Chaos and controversy – Rangers’ journey back to the top of Scottish football
Rangers have been crowned Scottish champions nine years after the club emerged from a liquidation crisis.
The Ibrox side found themselves in the lowest tier of Scottish football after Celtic won the first of their nine titles in a row.
Here the PA news agency charts that tumultuous journey with a look back at each of those seasons.
Manager Ally McCoist saw millions of pounds worth of talent walk away for free as the likes of Allan McGregor, Steven Whittaker, Kyle Lafferty and Steven Naismith opted not to transfer their contracts. Forced to throw together a squad of journeymen, his team comfortably sealed the first leg of their journey but it was not without humiliating slip-ups as the fallen Glasgow giants suffered defeats by part-timers Stirling, Annan and Peterhead.
Only six points were dropped as Rangers strolled to the League One title but things were much rockier behind the scenes as chief executive Charles Green went head to head with McCoist in a public row before being forced to sell his shares to Greenock tycoon Sandy Easdale. There were further embarrassing results as the Light Blues crashed out of the League Cup to Forfar and suffered defeat to Raith Rovers in the final of the Challenge Cup.
More boardroom wrangling saw Mike Ashley emerge as the main Ibrox power broker before he and his Easdale-fronted board were eventually ousted by Dave King and the ‘Three Bears’. However, the King coup came too late for McCoist, who had been placed on gardening leave after a series of fall-outs with the ruling regime. Stuart McCall was brought back to salvage their First Division title bid but Rangers slumped home in third place and suffered another red-faced moment as they were thumped by Motherwell in the play-off final.
Rangers looked to have finally got their house in order as new boss Mark Warburton transformed the Ibrox squad and implemented a slick new passing style. His side strolled to the Championship crown and dumped Celtic out of the Scottish Cup semis on penalties. But there was another bleak day in the final, with Hibs snatching victory with two late goals and the final whistle marred by disgraceful scenes as supporters from both clubs rioted on the Hampden turf.
Rangers unveiled a huge display declaring they were ‘Going for 55′ as they made their top-flight return at home to Hamilton – only to stutter to a 1-1 draw. Warburton added the experience of Joey Barton, Niko Kranjcar and Philippe Senderos but they were outclassed in an early 5-1 defeat by Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic. Warburton was axed in February with youth boss Graeme Murty placed in temporary command. Pedro Caixinha was then brought in but he could not prevent Rangers suffering two more humiliating defeats at the hands of Rodgers’ ‘Invincibles’ as they limped to third place.
The appointment of Caixinha proved to be a disaster too as Rangers’ return to European action ended in another mortifying loss to Progres Niederkorn of Luxembourg. The Portuguese only lasted until October when Murty was again called in to take temporary charge. Things appeared to be going well under the former Reading defender for a spell but a 3-2 loss to 10-man Celtic in March saw the wheels come off again and he was stood down, with Jimmy Nicholl taking charge of the final three games of the season as another third-placed finish beckoned.
A new era dawned as Liverpool great Steven Gerrard was brought in. The former Anfield youth coach made an immediate impact as he led the club into the Europa League group stages but his side’s title challenge faltered after the winter break and they finished nine points adrift of Celtic.
Further work was done to restore Rangers’ reputation as Gerrard’s men marched into the last 16 of the Europa League. But again he faced big questions as his side folded under pressure. Celtic pinched victory in the final of the League Cup and streaked 13 points ahead before the lockdown forced the premature end to a season which also saw Rangers lose to Hearts in the Scottish Cup.
Celtic were favourites ahead of a season in which their fans expected them to clinch a Scottish record 10th consecutive title, but Rangers took firm control of the title race following victory at Parkhead in early October and never looked back. Celtic could have briefly delayed the celebrations by winning at Dundee United on March 7 but a goalless draw sent the title back to Ibrox.
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