Shut up the Shop 2 – Full Throttle Full Backs!

So it’s time to look at our full backs and how they performed as part of our defensive unit over the season.

As an aside I apologise to Ross McCrorie for totally forgetting that he played in goals for us this season and kept a clean sheet.  Top man.

James Tavernier – his stats speak for themselves.  Offensively he is by far and away the best full back in the country and it’s not even close.  His goal and assists tally are incredible for a right back.  In fact midfielders and forwards in Scotland would be more than pleased with similar stats.  If we take into account his discipline then he would be player of the year over Morelos.  I would argue, however, from the way we play, that he should be on top of the assists league and by more than he is as the way we play dictates that he will have umpteen crossing opportunities during a game.  Most of these don’t get past the first man.  I suppose if they did he wouldn’t be playing for Rangers.  His shooting from free kicks has dipped a great deal from the championship.  Are walls better in the top flight?  I’m perhaps being too over critical as he has had a very, very good season and I suppose he did technically score from a free kick against Celtic.

It’s true he has also improved defensively.  He still could work on his awareness of where his man is as he still drifts in far too often leaving the opposition wide player with far too much space and time to whip a ball over at pace with a low trajectory.  This is a goalkeeper’s nightmare.  A lot of the time this has gone unpunished as again the level in Scotland isn’t always great.  He doesn’t put the foot in as quickly to tackle as he did previously allowing the wingers to constantly skin him in the past, so he has clearly matured in that respect also.  He is, at times, easily knocked off his stride and is as guilty as the rest of our defenders of sitting off until it’s too late.  This is something the whole defence has to look at.  As a captain I’m not sure he is vocal enough but perhaps he doesn’t need to be.

Defensively I still feel he has to improve further but there is no doubt we would be unable to replace his goals and assists without spending millions of pounds, so for that reason alone I wouldn’t want him to go unless we are getting funny money in return.  8.5/10 for the captain.

Jon Flanagan – not a signing that was universally welcomed due to off field issues more than anything.  He has proven to be relatively steady, a ‘no frills’ player if you will.  He has played the majority of his games at left back despite being right footed.  Performed well enough in the early stages of the season and did what was required until Borna Barasic arrived (more on him later).  His passing can leave a lot to be desired at times but he is, first and foremost, a defender.  Found himself in and out of the team for a period with Barasic and Halliday being preferred being naturally left footed.

Due to Barasic’s injuries and subsequent poor form Flannigan found himself the preferred option at left full back for the last section of the games of the season.  And it’s fair to say the defence is more solid with him in it.  His discipline has been fine and he also managed to flatten Scott Brown and get away with it so for that alone I’ll bump him up half a point and give him 6.5/10.  Would probably have been higher had he played more often.

Borna Barisic – it appears Osijek ‘seen us coming’ with our purchases of him and Grezda.  Signed on a  4 year deal for a reported £2.2m.  Played like a demon against us at Ibrox in the Europa league qualifiers but has shown little of that same intensity whilst playing in blue.  He has a very good left foot and has, when he actually gets forward, put some fantastic balls in to dangerous areas.  However, he doesn’t seem to like going forward, doesn’t want to take a man on and defensively his positional sense and tackling ability leave a lot to be desired.

He appears to be incredibly timid at the prospect of playing for us.  He also seems to have a bit of the ‘Theo Snelders’ about him, being constantly injured during important spells of the season.  This has seen the Ibrox support grow weary of him very quickly and Gerrard doesn’t appear to be too enamoured with him either.  In an ideal world he’d go away and get a good pre-season under his belt and show us what a fit Barasic can do.  I suspect if we can recoup a decent fee for him we will move him on in the summer as he is a Croatian international.  It just hasn’t worked out for him here and for that and his constant injuries he gets no better than 4.5/10.

Andrew Halliday – I like Andy.  He’s come back from what could almost be described as professional embarrassment to making himself a key figure in Gerrard’s dressing room with the manager going in so far as to label him his ‘unofficial captain’.  Firstly being sent to Azerbaijan after being told he wasn’t part of Pedro’s plan, then being returned having hardly played, then to be on the end of some hammerings from Celtic as well as being humiliated by Murty at Hampden.  He came back and worked hard at pre-season and included himself in Gerrard’s plans.  He’s been in and out of the side as he is first and foremost a midfielder.  His early tackle in the game on the 29th of December set the tone as we ran over the top of Celtic that day.  Celtic fans weren’t singing his song that day, that’s for sure.  Has chipped in with a few cracking goals this season too.

As a squad player, I have no problem with him remaining but he isn’t good enough to be a starter if we want to have success going forward as harsh as that may be.  He gets 6.5/10.

Lee Wallace – the last couple of years have really been a dead rubber for him.  He has probably been treated harshly for what many of our supporters would have demanded of a captain in a dressing room after another Hampden hammering.  Firstly, I’ve never really subscribed to the notion he sacrificed his career by staying with us.  He was handsomely paid to play for the most against part timers in the lower leagues.  His appearance late on in the game against Motherwell only for them to equalise right away was as equally baffling as much as it summed up his time here.  Defensively he was never good enough to be part of a successful Rangers side.  He was a tireless worker and a threat going forward in the lower leagues if not so much in top flight.  I’m not even giving him a rating as his he barely featured at all.  I’m glad he got a good reception in his final cameo appearance and I wish him well in the future as he was a complete gentleman when I met him a few years ago.

Matt Polster – Yeah.  His wife/girlfriend is gorgeous.  More to come hopefully.  And hopefully we see more of him too, so that we can fairly judge him.

There may have been others who filled in after substitutions but on the whole this has been our full back roster (very American).

Final edition will be on the centre halves.

Thanks for reading, 

Gary Spence.

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