ONE recurring theme of the Great Rangers Soap Opera is that the same old names and the same old faces just keep popping up again and again and again.
Rafat Rizvi had his own little spell back in the spotlight just a few weeks ago, with the reluctance you might expect from an international fugitive, when he turned up at a meeting involving all manner of individuals who afterwards claimed to have no knowledge of who he was or why he was there.
Paul Murray and Brian Kennedy came back out of the woodwork last week only to find any glimpses they may have had of a brighter future were to be rather quickly blotted out by the not-inconsiderable frame of Mike Ashley. Dave King gives the impression he is not going to go away completely. Some supporters believe the likes of Charles Green and maybe even the dastardly Craig Whyte have not gone away at all.
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Now, we have a certain Derek Llambias, mentioned in connection with a job at Rangers this time last year, back on the scene as a potential replacement for the current chief executive, Graham Wallace.
It makes you wonder what is going on these days with Mr and Mrs Custard - and their rapidly expanding PayPal account - and that porn star-cum-tax expert with the encyclopaedic knowledge of employee benefit trusts.
There is one familiar character whose return to the circus, however, looks very much like bringing a much-needed degree of cheer. When Kenny Miller and Kris Boyd agreed to sign one-year contracts in the summer, it was easy to regard the latter as the guaranteed success story of the two. Boyd had rekindled his career with an excellent season at Kilmarnock that had delivered 22 goals. Miller, meanwhile, was coming home from an underwhelming stay in Major League Soccer in the States with his 35th birthday looming.
Hamstring and ankle injuries curtailed his early involvement and raised questions about the wisdom of signing him. Of course, Miller has to prove himself capable of maintaining his performance over the course of a potentially difficult season, but his two starts since returning from the treatment table have been hugely impressive.
Rangers look an entirely different team with Miller in their midst. He scored and set up a goal in a 6-1 win over Raith Rovers in his first match back from injury. At Dumbarton on Saturday he gave Rangers the lead at an important time after Lee McCulloch missed a penalty, laid on the second goal for Lee Wallace and simply offered so much of what had been missing in the way of link-up play and industry.
Let's forgive the chance the erstwhile Scotland striker missed at the start of the second half when he tried to put the ball through the legs of Dumbarton goalkeeper Danny Rogers when one-on-one and made a mess of it.
Miller reckons he is four or five games away from complete match fitness, but that should mean he is more or less back on full power for the visit to Hearts on November 22.
The fresh options he brings to the team are evident in the way his fellow professionals react to him as well. Miller's work rate and willingness to run into space must be a godsend to the midfielders who play behind him. Certainly, Lewis Macleod enjoyed having him on hand.
"I always look to play the ball forward, so when you have Kenny dropping off and Boydy in behind, it is good for the midfielders," he said. "Watching these players and training with them is going to help me, Nicky Clark, Fraser Aird and the other younger players in the long run."
Ally McCoist, the Rangers manager, went even further in his praise for the experienced striker. "He's invaluable to our team and our squad," he said. "He's a top player, it's as simple as that. He has played at the top level for a long time and he's one of the better Scottish international strikers of a generation."
Although Boyd did complete the scoring with 18 minutes remaining when he headed home a cross from Stevie Smith, he does not quite appear to be operating with the same confidence he showed at Rugby Park. Two goals in three games should help and he has a terrific platform on which to show his worth in the shape of tomorrow night's League Cup quarter-final tie with St Johnstone at Ibrox.
Rangers return to Dumbarton on Saturday, of course, on Scottish Cup duty. It is true to say they won comfortably at the weekend, but Rogers, on loan from Aberdeen, remains optimistic of pulling off a shock at the second time of asking.
"There was enough to convince us we can win the cup tie," said the Dumbarton goalkeeper, watched on Saturday by the Aberdeen goalkeeping coach, Jim Leighton.
"I thought they were slack in the first 20 minutes and we were on top. Mark Gilhaney pulled one back which could have been a tap-in for Colin Nish."