The Jelavic Effect

Why Rangers can’t afford to sell Nikicia Jelavic

By Johnny Connelly

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Given the financial difficulties facing current SPL champions Rangers, football fans from up and down the country have been speculating ‘where’ and ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ talisman Nikica Jelavic will be departing the club. During the transfer window, it’s open season for ‘red-top’ journalists to pen tales that’d be more suited to Jackanory than the back pages of their downmarket publications. Before the transfer window even opened, Rangers fans have been conditioned to believe that their most prized asset will be headed for the exit. However, after a little statistical analysis, to my mind Rangers have no option but to retain the services of their leading scorer.

Look familiar? This is the SPL table as it stands:

Pl

W

D

L

Points

1 Celtic

23

18

2

3

56

2 Rangers

23

17

3

3

54

3 Hearts

23

10

5

8

35

4 Motherwell

21

10

4

7

34

5 St Johnstone

22

9

5

8

32

6 Kilmarnock

22

6

9

7

27

7 Dundee Utd

23

6

8

9

26

8 St Mirren

23

6

8

9

26

9 Aberdeen

23

6

7

10

25

10 Inverness CT

22

6

4

12

22

11 Hibernian

22

4

6

12

18

12 Dunfermline

21

3

5

13

14

Currently, the SPL title look as though we could be in for another nail biting crescendo at the end of the season. Celtic hold a narrow lead at the top of the table, and Rangers’ are close behind. Everyone knows that Rangers’ title challenge so far has leaned heavily on the abilities of the aforementioned Nikica Jelavic.

So where would Rangers be currently without Jelavic? This is hard to determine. He’s scored 14 goals in the 23 matches the Gers have played so far this season, as well as providing several assists. Let’s take a look at how things would look if we remove the contributions of the former Rapid Vienna hitman. Of course Rangers would have had another player in Jelavic’s place who’d have impacted positively on the team, but for argument’s sake, let’s deal with the cold hard facts of Jelavic’s impact on the SPL this season.

After reviewing in detail, each of Rangers’ 23 SPL encounters this season, it turns out that Jelavic’s contributions have been critical in gaining points on 7 occasions.

Date Opposition Result Result without Jelavic Jelavic Impact Point Shift

15/10/11

St Mirren @ Ibrox 1-1 Draw 1-0 Defeat 1 Goal – 48th minute

-1

29/10/11

Aberdeen @ Pittodrie 2-1 Win 1-1 Draw 1 Goal – 70th minute

-2

05/11/11

Dundee United @ Ibrox 3-1 Win 1-1 Draw 2 Goals – 19th & 63rd minute

-2

03/12/11

Dunfermline @ Ibrox 2-1 Win 1-1 Draw 1 Goal – 29th minute

-2

10/12/11

Hibs @ Easter Road 2-0 Win 0-0 Draw 2 Goals – 61st & 69th minute

-2

17/12/11

ICT @ Ibrox 2-1 Win 1-1 Draw 1 Assist – 55th minute

-2

14/01/12

St Johnstone @ McDairmid Park 2-1 Win 1-0 Defeat 2 Goals – 24th & 81st minute

-3

Total

-14

 

 How would this affect the current table? Take a look:

Pl

W

D

L

Points

1 Celtic

23

18

2

3

56

2 Rangers

23

11

7

5

40

3 Hearts

23

10

5

8

35

5 St Johnstone

22

10

5

7

35

4 Motherwell

21

10

4

7

34

7 Dundee Utd

23

6

9

8

27

6 Kilmarnock

22

6

9

7

27

8 St Mirren

23

7

7

9

28

9 Aberdeen

23

6

8

9

26

10 Inverness CT

22

6

5

11

23

11 Hibernian

22

4

7

11

19

12 Dunfermline

21

3

6

12

15

 

Of course, just to reiterate, this is all a hypothetical worst case scenario for Rangers, but it does make for interesting reading. Rangers are not alone in their heavy dependency on one or small number of players. (i.e Celtic – Hooper/Stokes, Barcelona – Messi, Arsenal – Van Persie, Man Utd – Rooney etc)

Perhaps coincidence, but perhaps not, that 6 of the 7 crucial Jelavic matches occurred after Rangers lost Steven Naismith for the season to that horrific injury against Hearts. This would imply that Jelavic has stepped up to the mark and carried Rangers through, again highlighting his paramount importance to the team. This poses the question, who, if anyone at Rangers could step up to the mark to replace Jelavic?

Rangers have been fortunate in recent years, that when they’ve lost a prolific goal scorer, another one has emerged from within the squad. After Kris Boyd moved on, Kenny Miller couldn’t stop scoring. When Miller was sold, in stepped Steven Naismith and latterly Nikicia Jelavic.
But who, in a such a threadbare Rangers squad, could step up to fill Jelavic’s boots? – Lafferty? Healy? (Really?)

The names that have been thrown around as potential replacements for Jelavic are unlikely to fill the Ibrox faithful with much hope. The return of an overweight and out of touch Kris Boyd or Nacho Novo is not what the fans want, or the team needs. Even the likes of Garry O’Connor, despite his impressive goal scoring record this season, has neither the prowess or finesse to replace Jelavic.

So in this myopic and seemingly inevitable shifting of Rangers’ top scorer to pastures new, I wonder if the money men at the club have considered weighing up the potential benefits of keeping him against selling him?

The benefits of keeping him are clear, having top-drawer goal scorer like the big Croatian in the team could be the difference between Rangers winning or losing the league. This in turn affects the chances of Rangers qualifying for the lucrative Champions League next season.

So what of the benefits of selling him? Transfer fees of between £7-£10m are being batted around, but in the grand scheme of things, does that money really dig Ally McCoist’s men out of any kind of trouble? Supposing Rangers do flounder in the conclusion of the HMRC tax case, and end up owing the tax man in the region of £50m, does selling your star man to pay off just a fraction of a mammoth debt seem like shrewd business? For me it doesn’t.

To my mind, Rangers currently have 3 top drawer players in their team: Alan McGregor, Steven Davis, and Nikica Jelavic. Now, tax case or no tax case, if Rangers are to survive this difficult spell in their history, this solid core unit of players has to be kept together.

Even for Celtic fans, or fans of any other team in the SPL, the retention of Jelavic should be a concern. The SPL is constantly under fire for being poor in quality, with very few real stars. To lose yet another one to the Premiership or beyond would be a real kick in the teeth. Obviously scoring 30 times in 44 outings for Rangers is going to attract attention, but for the good of Scottish football, and their own future, the Ibrox club must fight valiantly to keep Jelavic.

As much as Celtic fans would love to see their side win the league, given the choice, would they rather beat a strong Rangers side, or a significantly weakened one? The classic Old Firm battles throughout they decades have been when both sides have been at their strongest, with a spattering of world class players dawning both famous jerseys. Although Jelavic perhaps doesn’t quite live up to the Gascoigne’s, De Boer’s or Laudrup’s of the past, he’s the best they have, and as such, is invaluable.

Only time will tell as Scottish football fans look on anxiously, peering through the smoke and mirrors of the Craig Whyte regime to see if he’ll hold on to Jelavic and try to steer Rangers to glory; or cash in on the player in order to make the club’s accounts look a little more robust.

Leave your thoughts below:  


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2 Replies to “The Jelavic Effect”

  1. great point well made, we will only have a chance in the league by keeping our best players, only success will help the club pay off any debt, if we start going down the selling road where will it end, might as well sell the whole thing pay it all off and say well that was fun while it lasted who do we support now, no way., the only thing i don’t agree with is we should sign Kris Boyd get him Fit and back where he belongs, this guy’s limit is probably the SPL but in it he has won a european golden boot and will guarantee the club 25 goals a season, we need a striker 2 defenders and a mid and no selling.

  2. The selling of Jelavic is not to help to pay the taxman off it is to allow the club to exist beyond the next month or so. Let’s face it, the taxman will get screwed as will smaller creditors.
    By June this year there will be a black hole of £20 million plus in operating costs and wages. If Jelavic doesn’t go then the club will run out of cash before the result of the First Tier Tax Tribunal results are made publicand will enter administration sooner rather than later.

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