PLAYING two strikers in a team at the same time was once thought of as traditional as lifting wee boys over the turnstile so they get in for free.
Everyone did it. Indeed, you don’t need to trek too far back to find a time when managers would regularly field three, four or five genuine attackers in their starting eleven. Things have changed somewhat.
It is now the fashion, and this goes across the board, for just one No9 plus a supporting cast. The days of 4-4-2, sniff, do seem to have been left in the dark and distant past.
So, it was a pleasant surprise when the team sheets arrived at Somerset Park on Sunday afternoon to discover both sides had gone with two up top; the Rangers pairing being Alfredo Morelos and Jason Cummings.
Okay, it was ‘only’ Ayr United and it’s highly unlikely Graeme Murty would go with that system in a Premiership match, no matter how many of the supporters would welcome the sight of a pair of centre-forwards working in tandem. Just like the good not so old days.
Murty described the Morelos-Cumming dynamic as “a work in progress” which of course it is, but it would be intriguing if the Rangers manager did go against the grain and stick with playing the both of them.
For that to happen, they need to click, and there were a couple of occasions on Sunday when one made a run which wasn’t spotted or a pass wasn’t played. These things do take time.
If Murty can get a tune out of a partnership from two talented but very different footballers, they will score goals; there were two for Morelos and one for Cummings in the 6-1 win at Ayr.
And it would see a return to the days when Rangers played two strikers at Ibrox, which the vast majority of supporters would enjoy.
“Sometimes partnerships just click,” said Cumming whose instinctively clever back-to-the net goal on Sunday improves on every watch. “But often you need to get used to what they do.
“You need to work out if they are going short or long. It doesn’t help if they don’t speak English as well! That makes it a wee bit harder.You just have to use hand signals.
“To be fair, I think Alfredo knows more than he lets on. I think he picks and choses when he wants to listen. Hopefully, you get there after a few games.
“But I see the promising signs. Alfredo scored two and I got one against Ayr. Josh Windass got a couple as well. So that’s five goals between the front three.
“I can see Alfredo and myself playing together and causing defenders problems. I can’t see many defenders looking at us two up front and thinking they are going to have an easy game. It’s exciting, anyway.”
Morelos contrived to miss the mother of all sitters a minute before his first goal, which his would-be strike partner did sympathise with.
Cummings said: “I’ve been there. I’ve missed ones similar to that in my career. It takes character to score two more goals after that. A lot of players would go into their shell.
‘’The fans were getting on their back. But he’s responded with two good goals. He got the last laugh.
“As a striker, you are just hoping you get another chance to turn it around. An easy chance at that. Because at the back of your mind you’re thinking ‘I don’t want to do that again’.
“As I say, it takes character. It takes a lot to then score a couple more goals so fair play to him.”
That’s two goals for Cummings who will need time to get up to speed given how little football he got at Nottingham Forest.
Rangers fans do make quick judgements on players but right now the jury is out on the former Hibernian man, even if his off the wall personality has made him something of a cult hero already.
Cummings has ability, even if at times he runs into dead ends, and his willingness to try something different should be encouraged.
“I was really happy to get my goal,” said the Rangers man who is one of the many who signed last month on an initial loan deal. “I felt it was a nice bit of skill. It just came in and I just flicked it towards goal and it went in. I’ll take that all day long.”
Next up, Rangers have Falkirk at Ibrox in the quarter-final of the William Hill Scottish Cup. With all due respect to Paul Hartley’s Championship side, this should be a fairly straightforward home win.
And then it’s a semi-final, the fifth in a row for Rangers in domestic competition.
Murty has enough good players from front to back for the Rangers support to believe their team could lift some silverware in May.
The job of the manager is to gel these new, new-ish and older players into team in every sense of the word.