THEY say league tables tell no lies. Gordon Durie, though, is prepared to offer, in the most emphatic terms, a different interpretation of what the Championship standings currently seem to illustrate.
Hearts may be the runaway and seemingly unstoppable leaders of Scottish football’s second tier, enjoying a 19-point lead over Rangers, albeit having played three games more.
But, as far as the Ibrox club’s caretaker assistant manager Durie is concerned, it is third-placed Hibs, a further point back, who are the most accomplished side in the division.
Perhaps it was an attempt at reverse psychology from Durie ahead of tonight’s fixture at Ibrox which sees Hibs travelling along the M8 widely fancied by many observers to rack up a third consecutive league win over a struggling Rangers outfit.
But Durie, who numbers both Hibs and Hearts among his former clubs, also has first hand evidence to call upon. In his first match after stepping up to assist caretaker manager Kenny McDowall following the departure of Ally McCoist in December, Rangers were crushed 4-0 at Easter Road.
“That was the first game in charge for Kenny and myself and was very disappointing,” reflected Durie. “We never gave ourselves a chance. We lost two early goals and that left us right up against it.
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“So we know what to expect on Friday night, because Hibs are in a right good run of form. They have only lost something like one game in 21 which is excellent.
“Hearts are 19 points clear at the moment but, football wise, Hibs are the best team we have played. They are playing with confidence. We know it will be a very difficult game but it is one we are looking forward to.
“Both league games against Hibs this season have been disappointing for us. We have watched videos this week of Hibs’ strengths and weaknesses and told the boys in no uncertain terms that they have to be ready for this one.”
Back-to-back exits from the League Cup and Scottish Cup against Celtic and Raith Rovers respectively have further darkened the mood around Rangers while their off-field crisis continues unabated. On the pitch, they have appeared bereft of self- belief and motivation.
“Results dictate these things and confidence has been a bit low,” added Durie. “There has been disappointment in the last two weeks with the results we’ve had, so we are looking for a reaction from the players.
“We were obviously quite low after the result against Raith on Sunday but to be fair to the boys they have trained well this week and look ready to go. Hopefully, that’s the case. There is no better way to put it right than against a team like Hibs, who have been firing on all cylinders. It’s up to us to make sure that we have a right go.
“The players are professionals and it should be a release for them to go out on the pitch and play and forget about what is going on off the pitch. Hopefully, they can do that against Hibs.”
Few Rangers players have struggled more this season than midfielder Ian Black who suffered the indignity of the decision to substitute him against Raith being cheered by the Rangers support.
“It’s a hard one for Ian,” agreed Durie. “As professional players, everyone has had a bit of stick from fans. You take the good with the bad.
“To be fair to Ian, he never hides in games. He’ll be disappointed but he won’t be the first or the last to get a bit of stick from his own supporters.
“I’ve been there myself when I played. It’s hard. I’ve been booed a few times by punters. But fans pay their money and have their opinion. You just have to roll up your sleeves again and give it 100 per cent, which I’m sure Ian will do. He is in the squad and available for Friday night, although we haven’t picked the team yet.
“When we lost at Easter Road in December, we had to take him off because he got tangled up in things early in the game and was on a booking. We have spoken to him and he knows it is important we keep 11 men on the pitch in whatever game we play.
“They are all good players we have at Rangers or they wouldn’t be here. You hear people saying it is harder to play for the Old Firm but it is something you have got to get used to. They are all professionals and they have got to get on with it. Sometimes it is hard to play for the Old Firm when you come from a so-called smaller team.
“Is it harder for them to play at Ibrox just now? The only ones that can answer that are the players. We try to focus them on forgetting what is happening off the pitch.
“I know it is not easy for them but we need to focus them on kick-off. We need to try and forget what is going on elsewhere and focus on the pitch.”