Five things to know about Gedion Zelalem's Rangers

Gedion Zelalem, the U.S. under-20 national team midfielder, completed the switch from Arsenal on loan to Glasgow Rangers at least until January. He joins one of the most storied -- and tragic -- clubs in the history of European soccer with a world record 54 league titles, but it was brought to its knees by financial ruin in 2012. Three years later, it is attempting, on its second go, to win promotion back to the Scottish Premier League.

1. HISTORY: Rangers. Rangers have won more league titles (54) and trebles (7) than any other club in the world, and its Old Firm rivalry with Glasgow neighbor Celtic is one of the most famous in the world. It greatest domestic success came when it won nine straight league titles from 1989 to 1997.

Rangers also enjoyed considerable success in Europe. It won the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1972 and came within one point of reaching the 1993 UEFA Champions League final. Its last appearance in a European final came in 2008 when it lost to Zenit Saint Petersburg in the UEFA Cup final.

As big money began to be pumped into European soccer over the last quarter century, Rangers tried to keep up, but losses of $20 million a year were common. Disaster hit in 2008, the summer after their last appearance in a European final, when Rangers was knocked out the Champions League by tiny FBK Kaunas of Lithuania in the qualifying round, costing them $15 million. The beginning of the end was a tax avoidance scheme to pay players via a company based in Jersey. When the British government ruled the payments were salaries, not loans, Rangers were forced in bankruptcy with a payroll tax bill of more than $35 million and dropped to the fourth level of Scottish pro soccer.

2. STADIUM: Ibrox Stadium. Rangers plays at Ibrox Stadium, one of the legendary stadiums of British soccer. The old Ibrox Park, initially built in 1899, holds the British record for attendance at a league match as 118,567 fans watched the 1939 Old Firm match between Rangers and Celtic.

In 1971, Ibrox Park was the site of what was at the time the worst disaster in British soccer history as 66 fans suffocated and died in the crush of trying to exit the stadium after a game against Celtic. Capacity of the stadium was reduced to 65,000, and it was later renovated in the style of German stadiums with stands on three sides featuring seats replacing the terraces that stretched on both sides from the main stand in the shape of an oval.

Capacity of the new stadium was initially 44,000, but suites were added to boost the capacity to 50,000 in 1997 when the stadium was renamed Ibrox Stadium.

3. LEAGUE: League Championship. Rangers plays in the 12-team League Championship. After earning promotion in 2013 and 2014 from the bottom levels of Scottish pro soccer, it tried to win promotion back to the top of Scottish soccer in 2014-15 but paid the price for sticking with aging players. It finished third in the League Championship, 24 points behind champion Hearts.

Rangers' opponents include longtime rivals from the elite of Scottish soccer like Hibs, second behind Hearts in 2014-15, and St. Mirren, which was relegated from the Premier League and lost to Rangers, 5-1, in their season opener.

But most of the clubs in the League Championship play in tiny stadiums. For their first road game of the season, Rangers beat Alloa Athletic, 5-1, before an overflow crowd of 3,047 fans at Indodrill Stadium. That's not the smallest stadium Rangers will play in, however. Dumbarton Football Stadium seats 2,020 fans.

4. MANAGER: Mark Warburton. Warburton's background is in currency trading -- he used to work for Bank of America -- not in coaching, though he eventually took coaching positions at Watford and Brentford in England before becoming the Brentford manager in December 2013.

He immediately led the Bees from the third-level League One to the second-level League Championship and to semifinals of the promotion playoffs in his second season. But a difference of opinion with Brentford owner Matthew Benham over the use of soccer analytics -- Warburton, the former currency trader, was against it -- led to his departure and that of assistant, former Scottish international David Weir, who starred at the University of Evansville.

Warburton compared working in a trading room to the experience of being in a locker room, "testosterone-filled rooms, looking to make money."

5. SQUAD: Rangers 2015-16. Zelalem -- young and skillful -- is the kind of player Warburton is looking for. “I like players who dominate the ball and play with possession," Warburton said. "It’s not the right way, it’s our way.”

Rangers is off to a perfect start to the new season, beating Hibs, 1-0, on Sunday before 49,220 fans at Ibrox for its third straight league win and six win in all competitions. Englishman James Tavernier, one of eight offseason signings in the starting lineup, had the game's lone goal. The average age of the eight new players: only 24.

The only holdover from championship Rangers teams of the past and the only player over 30 was forward Kenny Miller, who spent part of three seasons in MLS with Vancouver before returning to Rangers last summer. Miller, now 35, led the Scottish league in scoring in 2010-11, the last season Rangers were league champions with a team that included Weir as captain and American Maurice Edu.
1 comment about "Five things to know about Gedion Zelalem's Rangers".
  1. Andrew Urquhart , August 25, 2015 at 7:59 a.m.

    I'm a season ticket holder at ibrox and look forward to welcoming zelalem to rangers he looks a real talent all rangers fans will give him the support he needs watp

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