THERE is a hesitation to writing a report about Rangers that concentrates almost exclusively on football.
It seems not quite right, like having Hannibal Lecter on the Great British Bake-Off.
But in yet another period when Rangers face fan protests, share issues that may or may not be underwritten and loans that are due, it is surely forgivable for once to dwell on the football, particularly after a smashing match on Saturday when an enterprising, pacy and well-coached Queen of the South side posed problems for the home side that threatened to be insuperable and were only overcome by a second-half performance from Rangers that was powerful and testified to the strength in depth the team have at SPFL Championship level.
Loading article content
Much of the Rangers discussion has involved history and the lack of lessons learned. In matters historical, it was slightly surprising to recall that only a year ago Kenny Miller was scoring a marvellous goal for Scotland against England. In the dog days of August 2014 his conspicuous contribution was to come off the bench and score the final goal in the 4-2 victory.
He then looked bullishly to the future. "We never thought it would be a gimme. We are favourites and I think rightly so," he said of the Championship title campaign. "I have always said that come May we will win the league. There is no doubt about it."
There were certainly, though, concerns expressed at half-time at Ibrox. The loud disgust of the home crowd was the rumbling background for an Ally McCoist team talk that must have bordered on the apoplectic. Queens constantly caused a fragile Rangers defence problems with Dan Carmichael, in particular, exploiting the space behind Lee Wallace with quick, belligerent runs.
Queens were composed in midfield and eager in attack. The side had been stripped of key players because of injury but, commendably, they maintained a high standard of passing and movement with Derek Lyle influential and such as Iain Russell, Gavin Reilly and Kevin Dzierzawski impressive.
Their combined threat was marked by two goals that were so alike they were attached at the hip. Both involved space being found on the right and the ball being slipped into the centre of the field for first Reilly and then Russell to score. Marius Zaliukas, whose headed equaliser separated these goals, was taken off at half-time because of his defensive ineptitude and was joined on the naughty step by the ineffectual Arnold Peralta. Ian Black and David Templeton came on and it was the latter who changed the game, drifting in from the left to equalise with a fine shot and being an influential part of a more robust Rangers performance.
Bilel Mohsni, who was almost comically feckless in the first half, put Rangers ahead and Miller completed the victory when scampering through to shoot home.
The lessons on the park were easy to take in. Rangers are unsure in defence and sorely need pace and threat from wide areas. Templeton supplied this but went off injured.
Jim McIntyre's side posed substantial problems and must be strong candidates for a play-off position, particularly when such as Mark Kerr and James Fowler return. But the main advantage for Rangers over their rivals remains the depth of their squad. Miller and Templeton came off the bench to score and McCoist has options that are denied other managers in the division.
Russell, whose goal for the Dumfries side was part of an excellent performance, pointed out: "The bigger clubs are going to have bigger squads while we have seven injuries to key players so we didn't quite have the depth they've got. But over the course of the season that is something Rangers, Hearts and Hibs are going to have over this team. That is why it is important to start well and see where it takes us."
Rangers now must haul in an impressive Hearts side. "No-one is going to make it easy for us," said Miller. "We are not going to be handed it and we are going to have to earn it. We are going to have work and play better. We will get better as the season goes on but it is not going to be easy."
He rightly praised a superb first-half performance from the visitors, but added of the league season: "It is going to be long and hard but with the quality we have in that dressing room we firmly believe that come May we will be at the top."
There are, of course, matters other than football that will impinge heavily on Rangers and their ability to sustain a league challenge. Those counting the beans at Ibrox have admitted that the month of May is a long way off in terms of finance.
The football story is that the Championship is an intriguing contest with a variety of plots. The business story at Rangers is more tedious but evidently serious. The latter may have an impact on the former with devastating results.