Sky Sports’ Kris Boyd: “It’s a difficult one because so many players have played a big part in what Rangers have achieved this season. But, if I have to narrow it down to five players, my five would be Allan McGregor, James Tavernier, Connor Goldson, Steven Davis and Ryan Kent.”
Sunday 7 March 2021 14:06, UK
Rangers have ended Celtic’s dominance in Scotland by claiming their first Scottish Premiership title since 2011, but who were the key players in Steven Gerrard’s side’s success?
We tasked former Rangers striker Kris Boyd with the job of picking out five key players from Gerrard’s title-winning team, and it proved to be a tricky challenge.
“It’s a difficult one because so many players have played a big part in what Rangers have achieved this season,” Boyd told Sky Sports.
“The likes of Filip Helander and Leon Balogun have not looked out of place. Scott Arfield had a fantastic October and November. He was the one who was making the difference then.
“Joe Aribo has had spells where he’s made a difference. Alfredo Morelos is now finishing the season strong and Glen Kamara has had an excellent period as well.
“I also feel really bad for leaving Borna Barisic out of my top five! In terms of getting up and down the flank, scoring goals and his set-piece delivery, he’s been massive for Rangers.”
However, Boyd eventually narrowed down his selections, picking out his five key players as Rangers romped their way to a 55th title…
Rangers haven’t conceded many goals this season, and that’s down to their defence and the goalkeeper, Allan McGregor.
He’s probably been busier in other seasons, but it’s the big saves he makes at big moments that have seen Rangers gain the points that they’ve gained.
You can go through so many games this season and say a save from McGregor was the turning point, or at 1-0 he made a fantastic save that allowed Rangers to go and get a second and a third. There have been big moments in big games that McGregor has shown his quality.
Top goalkeepers have to be switched on and when big saves need to be made, he is the man you want in between those sticks.
The defensive record that Rangers have this season, a lot of it is down to him. We speak about communication in football and he’s a big part of that. We also saw Jon McLaughlin come in and have a good few weeks, so the competition for places has pushed players on and Allan has been one who has benefitted from that as well.
Overall, he has been fantastic. At the age of 39, to be pulling off the saves, the reflexes, the quickness around the goal and the performances, just shows you what a fantastic goalkeeper he still is.
In the early part of his Rangers career, people were quick to point out the things he couldn’t do in terms of the defensive aspect of his game, but what was overshadowed was the attacking talent he had.
Now, this Rangers team allows him to flourish because he can get forward. The midfielders understand that they need to cover the full-backs and that is where Tavernier has excelled. No disrespect to the players he played with before but now, there is a team at Rangers that allows him to flourish in the way he has this season.
His crossing into the box, his goals, and people will say they are penalty kicks but to show the technique and to stand up and take them having missed a few and then going back to take them again, he’s been superb.
It’s been a terrific season for Tavernier as a captain that has led Rangers to that historic 55th title and stopped Celtic’s domination. A lot of people have criticised him in the past, but he’s going to have the last laugh. He will be the man that lifts the title for Rangers.
He’s led from the front in the Rangers defence and he’s popped up with some important goals, none more so than the two at Celtic Park to secure victory there.
The thing that has struck me this season, and I know it is unfortunate that there are no fans in the grounds, but there are always people you can hear screaming and shouting, demanding and telling players where to go, and Goldson has been one of them.
He’s one of the players that has organised, communicated with everybody and done what he’s had to do in terms of defending, but his bravery on the ball has been impressive too.
We talk about Tavernier and his qualities on the ball, but for Goldson, you’ve got to be brave, you’ve got to get on the ball, you’ve got to take it and make things happen, and that’s got a lot to do with the way Rangers play.
He’s been a composed figure, led by example and another one who has come in for criticism in the past, but again, he’ll have the last laugh.
It is also important that I mention his partner, be it Filip Helander or Leon Balogun. They have come in and done really well too. Goldson has been the mainstay but whoever has played alongside him has done really well.
I’ve spoken about Davis loads and loads of times and what more can you say?
He’s a fantastic player and a fantastic person first and foremost. What you see on the pitch is what you get off the pitch. He’s a leader, a quiet family man and any time he does get a break you can see that. He’s not the typical footballer.
However, that then allows him to be the person he is on the pitch. – the calming influence that this Rangers team has needed over a period of time.
Again, he’s probably a player that was written off when you go back to when he first came to the club. People said he was past it but now he’s Northern Ireland’s record cap holder and he’s now going to be part of a team that’s going to lift the Scottish Premiership league title again.
His performances have been brilliant. He knows when to up the pace, get on the ball and make things happen. He knows when to go long and when to keep things simple but the other thing that has really impressed me this season is the fact he’s still breaking forward.
A lot of players, when they get to a certain age, they tend to say they’ve done their job, sit back and protect. Davis is still trying to get into the final third to make things happen at 36-years-old. He’s the one that’s pushing on and he’s the driving force of the team.
Honourable mentions must go to Ryan Jack, who had a good few months. Scott Arfield, Joe Aribo and Glen Kamara have done well too. There’s been a good balance through the whole team and that has allowed the star players to shine.
Steven will be the first to admit the players he is playing alongside this season have allowed him to continue at this level and produce the performances that he has this season.
With wingers and strikers especially, you always get a bit of a dip in form at some point and there’s no doubt that Kent hasn’t been at the same level that he showed at the start of the season.
The last few weeks he’s shown glimpses that he’s back to what he was. There was a period where everybody was saying he needs to come out of the team – but if you watch the way Rangers play and the difference when he is in the team – even if he’s not at his brilliant best, he still has an impact in the game.
Whether that’s pressing, getting Rangers up the field, getting on the ball and driving right at the defence to make defenders back off or creating space for others to get a goal, Kent is pivotal to what Rangers do going forward. There is no getting away from that.
Usually, when you have a team that has dominated the league as much as what Rangers have, you usually have one standout player and nine times out of 10 that is usually a defender who has defended really well to help get a clean sheet or, more often than not, a striker who has scored 25 to 30 goals to lead you to the championship.
But I don’t think this Rangers team has needed any of that. It’s been a real team performance and that’s what Kent will go back to. Everyone wants good numbers. Everybody wants crosses, assists and goals, but it is his influence on the players around him. He knows when to go long, he knows when to go short and he is the one who can unlock a defence. Right up until around the Christmas period, he was unbelievable. Let’s not get away from that. Yes, his form has dipped but you are going to get that. It does happen.
His form may have dipped and when you look at Rangers’ performances, they may have also dipped a little bit during that period too, but they were still getting results and a lot of that was down to Kent. He’s a class act.
Rangers did really well in keeping hold of Alfredo Morelos, but I said right at the start of the season that if they had any aspirations of winning this league title, then they had to keep hold of Ryan Kent. So, the board as a whole deserve a lot of credit because it would have been easy to take the £15m and reinvest it, however, they were never going to get another Ryan Kent.
Rangers as a football club need a lot of credit for being able to say no and believe in what they were trying to do, and they’ve definitely done that. Kent has been exceptional for the majority of the season but even when his form has dipped a little bit, he’s still had a massive, massive impact on this Rangers team and the way they play.
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