GRAEME Murty will be feeling many emotions after being sacked as Rangers Manager today.
He will be sad at losing the job he assumed on a caretaker basis on two occasions before being installed as Manager until the end of the season. He will be disappointed at how things have transpired over the last few weeks, in particular the two drubbings by arch rivals Celtic by an aggregate of 9-0. You could also argue that he will be relieved as his employers let it be known that they’d be looking elsewhere for a new boss, with Murty admitting that recent speculation linking Steven Gerrard with the position affected him.
Fans and pundits will conclude that Graeme Murty was not suitable to lead the club beyond this season, and with some justification when you analyse recent results. One thing that is certain is that, once again, Rangers handling of the situation was nothing short of embarrassing.
Having initially been a caretaker for a month last season after the departure of Mark Warburton, Murty assumed the role again in October following the sacking of Portuguese flop Pedro Caixinha. It was expected to be a temporary fix whilst Rangers worked to lure former player Derek McInnes from Aberdeen, with Murty to resume his role as Under 20’s coach. The public dithering by Dave King and his board, followed by a half-hearted approach, led to McInnes turning down the opportunity to manage his boyhood team, choosing to remain with the Dons.
With nobody else lined up, Murty was appointed Manager until the end of the season. For a while, it looked as if it was a shrewd move with some decent signings in January, albeit mostly on loan, and a good winning run going into the Old Firm game at Ibrox in March. With the gap at nine points, Rangers were confident that momentum was on their side ahead of the visit of the Champions, so much so that Murty revealed the dressing room cheered when they drew Celtic in the Scottish Cup Semi Final, and they believed they could spark a title race by defeating their rivals.
Despite leading twice then seeing their rivals reduced to ten men, Rangers lost 3-2 in a game that ultimately ended any slim title chances they had effectively ended that day. It was the beginning of a long end for Graeme Murty.
Any chance he had of landing the job full time disappeared in the week leading up to the Semi Final showdown with Celtic, when King put out a strong message that the club must make the “best appointment”. The timing of his statement could not have been timed more badly, ahead of the clubs biggest game of the season in the only competition available for Rangers to land silverware, and it totally undermined Murty when he needed to ensure his players were onside ahead of the game. The Gers subsequently put in a diabolical display as Celtic romped to an easy 4-0 victory to keep their hopes of a historic double-treble alive, and taunted their rivals for the noises made when the last four draw was made.
Whilst licking their wounds, Rangers were involved in another PR disaster with the news of a dressing room bust up at Hampden that led to senior players Kenny Miller and captain Lee Wallace being suspended and told to stay away for the rest of the season. No official reason was given as to why Rangers took the decision and Murty was unable to clarify the clubs position either. It’s a far cry to the days of Walter Smith, where any dressing room arguments stayed behind closed doors, disciplinary issues were dealt with decisively, such as the Boozegate saga involving Barry Ferguson and Alan McGregor, and the PR with John Greig liaising with the media was very professional. The siege mentality style led by Jim Traynor, where statements are designed to lash out and pass the buck to others, is laughable and most Rangers fans are wise enough to recognise that the PR of their club is embarrassing.
If King’s statement before the Scottish Cup tie undermined Murty, the boardroom leak that former Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard was the preferred candidate to become the new Head Coach ahead of Sunday’s Old Firm match at Parkhead was downright disrespectful. In a game where a home victory would seal seven in a row against their Old Firm rivals, the last thing Murty needed was more stories to cast doubts over his chances of keeping the job at a time he was trying to motivate his players to delay the title party and avoid their noses being rubbed in at Celtic’s glory.
The normally dignified Graeme Murty finally cracked! At the pre-match press conference, he admitted that the speculation was affecting him and then, in his pre-match interview, he said that it wasn’t down to him but the players, effectively washing his hands of responsibility ahead of the big game. As expected, not one outfield Gers player took responsibility as Celtic destroyed their opponents with a 5-0 rout that flattered their opponents, who had Jack Alnwick to thank for keeping the score at five along with the Bhoys taking their foot off the gas as they clinched the title in the best possible fashion. Murty’s misery was compounded when he was ordered not to give any post match interviews, culminating in his sacking with just three matches to go.
For many months, Graeme Murty coped admirably in a job that he didn’t want, doing what he could to help the club out. He steadied a ship that was sinking under Caixinha, who’d wasted a big transfer kitty on players like Carlos Pena, Fabio Cardozo, Bruno Alves and Eduardo Herrera who were clearly not up to the job. However, that Old Firm defeat in March at a time they built up belief they could overhaul Celtic was the first sign that he wasn’t the long term answer and the fact that his players have stopped playing for him is a sign that he lost the dressing room. From a possible late title rally to the big possibility that they could finish fourth was a concern for the demanding Ibrox faithful, forcing a parting of the ways that probably came to the relief of a man with whom it became obvious that he was suffering under pressure.
Whilst Murty has proven to be out of his depth, his employers have once again handled the affair abysmally by undermining him in public. Their lack of clarity cast doubts amongst a group of players who started to lose respect for him and making it be known that they were looking elsewhere, rather than have the courtesy to say to Murty himself that he wouldn’t be the manager beyond the end of the season, was disrespectful. They have, allegedly, offered Murty his old role back, which is decent as it is one more suited to him, but it will be a big surprise if Graeme Murty remained at the club in any capacity over the way he was treated.
With Murty gone, the big question turns to Steven Gerrard. Should he take the job, there is no question that it will be a massive gamble, given that his only coaching experience so far is at Under 18 level at Anfield. King and co are hoping that his reputation and determination as a player will rub off as a manager and bring the good times back to Ibrox again.
However, if the Rangers boards actions towards Graeme Murty are to be told, Gerrard may think twice about taking the job and leave Dave King with egg on his face again.