STUART McCALL has hit the ground stumbling as Rangers manager. Back-to-back draws in home games against Livingston and Alloa do not represent the kind of “bounce” the Ibrox club’s new board were hoping for from the new man in the technical area.
Instead, McCall has simply been confronted with the scale of the task facing him if he is to somehow arrest a seemingly interminable decline in Rangers’ prospects of promotion from the Scottish Championship this season.
With just one win from their last six league games, Rangers head to Easter Road on Sunday six points behind second-placed Hibs. Perhaps more significantly, they are just five and six points ahead of Queen of the South and Falkirk respectively in the scramble for play-off spots.
Based on current form, it is questionable if the squad McCall has inherited are capable of finishing in the top four, never mind beating Hibs to the runners-up spot which would entail one fewer play-off tie.
Certainly, few punters will be tempted to include them on their fixed-odds coupon this weekend as they face opponents who have already beaten them three times in the league this season.
The Rangers players responsible for the tailspin of performances and results which has been in place many weeks before McCall’s arrival have long since lost the confidence of supporters, who again jeered them off the pitch after Tuesday night’s 2-2 draw with Alloa.
But striker Nicky Clark insists the former Motherwell manager is having a positive effect which will show itself in terms of victories soon. He believes McCall will be rewarded for his faith in 18-year-old midfielder Tom Walsh, who has started the last two matches and been Rangers’ most impressive performer on both occasions, and feels winger David Templeton can make an impact after a long spell on the fringes of the first team under Ally McCoist and then Kenny McDowall.
“We are responding to the gaffer,” said Clark. “He has only been in the door two minutes but he has got his ideas across about what he wants us to do and we have got another couple of sessions before Sunday. I am sure he will drill a few more things into us by then.
“It was great to get the two goals on a personal level but I would have much preferred to have got the three points”Nicky Clark
“The fans have got every right to be unhappy. We have not been good enough and we have not got the results that we should have. But I am sure, with the new manager coming in, we will get a lift. He will drill things into us and I am sure we will kick on from here and hopefully get a result on Sunday.
“We are looking forward to it. We know it is a massive game, but every game is massive when you are at this club. I think there are a lot of positives we can take out of the Alloa game. I thought young Tom Walsh was brilliant again and David Templeton made a difference when he came on. I am sure we can take a bit of confidence from it into Sunday
“We do need to beat Hibs, but at Rangers you need to win every game. We will look forward to Sunday and get a couple of good sessions in with the manager before then. I am sure we will be ready for it.
“This is Rangers at the end of the day and we need to be in the top level of Scottish football. We will do everything we can to get there this season.”
Clark can at least claim with some credibility to have felt the benefit of McCall’s arrival. Without a goal in his previous 16 appearances for Rangers, the 23-year-old ended that barren run with his double against Alloa. He has now netted six this season all told.
“It was good to get the two goals on a personal level but I would have much preferred to get the three points to be honest,” added Clark.
“Once we got the second goal to go 2-1 up, I thought we would have seen the game out and maybe get a third. At that stage, we looked comfortable. But, unfortunately, Alloa got another goal and we weren’t able to get the three points which was obviously the priority for all of us on the night.
“Ibrox is obviously a difficult place to play and we’ve seen that in the last two games. It is different from any other club, there are up to 40,000 here every week wanting you to do well. But as professionals, you wouldn’t be here if the manager didn’t feel you could handle that kind of pressure. So we need to go out and make sure we are professional and do our jobs when we are on the park.”
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