By Northampton Loyalist
Updated Wednesday, 23rd December 2009
A much-maligned player is welcomed back into the fold.
Has a player described by his international manager as 'lacking ability' ever had such a profound effect on an entire team? Those were the words chosen by the erstwhile Scotland manager George Burley when describing the Rangers defender. Leaving aside the wisdom of any manager labelling a man he will be relying upon to perform as basically not very good, there has never really been any doubt about what big Kirk brings to the party.
When news first came through that Rangers would be signing the big stopper from St. Mirren the reaction amongst the support was mixed. Many, concerned with the on-going 'dumbing down' of expectations at Ibrox, expressed concern over the signing of a player from lowly SPL rivals. But plenty of supporters saw at least hints of a consistent and solid squad man in the making, capable of playing at either centre half or full back; a young man with almost all of his career in-front of him and who had already captained a side in the Scottish top flight.
Broadfoot had a mixed start to his Rangers career. Behind a resurgent Hutton and latterly £2 million man Whittaker, starts were rare and when he was on the park we got largely what we expected: solid but unspectacular displays, a man of the match performance against Falkirk aside, with the odd schoolboy error thrown in. The defender played his part in Rangers' fantastic run to Manchester and achieved his first call up to the full Scotland squad.
A lengthy lay-off has meant that this season Broadfoot has sat out the early part of the action but now that he has returned he appears to have brought some much needed stability to the defence, a stability that looks to be influencing the entire set-up of the team. Lets be brutally honest: as far as full-backs go Broadfoot is no Cafu. If you are looking for Hutton-esque rampages up the right flank then you will be disappointed, Whittaker offers far more than Broadfoot in the attacking sense on a consistent basis but when it comes to the bread and butter of a defender's duties Broadfoot is - by a distance - the best option we have.
Rangers are looking like a different team to that which capitulated in Aberdeen. There is a fluidity to our play that has not been seen for an age and that newfound verve is matched by a resurgence in what is called team spirit, but which is in-fact simply players taking individual responsibility. Broadfoot individually has not turned Rangers' season around, but there is no question for me that he has played his part. Team meetings, 'clear the air' talks and a newfound self belief are all huge factors, but when a right winger can advance and know that his opposite number is covered you will see more from him. When a centre half can concentrate on the strikers in-front of him without worrying about being dragged to cover the flank then fewer mistakes in the box will occur and when a central midfielder can patrol his part of the pitch without having one eye on an overlapping full back the entire team can play in a more settled manner.
Rangers look a different prospect in attack. Novo and Beasley must obviously take huge credit for this, both seem to have hit a patch of form at exactly the time we needed it, and that coupled with a Kris Boyd who is playing like I personally never though possible and a Kenny Miller who is doing precisely what he was signed for (and a little more) gives real hope for a goal virtually every time we advance up the park. Beasley has the freedom of movement that he does in large part because Broadfoot gets up in support when he can but far more importantly does his defending in the correct manner. Davis and whoever partners him in the centre have more freedom too, the flanks are not being over-run and so they are pulled out of position in cover less often. This means that when we inevitably win the ball they are poised to get it forward. We are able to press higher up the park, something that has been asked for by many supporters, because the shape at the back is now geared towards allowing the midfield to advance and if a player is sold short in the opposition half there is appropriate cover behind him.
Broadfoot will never be a 'glamour' player (although a tidy assist against Motherwell shows that he can attack with success when the time is right) but he will give you tight performances and allow others to do their own jobs with more freedom, and fewer crosses will reach our box and players in every area of the park will reap the rewards. Who was the last player to influence our on field performances to such an extent? De Boer? For such a 'limited' player (who would, I'm sure, be the first to laugh in my face if I tried to compare him to Ronald in terms of ability) he has made a huge difference to the way in which we work all over the park. With a simply massive three games looming I have a confidence in Rangers coming away with nine points that just would not have been there a month ago and, for me at least, Broadfoot must take at least a chunk of the credit. While it is obviously premature to offer unreserved praise, his exploits over the last few games deserve recognition.