. Defender Crooks began his career as an academy player at Manchester United before heading to Huddersfield United; where he spent seven years without making a first-team impact. Reports have also claimed an interest in Falkirk captain Will Vaulks. I’ve recommended Vaulks in the past here and think he has all the attributes to be a top player. Versatile enough to play in a number of positions, he would be a very good signing and would bring a good level of experience despite his fairly young age.
Away from the transfer window, the recent return to form of Nicky Law has been very pleasing to see. Offering something a bit more direct when in possession than Gedion Zelalem, the ex-Motherwell midfielder has shone in the recent wins over Hibs and Dumbarton. With Zelalem’s loan from Arsenal extended until the end of the season, it’ll be interesting to see if either can make the jersey their own over the coming weeks.
The New Year also brings the annual memorial service for those who were sadly killed in what became known as “The Ibrox Disaster”. 66 fans died when railings gave way on Stairway 13 at the end of an Old Firm game on January 2, 1971. Ibrox, in its current form, stands as a tribute to those who never made it home that day and the steps taken by the club, and Willie Waddell in particular, in the aftermath led to much of the terracing being replaced with seats within a decade. 45 years on the thoughts of everyone associated with the club and support are with those who lost loved ones that day.
Finally, the New Year also brings another annual event with it. The Loving Cup ceremony will take place prior to the Scottish Cup clash with Cowdenbeath and Blue Brazil Chairman Donald Findlay will be no stranger to it. The tradition dates all the way back to 1937 when Rangers played a charity match against Stoke City to raise funds for the victims of the Holditch Colliery disaster. As a measure of thanks, Stoke City Chairman Sir Francis Joseph (who had commissioned the creation of 30 of the ornate cups to mark the coronation of of King George VI) presented his own Loving Cup to Rangers on the basis that it was used to toast the reigning monarch at the first home game of each year. Of the 30 cast, 22 were presented to English top-flight clubs, while another was presented to the FA. Only six are believed to remain with Chelsea having one in their club museum, while Stoke City, Grimsby Town, Everton and, of course, Rangers still maintain the tradition to this day.