Glasgow Rangers' Boss Must Tie Up in-Form Winger During January Window
Sone Aluko’s move to Ibrox certainly raised a few eyebrows in November with the winger at the centre of a compensation row between the Light Blues and his former club Aberdeen.
The 22-year-old spent four years in the Granite City before leaving the club at the end of last season, but there was very little interest in the London-born winger during the summer transfer window.
Instead, it took a short trial at the start of November at Auchenhowie to tempt Rangers boss Ally McCoist into making an approach for the player.
However, his former employers at Pittodrie insisted they were due a compensation package for developing Aluko in his time at Aberdeen.
After a spell of Rangers playing hardball, a deal was reached for the Dons to receive around £200,000 with the player personally contributing to pay off some of the compensation.
Aluko has been a breath of fresh air in the Rangers side and has filled the void left by Vladimir Weiss who returned to Manchester City after a successful loan spell in Glasgow.
Weiss brought a creative spark that had been missing from Ibrox for some time; there was significant concern that not signing a Weiss-like replacement in the summer could come back to haunt the Light Blues.
But Aluko has been surprisingly just as good in the Rangers side with a refreshing bag of tricks, and terrific close control when in possession.
The winger already has two assists and one goal to his name in just five starts for the Gers, and could be influential in the next five months of the SPL season with Celtic leading at the top by just two points.
Aluko's early Rangers career has certainly been more eventful than McCoist will have hoped for with Aluko picking up an early two-match ban following a controversial penalty incident in the 2-1 home victory against Dunfermline.
The week previously, it was Aluko’s lack of concentration that resulted in Kilmarnock taking the lead against the Scottish champions, which they eventually held on to, handing the Rangers their first league defeat of the season.
And since then, Aluko's been an almost revelation on the right-hand side of the Rangers attack with some excellent performances in his short spell in Glasgow.
The winger got his first goal in Rangers colours in a very well worked goal involving John Fleck and David Healy, before firing home a left foot strike from the edge of the box.
Since Steven Naismith was ruled out, Rangers have struggled to produce the same intensity and tempo as they did in the early part of the campaign that resulted in some incredibly average performances against the likes of St Johnstone and Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
One of the biggest complaints about McCoist was that he was keen to shoe-horn other members of the squad into Naismith’s position, with the likes of Matt McKay, Alejandro Bedoya and Juan Manuel Ortiz failing to make that role their own.
The Rangers manager has tried and tested a variety of combinations and personnel in the SPL from such extremes as Sasa Papac in a 4-2-3-1 holding midfield, and Kyle Bartley being thrown up front in their Christmas Eve defeat to St Mirren.
But crucially, McCoist and Rangers have moved away from trying to find a direct replacement for Naismith and have looked to find a Plan B, which seems to be gathering momentum based on the last few weeks.
Aluko has been impressive on the right side of midfield, and summer signing Lee Wallace has provided good balance on the opposite side of the 4-4-2.
McCoist briefly handed Fleck a chance in the No.10 role behind Healy, which worked very well against Motherwell, but the young attacking midfielder was back on the bench against St Johnstone at the weekend—a frustrating reflection of his early career at Ibrox.
The early part of 2012 is a decisive time for the Gers with the upcoming HMRC case to be heard next week, and three domestic home matches that could swing the pendulum back in Rangers’ favour if they produce three big performances against Aberdeen, Hibernian and Kilmarnock within the next month.
But even though Aluko is tied up until the end of the current season, it would be slack of the Rangers hierarchy to allow the 22-year-old’s expiring deal to attract interest of clubs from south of the border.
And with Champions League qualifiers potentially kicked off in June and early July, the sensible option would be to nail down a very important player for the long-term future.
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