It was a blue day for Glasgow Rangers as Ally McCoist’s side tasted defeat in the Old Firm derby. The narrow 1-0 loss allowed the hosts Celtic to takeover top spot on the SPL, less than two months after trailing Rangers by 15 points.
During that period, former Brisbane Strikers, Eastern Suburbs and Brisbane Roar player Matt McKay hasn’t been able to feature consistently for the ‘Gers. McKay’s transfer to Rangers occurred at the end of August, signing after playing for the Socceroos in London, recommended to McCoist by Craig Moore.
McKay notched significant air miles between Glasgow and Brisbane after returning to Brisbane to gather his belongings and then two weeks later McKay returned to Brisbane for the Socceroos World Cup qualifier against Thailand. This travel impacted McKay’s transition to the Scottish giants and he was limited to a single cameo appearance off the bench against Dundee United.
McKay looked useful in that game and certainly did not appear out of his depth. He was utilised out wide on the left, a similar position to that he occupies for the Socceroos and excelled in during the 2011 Asian Cup. It is a different role to the central dynamo position that helped him propel Brisbane Roar to the A-League title.
McKay’s first start came at the start of November, again against Dundee United, where Matt was used as a second forward. Playing off Nikica Jelavic, McKay assisted in a goal in a 3-1 win by delivering a fantastic ball for his Croatian partner. Chances have been limited since, with McKay only notching 144 minutes in the Rangers blue shirt. There appears to be several reasons as to why McKay hasn’t flourished despite reasonable performances when he has had a chance. Rangers don’t appear to know where best to utilise him. Whilst his best position is central midfield this is a position of strength for McCoist. Another factor is a Clydesdale Bank Premier League rule which means each team must have three players under the age of 21. As such, places on the bench are limited with several places taken by players required to fulfil this criteria.
Whilst Rangers have lost their league lead, the much published recent demise of the Brisbane Roar is dominating A-League headlines. McKay left towards the end of pre-season and his spot in the team has been taken by Massimo Murdocca, a foundation player that has become a fringe player during the Roar’s championship run. Murdocca has qualities, he keeps the ball moving and provides fluidity, however he does not have the same creativity that is found on McKay’s left boot.
The A-League season started with Mitch Nicholls and Thomas Broich in good form, and between them, helped by Berisha’s finishing, the Roar never missed a beat. The Roar’s form dipped when Nicholls left for Olyroos and Socceroos duties. Broich and Henrique were looked at to provide the opportunities which they did reasonably well; as they were when Nicholls returned out of form. Unfortunately with the Brazilian and the German out injured, the creativity has been missing and that has meant the Roar are toothless in attack, which has partially caused the Roar’s barron run. Obviously the focus is on the missing Broich, however part of the Roar’s struggles has been an overreliance on Nicholls and Broich in the absence of McKay.
The combination of Rangers and the Roar’s recent form makes it more frustrating that McKay warms the bench. The next two weeks may be his best opportunity thanks to the suspensions to Rangers players Lee McCulloch and Dorin Goian. His coach, McCoist, may also feel the pressure to tinker with the line-up given the ineffective performance against Celtic.