Life After Kenny Miller: Who Can Fill His Void at Rangers?
Many Rangers fans remain dumbfounded by Kenny Miller's switch from Glasgow giants, Rangers, to the relative minnows of Turkish outfit, Bursaspor, a team Miller scored against for the Teddy Bears this very year in the Champions League.
Rangers manager Walter Smith didn't hide the fact that he wanted to hold on to the hit-man who has scored near the majority of the team's goals so far this season, but with his contract due to expire, the club were forced to cut their losses with the player and avoid a big loss if he was allowed to go for free when his contract expired.
Nonetheless, his superb form this year has left big boots to fill, and with the league running very close this year between Rangers, Celtic and Hearts, are the rest of the Rangers strikers up to the job?
This slide is being included because I heard a rumor today that Nacho Novo (pictured), darling of the Rangers fans, could make a return to the club to help replace Kenny Miller. Despite his popularity with the fans, however, he would probably make a poor replacement for Miller specifically.
He is a different kind of player, usually playing on the wing in his later days at Rangers first time around. Novo is a workhorse, whereas Miller is a poacher, and it is another poacher that needs to fill the void left by Miller.
As for new signings, Rangers' troubled financial situation of late means that any new signing would either be a temporary acquirement on loan, or an older player bought for a small amount. Neither of these options are ideal.
A loan player wouldn't solve the problem of the hole left by Miller in a comprehensive way, while an older player may bring a touch of experience to a youthful attack, but may be a step too slow of what is required for a Rangers striker, a position which, under Walter Smith, has involved a lot of chasing for the ball.
Therefore, I think it best to look at the talent already existing in the Rangers squad.
James Beattie is a proven goal scorer, having scored regularly for Premier League teams like Southampton and Everton in the past. This year, he became Rangers' first signing in two years, but has featured little so far, due in part to injury.
At the minute, Beattie is untested at Ibrox, but signs of him becoming a regular goal-scorer seem conspicuous by their absence so far. At 32, his age may lend some experience, but it also seems to have left him a step slower than he was in his more predatory days, and indeed, in seven appearances, he is yet to score.
As he gets back to match fitness, he may start to gel with the team more and pick up some goals, but until then, he is far from the top of the team-sheet.
Andrew Little is an up-and-comer at Ibrox, and at the age of only 21, it seems unrealistic that he could fill the boots of the No. 1 striker at the club.
He has already scored at the senior level, however, and is a hot prospect for the future. Providing he doesn't get poached from a Premier League club, he could very well rise to be an important member of the Rangers squad.
Steven Naismith has been one of the stand-out players of the season for Rangers so far, and is arguably having, personally, the season of his life so far.
'Naisy' is another young player, at only 24, and despite actually playing on the wing as opposed to up-front, he has been hitting the net with regularity, scoring 8 so far this season, the second most behind the departed Miller.
This is part of the reason, however, why Naismith can't be the one to replace Miller as the go-to striker. Naismith has been doing such an excellent job on the wing, creating goals as well as scoring them that Walter Smith can't really afford to lose him in that position. He can be expected to pick up goals, but he is much more effective as an attack-minded winger at this point.
The controversial Northern Irish forward already regularly makes the Rangers first team, be it starting on the pitch or coming on from the bench.
Lafferty is a strong, clever player with a consistent, if not explosive scoring record.
Lafferty has been a controversial figure since he took a dive against Aberdeen last season to get an opposition player sent off, but personally, I like this ruthless side of Lafferty, and it doesn't seem to have spoiled his career since.
Miller's departure will almost certainly mean more starts for Lafferty, as well as more goals.
Nikica Jelavic only arrived at Ibrox this year, but in his first eight games, he scored four goals and was destined to be a great success. This was cut short, however, when he was injured in a match against Hearts, an injury that would keep him out for months.
Jelavic has only just returned to the pitch for Rangers, but his return may be just in time with the departure of Miller from the club. It is this man who seems most capable of replacing Miller up-front, and Rangers' title chances may well depend on how well Jelavic performs in as the season comes to a close.
If he can replicate the form he was in when he first played for the club, he could well become Rangers' new talisman and see them on their way to a third straight league championship.