Andy Murdoch provides hope for Rangers’ future

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STUART McCall was handed a short-term goal when he was named interim manager of Rangers in March.

But in seeking to achieve it, he has also managed to provide the club’s support with an encouraging glimpse of longer-term progress in the strategy surrounding the first-team squad.

Andy Murdoch has been a first-team regular since Stuart McCall's appointment at Rangers. Picture: Getty

Andy Murdoch has been a first-team regular since Stuart McCall's appointment at Rangers. Picture: Getty

That sign of hope has come in the shape of 20-year-old Andy Murdoch who was again one of Rangers’ stand-out performers on Saturday as they won the first leg of their SPFL Premiership play-off quarter-final 2-1 against Queen of the South in Dumfries.

In the three seasons since Rangers’ financial collapse sent them to the bottom tier of Scottish football, the lack of first- team opportunities given to the club’s brightest young talent has been a persistent source of exasperation among their fans.

Captain of the Rangers side which won the SFA Youth Cup in 2014, Murdoch has long been regarded as one of the country’s most promising midfield prospects.

But he made just two substitute appearances under Ally McCoist’s management in the first two seasons of Rangers’ post-insolvency journey through the divisions.

It’s a good position to be in, but we need to be wary as Queens will come at us

Andy Murdoch

It was not until February this year that Kenny McDowall, in the final weeks of his caretaker spell, introduced Murdoch to the team at the expense of the more experienced Ian Black.

Since McCall’s appointment, Murdoch has been a first-team regular – only Lee Wallace and Nicky Law have been selected more often in the starting line-up by the former nine-in-a-row squad midfielder.

McCall may even see a mirror image of himself in the energetic, robust and intelligent engine-room play which Murdoch is providing for a side which was too often one-paced and one-dimensional for much of a disappointing Championship campaign.

It is a season which could still end on a positive note if Rangers can finish the job against Queen of the South at Ibrox on Sunday, then overcome Hibs in the semi-final and the second-bottom Premiership side, still to be confirmed, in the final.

Murdoch, who is as understated and pragmatic off the pitch as he is effective on it, is currently reluctant to look any further than the second leg against a Queens outfit he believes will still retain plenty of ambition despite their weekend defeat.

“It’s a good position for us to be in, but we need to be wary as Queens will come at us and will be going for the win, so we’ll need to watch out for that,” 
he said.

“We haven’t achieved anything yet. We know Queens are a good side and we also know we will have to play well at Ibrox.

“I played in the 1-1 draw against them at Ibrox back in March just two or three games after I got into the side.

“They showed that night they’re not just a good side on their own artificial surface, they are good wherever they play.

“We have to make sure that we prepare properly this week and give a good account of ourselves because if we don’t they will punish us.

“But we have got ourselves together since that last game against them at Ibrox. We knew we had to get a run of results and we have managed to do that.

“We have been playing well lately and we are all confident that we can maintain our form this weekend and in the final weeks of the season.”

Murdoch excelled in a midfield holding role at Palmerston as Stevie Smith’s free kick and Dean Shiels’ header earned Rangers their narrow advantage in the tie.

“It was a good team performance and we had to work hard because they are a very good team,” added Murdoch.

“Overall, it was a good performance and it was the first step in the right direction. Stevie has got that ability to take a free kick like the one that he did. It was a really good goal that 
he scored.

“We just had to deal with them in the first 15 minutes until we got into our stride and could work our gameplan. It was disappointing to lose the goal that we did with a free header at the back post and it looked like there was a coming together in the middle.

“It was hard to take at that point because I felt that we had control of the tie.

“But our second goal was a really good team goal – Kenny Miller managed to get the 
flick on before Richard Foster ran onto it and crossed well for Dean to get in and get a header away.

“Playing alongside Nicky Law and Dean makes my job a lot easier because they are such good professionals and great at what they do in the middle of the park.”