I am sure we all know the syndrome of the quick fix. You know something is not working right but you go for the cheap fix. Like your vacuum cleaner hose is ripped and you put tape around it to keep it going for another few months. I had the same thing for the last two years with my car. My rear door gas dampers were not working properly. I think I have sprayed a fortune of oil or silicone spray on them to try and get them to work lighter. It even got so bad recently that instead of retracting and extending they were jumping off the ball joint. Again the silicone spray came out. Works great for a few days and then it is back to the same slog of pushing the rear door up like a body builder lifting weights. Then a few weeks ago I had pushed the door up. The gas damper sprung off the ball joint and the rear door came crashing down onto my head. Only then did I decide it was time to replace the old dampers. On to Ebay and for twenty euros I ordered two new dampers and fitted them on within five minutes. Now I only have to open the door about three inches and the door opens itself up to the full open position. Now I am mad that I tortured myself for two years going for what I thought was the cheap mend.
That is the feeling I get when I think back on the last few years with Rangers. We have been fire fighting bringing in older worn down players like Bruno Alves and Graham Dorrans for very little pay back. They weren't even the cheapest options but certainly the wrong options. With Pedro Caixinha bringing in these players it was a bit like replacing the rear door of my car but keeping the old gas dampers. We obviously ordered the wrong parts and tried to make them fit. Signing Alves and Dorrans was a bit like going to the scrapyard and paying a fortune for old parts while the new younger parts came at probably a quarter of the price in wages.
I am not going to say that Connor Goldson or Nikola Katic will ever hit the heights in their careers as Bruno Alves has but just like my gas dampers there comes a time when even top quality parts have to be replaced. Past success is no guarantee of future success springs to mind.
Hopefully that is also the cry when Rangers take on Maribor this evening. Our last encounter with the Slovenians ended in tears for the 'Gers. Players such as Allan McGregor, Nikica Jelavic, Maurice Edu, Kyle Lafferty, Carlos Bocanegra and Steven Davis failed to get past them. They have also spent years in the Champions League so in no way is this going to be an easy game. Steven Gerrard may have taken Rangers to a new level but will it be high enough to trouble the Slovenians?
Back then we played the first leg away from home getting a valuable away goal in a 2-1 defeat. Unfortunately while we were pushing for a goal in the second leg at Ibrox, Maribor managed to break on the 55th minute and take the lead meaning we had to score twice to win. Twenty minutes later Carlos Bocanegra levelled the scoring giving the 'Gers time to snatch the winner but it was all to no avail. Despite Rangers peppering the goal and Kyle Lafferty having a header cleared off the line, Maribor held out to go through on a 3-2 aggregate.
Roll on seven years and again we have to face up to the Slovenians. Rangers have put out tricky opponents in in the first two qualifying rounds FC Schkupi of Macedonia and the East Croatian NK Osijek. The reward for beating the Slovenians will be a place in the play-off stages of the Europa league and the riches that go with qualifying from that. The tie may have a different dynamic to the one of 2011 but hopefully lessons will be learned from the past.
Rangers seem to have completely changed strategy this season. In Steven Gerrard we have brought in a top quality young hungry manager and we are picking up younger players whose sell by date is far in the future. He has gone for young legs with skill, strength and speed. Gone are the days when Rangers can be bullied in the middle of the park. Even with ten men for most of the game against Aberdeen on Sunday we ruled the game. Unfortunately we lost a goal in the 94th minute to give Aberdeen a draw that they celebrated as if they had won the European Cup but Rangers must look at the positive of being a far better team than Aberdeen and also a far stronger team than our team of last season.
Maribor reached the group stages of the Champions League last season where they gained three points with draws against Seville, Spartak Moscow and Liverpool. They drew with Seville at home and Spartak in both the home and away games, but took a 7-0 hammering from Liverpool so hopefully Steven Gerrard will know a lot about them and their weak points. On the home front they had a trophy-less season losing a play-off to their biggest rivals Olimpija in a head to head play-off after finishing equal on points. They will certainly be no push-overs but the prize of being one round closer to the group section of the Europa league must be a huge carrot to the Rangers players.
Hopefully we can cut out the common denominator of the last two games in losing late goals and get back to giving Allan McGregor a clean sheet that is so important in Europe. Hopefully the players and supporters will make Ibrox the old Fortress it used to be and we can take a solid lead to head to Maribor with.
Possible team (4-2-3-1):
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