Graeme Murty hands over the reins to Pedro Caixinha after Rangers most impressive performance under the interim boss, writes Joel Sked.
In weeks, months and years to come Graeme Murty’s interim spell in charge of Rangers will likely be defined by that infamous moment at Dens Park. He was all set to celebrate Harry Forrester drawing his side level, only for the forward to sclaff his effort wide. Murty went from elation to despair in the most bizarre, and comical, fashion.
He drops to his knees, distraught, and then carries on to do a backwards roll and up into a headstand. Olympic judges would not have rewarded the execution of the manoeuvre with high marks.
However, he did his best to provide brighter moments for the Rangers fans. After defeats to Dundee and Inverness Caledonian Thistle, the 42-year-old was visibly ageing in front of our eyes, but his side responded with wins against Greenock Morton, St Johnstone and Hamilton Academical.
And in his final match, his charges delivered their most impressive performance, and perhaps their most impressive result, stopping Celtic’s winning domestic run at 28 games with Clint Hill’s late equaliser.
Murty told Sky Sports: “I’m so proud of the players, I would like to pay a load of compliments to them. I thought they kept going, Craig Gordon made some magnificent saves. I thought we deserved that goal.
“I said to the players that it was going to take a lot of belief coming here, regardless of what went for us and what went against us we had to continue to believe and stick together. I thought the goal encapsulated really well. I couldn’t be prouder of them.
“The lads know what people have been saying about them. I said to them that they had to come and take full part in this game and they could make a real good statement about where they are going to go from here. I thought they did that today.
“And it is a nice way to finish that off.”
When new boss Pedro Caixinha walks into Murray Park tomorrow to take training for the first time he will be met by a set of players who are in a much better frame of mind than last month. This could prove a staging post, a marker for a change of fortune. A catalyst for the club to try and catch Aberdeen and to attempt to prevent Celtic winning the treble when the clubs meet in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final next month.
Murty seemed to relish the Old Firm clash. Whether it was the occasion or being safe in the knowledge that it would be his last game in the pressure cooker that is the manager of Rangers Football Club he was all smiles. His mood pre-match bordered on jovial.
It may have simply been confidence. The smart decision was taken in regards to the management position. Murty would oversee the clash with Celtic before the new Portuguese manager takes charge. This allowed the former Scottish internationalist to work on the training ground with the players all week.
He perhaps knew what they were about to produce.
And produce they did. They approached the game as you should a derby, especially one in a febrile atmosphere.
Rangers didn’t sit back and wait for Celtic to impose their game. Set up in a compact and robust 4-4-1-1 system, they played on the front foot both with and without the ball. James Tavernier and Lee Hodson thwarted the threat of Kieran Tierney and Scott Sinclair.
The young and slight midfield duo of Jason Holt and Emerson Hyndman weren’t overawed by the domineering trio of Scott Brown, Stuart Armstrong and Nir Bitton. They gave as good as they got, with Kenny Miller dropping deep to chip in.
In attack Martyn Waghorn pinpointed Erik Sviatchenko as the Celtic weak link. He used his physicality to ruffle the Danish centre-back. The Dane looked uncomfortable all game and the English striker’s presence seemed to affect his mentality, with and without the ball.
The intensity of their play interrupted any momentum Celtic tried to build. Rodgers spoke of his displeasure with his side’s first-half performance. They lacked control. Thatw as down to Rangers.
Naturally, Rangers tempo dropped in the second half with Celtic getting on top. It looked like it was going to be a frustrating afternoon for all involved at Rangers. Waghorn had already missed a gilt-edged chance in the first half to give his side the lead before seeing another good chance to begging.
Then, when Rangers needed composure, Tavernier played in Hyndman whose fizzing shot was turned into the path of Hill to earn a deserved point.
Now Murty passes the baton to Caixinha, beginning a new era at Ibrox.
“It was great for me,” he said after the match. “I really enjoyed the experience. I just want to thank the players again because they’ve been fantastic for me.
“I am just going to listen to what he has to say. It is right and proper that he has his say, it is his voice not mine. And if he asks for my opinion, I’ll give it to him freely and openly.
“He’s seen a lot today, it’s a lot for him to take in and I’ll just take a backwards step and let him progress on with that.”