Rangers striker Kenny Miller has conceded that the Ibrox side could be vulnerable to Hibernian’s push in the Championship because they have yet to prove their mettle in a title chase.
Earlier this week, the club’s captain Lee Wallace was bullish about the fact that the league leaders would see off their rivals because they have “the best side, the best manager, and the best training ground”. However, Miller admitted Mark Warburton’s team were largely untried in these situations.
We always say get an early goal... we got that on Saturday, then, for me, took the foot off the gas a wee bitKenny Miller
The 35-year-old was at Hampden yesterday to promote the staging of next April’s Challenge Cup final against Peterhead at the national stadium. Miller acknowledged that the tight-knit squad assembled by Warburton means six under-21s are regularly stripped on matchdays – as was the case for Saturday’s 2-2 draw at home to Morton that was the club’s third league encounter in five they have failed to win.
In the face of growing questions over whether teams are starting to “find Rangers out”, Miller was asked if the young Ibrox squad had the ability to handle the pressure.
He responded candidly: “I know they have the ability [but] that’s a question you can’t give a definite answer to. Only time will tell. The manager, [assistant] Davie Weir, [coach] Jim Stewart and the senior guys are doing what we can to make sure the right mentality is instilled in these guys because it’s a big, big part of a club like Rangers. You need a mentality that allows you to win 4-1 one week and then back it up and go do it again. And then do it again after that. There can’t be complacency, relaxing – we have to keep striving to get better.”
After dramatic progress in the early months of the Warburton tenure, recent weeks appear to have witnessed a regression. The Morton draw saw the first league points dropped at Ibrox, but Rangers remain three points above Hibs. Saturday’s result and the 1-1 draw at Livingston a fortnight ago were unexpected setbacks, Miller acknowledged.
“We don’t envisage there being too many days like that,” he said. “If you had asked me a month ago whether we would have had two of them, I would have said no. We need to make sure we take the experience we have had in those games – and the defeat to Hibs [in November] – and try and make sure we are not faced with those situations again.
“It’s not as easy as saying it. That’s just words. We need to go out and perform and put the manager’s ideas into practice. We always say get an early goal, but we got that on Saturday and then, for me, took the foot off the gas a wee bit.
“No disrespect to Morton, who I thought were fantastic on the day, but we should be winning those games at home. There was a lengthy discussion about what didn’t happen, what needs to happen and what we need to make sure doesn’t happen again. I take that on myself [to speak up]. The manager also expects everyone to have an opinion. No opinion is wrong. There might be a few things said that people don’t agree with, but it is about a team trying to find a way to improve.
“In the last few weeks our performances have been a bit down and that’s something we have spoken about quite a lot.”
The fraying of Rangers’ form has come at an inopportune time with a trip to face third-placed Falkirk on Saturday that will be followed by the pivotal encounter at home to Hibs on 28 December. The narrowing of the gap at the top of the table has been accompanied by talk back and forth between the two clubs that has been presented as Hibs getting under Rangers’ skin. Miller says this is not the case.
“It’s not accurate – it’s part and parcel of the game,” the striker said. “We are firmly focused on us. We are three points ahead of them and if we win every game then they can’t stop us and it doesn’t matter what they say. That is the mindset we have got. We need to try and win every game. Listen, it might not happen, but it could and we have to approach every game in that manner.
“They haven’t surprised me – they are a good team. They will be approaching every game the way we do. They’ll be thinking they should win every game apart from when they come up against us and it’s tougher. They are a very good team who – don’t forget – finished above us last season. They have been over the distance before and were ahead of us in the league. The head-to-heads against them this season could be huge but that game in a few weeks is out of our minds. We need to win away from home at Falkirk and then we can look forward to Hibs.”