Rangers: Paul le Guen era failed to live up to expectations at Ibrox

Former Rangers boss Paul le Guen
Paul le Guen: Rangers' shortest serving manager

In the end, the only distinction Paul le Guen achieved at Rangers was to be the club's shortest serving manager.

He spent seven months at Ibrox, leaving on January 4 2007, a spell that encompassed 31 games and generated a number of theories about why the Frenchman failed.

Reflections on Le Guen's time tend to fall into two perspectives: he misunderstood the key aspects of the job, or the players were unreceptive to his methods and ideology.

The reality is most likely somewhere in between, since some of his thoughts on diet and training are now commonplace, but also some of the same players went on to be successful under Le Guen's successor, Walter Smith.

Paul le Guen's troubled Rangers tenure
Appointed: 11 March 2006Games in charge: 31
Succeeds Alex McLeish at IbroxLe Guen: "I'm looking forward to the challenge at Rangers..."
Leaves by mutual consent: 4 January 2007 Le Guen: "This is the best solution for all concerned..."

Cultural differences

Le Guen arrived with a strong reputation. He won three successive league titles with Lyon, as well as twice reaching the Champions League quarter-finals. He was urbane and cosmopolitan, and the expectation was that he would transform Rangers.

Instead, it was his own reputation that was altered. There were errors of judgement from the outset and struggles to properly communicate with the players.

The Frenchman had set ideas about training, but failed to modify them to the circumstances. He did not want tackling during sessions, but failed to grasp the competitive nature of Scottish football and players.

Le Guen ought to have introduced his changes gradually. He split training into two sessions across the day, with a break of several hours in between.

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Ferguson on Rangers under Le Guen

That interval should have been an opportunity for the players to sleep - and many clubs now have sleeping quarters inside their training ground, or temporary sleep pods installed - but there were no facilities for that and the players instead became bored.

Le Guen understood that the job was to improve the club and the team, but he never adapted to the working environment. He needed the squad of players to buy into his approach, but many of them felt disheartened.

Resistance to change

Le Guen was part of the generation of coaches who understood the differences that nutrition can make to elite performance. He insisted that crisps were removed from the vending machines at the training ground and the players' diets were monitored and changed.

There is now a far greater acceptance of the need to refuel properly, that the timings of protein and carbohydrate intake are important, that players need to live as athletes 24 hours a day, that alcohol intake should be limited, that sleep and adequate hydration are vital. Le Guen's ideas were valid, but his failure was to convince the players of their worth.

Arsene Wenger initially encountered resistance at Arsenal, but soon the likes of Tony Adams and Martin Keown were enthusiastic advocates for the worth of good nutrition, stretching and recovery periods.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and captain Tony Adams
Arsene Wenger had a rocky stat at Arsenal before his methods were accepted

Le Guen made a decisive move when he sent Fernando Ricksen home from a pre-season tour to South Africa for his drinking and misbehaviour on the flight, but while he was justified in his actions, it was not enough to underpin his leadership of the squad.

The strongest personality in the dressing room was captain Barry Ferguson, but Le Guen did not foster a good enough relationship with the midfielder.

A fiercely competitive figure, who was brought through the youth ranks by coaches steeped in the club's demand to win every contest, Ferguson grew increasingly frustrated with the team's poor form and an outburst following a downturn in results led to Le Guen banishing him.

The fact that some of Ferguson's team-mates still perceive this act as the Frenchman trying to initiate his departure tells of the dysfunctional relationship between the players and the manager. Le Guen never grasped the level of demand at Rangers, he never realised that dropped points are never considered acceptable even in the context of the season as a whole.

Assessing Scottish football

Of all the misjudgements, perhaps the most influential was Le Guen's failure to come to terms with Scottish football. The quality is diminished compared to elsewhere on the continent, but aggression, competitiveness, desire to win and physical strength - running, heading and work-rate - are all common attributes.

Former Rangers defender Karl Svensson
Karl Svensson was one of many Le Guen signings to have a short career at Rangers

Le Guen underestimated the game in Scotland. That undermined his recruitment, too, since he signed players like Karl Svensson, a centre-back who struggled with the aerial demands of Scottish football.

The causes were varied, since his budget was limited compared to the funds one of his predecessors, Dick Advocaat, had been able to spend on building a team.

Yet Le Guen also came from a club in Lyon with a well-established recruitment department that had extensive experience of identifying signing targets and a president with a savvy understanding of market values.

At Rangers, Le Guen was essentially on his own when it came to recruitment and that showed, with three of his 12 signings coming from one club - Austria Vienna. Ultimately, only one of the 12 arrivals, Sasa Papac, was capable of thriving in Scottish football.

By then, Le Guen was a distant memory.

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