New storm clouds are hovering over Rangers

THE match against Forfar Athletic at Station Park tonight was to have been a routine one for Rangers.

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Rangers players rejected a 15% cuts in wages
Rangers players rejected a 15% cuts in wages

Despite their difficulties at the Angus ground this season, the visitors are expected to win and, in all likelihood, win comfortably.

But due to events off the field at the Ibrox club in the last week it has now taken on far, far greater significance.

And beating opponents who knocked them out of the League Cup in August and ran them close in SPFL League One in September may not be straightforward.

All eyes will be on Ally McCoist's players this evening to see what impact, if any, the proposed pay cut has had on them.

Will their commitment be the same? Will this development have unsettled them in any way? Will they be fully focused on football?

Light Blues supporters will be looking to have all these questions, and many more, answered after the game kicks off.

McCoist has been impressed with his charges' attitude, application and professionalism in the days since they met with club chief executive Graham Wallace on Thursday.

But when the first-team stars at Rangers agreed to accept a reduction in their wages, back in 2012, their form nosedived dramatically. Having already surrendered a comfortable lead in the top flight before the new year, they were  unable to prevent their Old Firm rivals Celtic from winning the Scottish title.

Yet, the circumstances two years ago were dramatically different to those they are now in.

Rangers had been plunged into administration after former owner Craig Whyte had failed to pay over £14million in NIC, PAYE and VAT.

And the prospect of being hit with a colossal bill by HMRC for using EBTs to pay players was also hanging over them.

Despite the issues they are wrestling with, and despite McCoist's admission that "extremely difficult times" lie ahead, the current predicament is not as grave. Not yet anyway.

Yes, funds are dwindling. There is expected to be just £1m in the bank by April. Financial experts have predicted that money will run out midway through next season.

But Wallace has given repeated assurances - to his manager, to the players and also publicly - that there is no chance of administration MkII happening.

Furthermore, the present first-team squad has, unlike before, flatly rejected the offer of a 15% reduction in their pay.

For the time being at least. Nevertheless, the very fact they have been asked to accept less will be concerning for the players. They will be aware, too, that their refusal may have consequences. Costs must be cut at a troubled institution that is, due to the mismanagement of the previous regimes and many of those involved in the current one, operating at a significant loss.

The possibility of players being either sent out on loan or sold in order to generate funds and drive down a £6m wage bill is now a distinct one.

The chances are high that -barring the club being docked 25 points for going back into administration - Rangers will win League One and secure promotion to the Championship this season.

They are undefeated in the division and are currently 17 points clear of their nearest challengers Dunfermline. That will increase to 20 points if they win tonight.

However, will their chances of winning the Ramsdens Cup and going on an extended run in the Scottish Cup be jeopardised by the latest crisis to engulf the club?

It will be damaging to the resurgence of Rangers if they are. Success in those two tournaments will be morale-boosting not to mention lucrative.

Wallace, the former Manchester City financial director, is more concerned with creating a sustainable business model than with apportioning blame for the mess.

Still, he must surely wonder, like every Rangers fan, how a club that had over £22m in the bank after a share offering little over a year ago can be in such a sorry state.

He must be scratching his head and asking how his predecessor Craig Mather and his associates could possibly have sanctioned the signing of nine senior players last summer.

For now, less than six months down the line, Rangers are attempting to reduce their annual outgoings in that area by between £1m and £3m.

You did not have to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer to have foreseen this situation arising. A basic grasp of O Grade arithmetic would have been enough.

Sure, the first-team squad at Rangers clearly needed strengthened in the close season. The draws and defeats they suffered in the Third Division underlined that more experienced players were required.

But it was irresponsible to sign so many senior professionals without offloading others because it has meant the Ibrox club is now living outwith its means.

Given that it was doing exactly that was what, among many other things, resulted in Rangers being in this predicament in the first place, it is an inexcusable turn of events.

The game against Forfar Athletic at Station Park tonight promises to be the first of many hurdles, both on and off the park, that Rangers will have to overcome in the weeks and months ahead.

Football

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