Rangers were a club without direction. Having suffered a financial meltdown, the Ibrox club needed to assemble a new squad as they plotted their route back to the top of the Scottish game from the country’s bottom division. But not even that could account for the scattergun approach adopted over the four years it took them to reach the Scottish Premiership.
In the six years between 2012 and Steven Gerrard’s arrival in Govan last summer, 76 signings (loan and permanent) were made by Rangers. The cliche about a revolving door at Ibrox was used many times over this period, but not even that did justice to the fluidity of the club’s first-team squad. It would have been more accurate to state there was an open door.
Since then, Rangers have become more considered in their approach. The appointment of former Manchester City chief Mark Allen as Director of Football in the summer of 2017 was a watershed moment for the club and ultimately led to the hiring of Gerrard a year later. Allen, however, is now gone and Ross Wilson has been hired in his place.
This could turn out to be an even bigger appointment for Rangers than Gerrard was. Wilson is highly-rated in footballing circles having spent the past four years at Southampton. The 36-year-old was Director of Football Operations at St Mary’s Stadium and was instrumental in identifying and capturing such talents as Virgil van Dijk and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. Wilson was also credited with the appointment of Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl last year.
"It was surprising for me, but what I can say is that I had a very good relationship with him," Hasenhuttl told The Herald
"I liked to work with him, he is a nice and fantastic character, a fantastic personality and I enjoyed every minute with him.
"For us, it is a big loss for sure - but this is what happens in football. For us it will be important that we bring somebody new in and we will do this."
Wilson, who has also worked at Falkirk, Huddersfield Town and Watford, is a revered figure and so it is quite the coup that Rangers have managed to lure him to Ibrox. He was reportedly their first choice ahead of Allen two years ago and so it seems their persistence has paid off. If Wilson can replicate much of what he achieved at Southampton at Ibrox the club will be in a good place.
Of course, there is a risk attached to hiring a Director of Football after that of a manager. The pitfalls of this were realised with the appointment of Allen following Pedro Caixinha’s arrival at Rangers a few months beforehand. Caixinha was never Allen’s choice and their relationship was strained until the moment of the Portuguese’s sacking. Gerrard wasn’t Wilson’s choice.
However, it’s difficult to envisage that Wilson will want to make any drastic changes in that regard. Gerrard has made real progress in the year-and-a-bit he has been in Scotland, with Rangers currently top of the Scottish Premiership. Allen helped to put them there, but Wilson’s job will now be to take the club even further.