RANGERS will still overhaul Hearts to win automatic promotion from the Championship, according to Kenny Miller. And they will do so under the managership of Ally McCoist.
The veteran striker, who scored his team’s first goal in their 3-2 defeat by Alloa on Wednesday, insisted that the players, not McCoist, were to blame for that result. No matter what might be read into that lapse by outsiders, he added, the manager still had the complete backing of the squad. “The manager will never lose that dressing room no matter what happens,” said Miller, who scored the first goal in the Petrofac Cup semi-final, in which his team were 2-0 up with 18 minutes to play. “Listen, whether we win leagues, cups or trophies he will never lose that dressing room.
“The dressing room is fully behind him. We know the buck will always stop with him but, had we won on Wednesday, we wouldn’t be talking about this right now, even though we’d still be nine points behind Hearts. That situation wouldn’t have changed.
“So I think that result on its own has coloured things – and the players have to take a big amount of responsibility for what happened at Alloa. We’re out there on the field, we’re 2-0 up and the game is pretty much won. We had to make sure we got to the final from that position, but we didn’t. Let’s be honest, what can a manager do at that point apart from stand at the side and watch?
“The dressing room is fully behind the manager and he will never lose us.”
Miller and other Rangers players have questioned Hearts’ character on several occasions already this season, only for the Tynecastle side to respond positively every time – most recently two weeks ago, when they beat the Glasgow club 2-0 at home. But the striker believes that, the longer the season goes on, the more Hearts will feel the pressure. Although Robbie Neilson’s team are still unbeaten, Miller thinks they are bound to suffer a lapse in form at some stage, and he is confident that, when they do, Rangers will be in a position to take advantage.
“Listen, we’ve all been in positions here where we’ve been behind in the league and gone out of cup competitions. That’s nothing new, to be honest. That will happen in every league in the world – some big club somewhere will be behind.
“But we know what the expectations are at Rangers, we know that a result like Wednesday night’s is unacceptable, and that being nine points behind is unacceptable. We’ve got 22 games left, though, to claw it back – and we will.
“We’ve been behind Celtic with a lot fewer games left in the Premier League and come back to win. So why can’t we catch and overtake Hearts in the Championship? My first year back here, I think we were seven points behind Celtic with five or six games left. That’s a big ask. But we did it.
“We’re nine points back with 22 games to go and we’ve still to play them twice. A draw is the most they’ve slipped up this year in the league and you’d like to think they’re going to get beat at some point. Whether that’s tomorrow or in a month’s time, who knows?
“There’s a long way to go. I know the hardest thing in a league is getting over that finishing line. So come March, April, May time – that’s when it will really tell. And if we are closer, which we will be, to them and applying that pressure, then it’s a different kind of mental attitude you’ve got going into a game when you know you’re getting so close to that finishing line and you need to win. I’ve been there before, many a time, and it’s the hardest thing to do.
“So, once we get down to the nitty-gritty and we’ve clawed back a few points, we’ll see how they stand up, but there’s no doubt every team has slip-ups in them. We’ve just got to make sure if they do we’re there to capitalise.”