NICKY CLARK believes that the return of Kenny Miller to Ibrox will be a help rather than a hindrance to his own ambitions of becoming a successful Rangers striker.
Clark admits his first season with the club was less prolific than he would have hoped. Having scored a remarkable 41 times for Queen of the South at the same level the previous season, he managed just nine goals in 30 appearances for Rangers as they cruised to the League 1 title.
The 23-year-old now faces competition for places up front in Ally McCoist’s starting line-up from Miller, who last week signed up for a third stint as a Rangers player. The 34-year-old could yet be reunited with Kris Boyd at Ibrox, with McCoist among the managers interested in the out-of-contract Kilmarnock player.
But Clark - speaking yesterday at the launch of Rangers’ new third kit, which goes on sale today - insists he is unfazed by the prospect of a more daunting pathway into the Rangers first team and intends to further his footballing education by working alongside Miller on a daily basis.
“I don’t think Kenny’s signing is deflating at all for me,” said Clark. “I think he’ll do great for me. He’s played at the highest level, has loads of international caps, played in the English Premier League and Champions League, he’s done everything. He can only progress my career and help me a lot. Show me things I don’t know and also show me how to do things properly. I’ll definitely be speaking to him a lot and I think he’ll appreciate that. He’ll want me to learn and I’m sure he’ll do whatever he can for me.
“You need competition for places at a club like this. With myself, Jon Daly and Dean Shiels, there’s going to be enough of that. You need to look on competition as a positive – if you don’t, then you won’t last long at Rangers. If Kris Boyd comes in as well, then that can only be good for me as well. He’s another international who has played at the highest level. You have to back yourself to do well, you can’t just sit back and accept these guys are going to play ahead of you. You need to work really hard and show the manager you are just as good as them. I did think the manager would bring in a few more strikers this summer. When we got injuries last season, we were down to just one or two maximum. We needed more strength in that department and Kenny gives us that.
“Personally, I felt my first season went well although, obviously, it would have been good to score a few more goals. But it was good to get the first season under my belt and I can kick on in the new one. I feel I have improved as a player at Rangers and that comes from playing alongside guys like Lee McCulloch, Lee Wallace and Jon Daly. You can only progress when you’re playing with guys like them. I hope things can be even better for me now. The first season was about getting to grips with it all and seeing what being a Rangers player was all about. I’ve done that now, as have the other new boys so, hopefully, we can all kick on and play even better.”
Clark spent last week in Toronto at the annual convention of the North American Rangers Supporters’ Association, where he was both overwhelmed by the level of backing for the team and left in no doubt as to the expectations they will be playing under in an intriguing Championship next season.
“It was a brilliant few days in Toronto and it really shows you how big Rangers is,” added Clark. “Until you go over there, you don’t fully appreciate how massive it is. It was incredible to see so many Rangers fans from that part of the world.
“You see the Rangers fans at games in Scotland and think it’s unbelievable. But then you see them in Canada and it reminds you how big the club is. The fans were brilliant with all of the players who went over last week and they are really looking forward to the new season.
“The fans expect us to win the Championship, but that’s only fair. We need to get this club back to where it belongs and that means winning this division. That’s what we will be going all out to do. I’m really looking forward to the Championship. With Hibs and Hearts in it, it will be really interesting.”
• Rangers last night signed Darren McGregor on a one-year deal with the option for a further year. The 28-year-old central defender spent four years with St Mirren in the top flight, having moved from Cowdenbeath in 2010, and becomes McCoist’s second signing of the summer following the arrival of Miller.
McGregor said: “I am absolutely delighted. I will work hard and do everything I can to help this club get back to the top of Scottish football.”