Clint Hill has angrily dismissed claims of mental fragility in a Rangers side which has won just one of its last six Premiership fixtures.
The Ibrox men have lost three times in that sequence, a wretched spell which saw the departure of Mark Warburton as manager. Caretaker boss Graeme Murty, pictured, has been unable to spark any improvement so far, with consecutive defeats against Dundee and Inverness seeing Rangers slip well off the pace in the race for the runners-up spot.
Victory over St Johnstone at Ibrox tonight appears imperative if they are to retain realistic hope of achieving what was declared a minimum requirement by chairman Dave King at the start of the season.
Rangers have been widely criticised for a perceived weakness in their mindset on the pitch during their stuttering campaign but veteran defender Hill, poised to return to action this evening after injury, has mounted a robust defence of his team-mates.
“I won’t have any of that nonsense said about them,” said the former Crystal Palace and QPR player. “In fact, I’d defend against that accusation with my life.
“I’m not going to answer anything like that, I’m not going to dig out my players who stand next to me. You won’t get that from me. Not one bit. I’m with them and they’re with me. It’s nonsense, no-one goes out there to do badly or make mistakes. We’re human beings who try and do well and I back the lads 100 per cent.
“I have been around the lads the last few days and everyone is hurting with the way we have performed and the results. It is fine margins that are killing us at the moment. Have we had chances to win games? Yes. Have we been sloppy in conceding goals? Yes. Those are the fine margins that get you a point or three points.
“The higher you go in football the margins are finer, it’s as simple as that. If you make half an error you get punished for it. If you don’t take a chance that you normally would then you get punished at the other end. That’s what’s hurting us at the moment. It’s a big game on Wednesday and we need to turn it around quickly.
“Unfortunately for us we have let Aberdeen creep away a little bit with the points that have slipped through our fingers. But it’s not over, it’s definitely not over. We’ve still got to play them twice in the league, so if we take six points off them you never know what happens.
“European qualification was one of the objectives Mark and the club set at the start of the season so hopefully we can still achieve that.”
At 38, Hill has experienced numerous managerial exits during his career and is well versed in coping with the turbulence which follows. To that end, he is happy to offer support both on and off the pitch to Murty until Rangers appoint a replacement for Warburton. “I just went to Graeme and said ‘Listen, we are here for you. Anything you need, just let us know’. We want him to do well. I played against Graeme down in England and I know what kind of character and person he is. There is no-one working harder at the moment to try and rectify the issues that are happening.
“He is a good guy. He will want to do well. Obviously, it’s hard being sprung into that environment but he has acquitted himself very well. He has gone up in my estimation as well, as a man.
“I’ve been in this kind of situation before in clubs I have been at. Obviously, it came a little bit out of the blue when it happened late on a Friday evening. It was a bit of a shock. But it’s the performances that have hurt more than anything. That’s where personal pride comes in and the last two games have hurt us that bit more.”
Hill’s own future beyond the end of the season remains uncertain. He had been recommended for a new contract by Warburton but accepts his situation will hardly be regarded as a priority at the club. “It’s not something I am looking for or looking to get sorted anytime soon,” he said. “I don’t even know if there is a contract there. As everyone knows, the club has more important things to look at just now, which is finding the right people to come and in and do the job. I’m sure I’d be down the list.
“I’d love to stay but personal agendas are put to the side. First and foremost, we have got to get to our main objective which is European football. The club has to appoint the people it wants to appoint and then we’ll see what happens.”