Rangers Can Take Inspiration from 2009 Title Triumph

A general view of Ibrox Stadium ahead of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League match between Rangers and Celtic in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The Scottish champions are experiencing some tough times on and off the park, but despite trailing Celtic by four points, they are keen to keep their title dream alive.

After a difficult week for all concerned with Rangers Football Club, the players ended the week on a positive note with an improved performance against Dunfermline Athletic and three valuable points at East End Park.

Rumours of financial meltdown at Ibrox and owner Craig Whyte's ongoing battle with a number of press outlets in Scotland has dominated the mainstream media over the last seven days and it was a welcome boost for Rangers to be back in action at the weekend.

Boss Ally McCoist asked Lee McCulloch to play as an emergency center forward on Saturday and the former Wigan man produced a very decent display in Fife. McCulloch and his strike partner David Healy put Rangers 2-1 in front at half-time before Sone Aluko and Salim Kerkar rounded off an important win for the Gers.

McCoist will be hoping the win over bottom-placed Dunfermline sparks the same reaction as Rangers' tight win over eventually-relegated Falkirk in April 2009 with Walter Smith's men enduring the same sort of negativity days prior to their match against the Bairns.

There are already some glaring similarities between Rangers' title victory in 2008/09 - their first in four years - and the current season.

Rangers were similarly dumped out of Europe at the first hurdle in 2008 with Lithuanian minnows FBK Kaunas handing the Scottish side, who reached the UEFA Cup Final just months later, an embarrassing blow to their league preparation and their finances. It was a defeat that years later would come back to haunt Rangers. In the first few weeks of August, McCoist watched his side beaten by Swedish side Malmo in the Champions League and then kicked out of Europe entirely by NK Maribor.

At present. McCoist's side is four points behind Neil Lennon's in-form Celtic team. In the first week of March 2009, Rangers trailed their bitter rivals by three points after Ian Black's last minute penalty for Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Ibrox put the Gers back in to second place with 10 games to play.

Controversy has went hand-in-hand at times with the Light Blues over the past few years with a number of off-field matters shadowing their impressive domestic success. In April 2009, Walter Smith suspended club captain Barry Ferguson and regular goalkeeper Allan McGregor following their behaviour on international duty. As Rangers dropped another two points at home to Hearts the week previously, they were generally written off by the media as Celtic looked to make it four league championships in consecutive years under Gordon Strachan.

But eight wins from nine games in the title run-in, including a 1-0 victory over Celtic at Ibrox, was the ideal response as the Gers were on the verge of their 52nd league championship triumph. On the last day of the season, Rangers went to Dundee United knowing that the destination of the League Championship was in their hands. The players were determined to ram the ill-fated comments of Georgios Samaras just a few days before down the throat of Celtic's Greek international striker.

Smith's men were in scintillating form at Tannadice with first-half goals from Kyle Lafferty and Pedro Mendes as the helicopter took off from its base in Cumbernauld with the SPL trophy on its way to Dundee. Kris Boyd's second half goal, his 27th league goal of the season, was followed by the eventual circling of the helicopter around the stadium. Celtic's lackluster performance at home to Hearts on the same afternoon meant that Rangers were crowned Scottish champions for the first time since the original ‘Helicopter Sunday' in 2004/05.

McCoist will require a similar desire and appetite as shown by a galvanised Rangers side in 2008/09 with the likes of Neil Alexander and Maurice Edu in terrific form when the team needed them most in the absence of Ferguson and McGregor.

USA international Edu has been, arguably, Rangers' best player this season out with the injured Steven Naismith and has brought a consistent dynamism and athleticism to the midfield. Fellow American Carlos Bocanegra would probably be the other candidate for ‘Rangers Player of the Season' with a high level of consistency throughout the campaign.

The Light Blues should secure the services of Gabon striker Daniel Cousin for the rest of the season as they desperately look to fill the void left by the departed Croatian hitman Nikica Jelavic. Cousin left Rangers on a high-note in August 2008 as he produced an immense display at Celtic Park in a 4-2 victory. Four years ago, Rangers drafted in Lithuanian striker Andrius Velicka from nowhere and he played a brief, but important, part of the title run-in and Cousin could have the same-sort of impact as Velicka.

With Kilmarnock and Inverness completing the February fixtures for Rangers, March brings four crucial matches against Hearts and Celtic at Ibrox and trips to Dundee United and Motherwell.

The next 6-12 months could arguably be the most important in the club's illustrious history with the over-hanging cloud of an HMRC tax bill, possibly in the region of £49m, as well as, numerous question marks over their current owner Craig Whyte. A fourth league championship in a row would go a long way to restoring faith in the club's owner and manager.

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