KENNY McDowall has called on the Rangers players to step up to the plate tonight and avoid slumping to the club’s worst losing streak for nearly 30 years.
The caretaker manager is demanding that the under-fire squad shows its true character in Kirkcaldy after three consecutive defeats, including elimination from the Scottish Cup by Raith Rovers.
He insists it is up to the players to turn things around and prove they have the ability to win promotion back to the top flight after being written off in certain quarters.
He said: “They actually need to lift themselves. I can only do so much. Walter [Smith] used to say it in many of his team-talks that we can only give so much motivation. It’s self-motivation that makes you the player you are.
“That’s very true. When you get into a wee slump like this, this is when you find the characters in the team who will stand up to it and will want to do something about it.
“That’s what we need – people who will roll the sleeves up.
“When the confidence is low it’s harder to find that motivation. But it’s their jobs to dig deep. We all know in here how important it is to win a football match. It just comes with the place. We know we’ve got to start winning games.”
It was in 1985 that Rangers last lost four matches in succession. They lost 1-0 and 3-0 at home in the league to Dundee and Aberdeen respectively either side of a 2-0 defeat away to Hibs in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final at the end of September.
Then on 2 October they were eliminated from Europe, losing 2-0 to Osasuna in Pamplona in the Uefa Cup.
McDowall certainly does not want an emulation of that on his CV and he knows a change in fortune must happen in Fife in order that Rangers can give some indication that they can go back up through the play-offs.
They can move back above Hibs into second place by beating Raith before Alan Stubbs’ men face Dumbarton tomorrow.
Second place is realistically their only aim as Hearts, 22 points clear, are over the horizon.
McDowall said: “Even if we don’t catch Hearts, we still have to make a play-off situation. Does it matter how we go up? We’d love to go up as champions – of course we would. But if we can’t do that, what’s the next best? You need to win the play-offs and get yourself up via that.
“Hearts, we will always try and peg back. Absolutely – until such time as we can’t do it.
“In the meantime, we’ve just got to take one game at a time and try and get three points as they come along. I’d like to think the players are hurt by talk that they won’t go up. It certainly hurts me.
“I know we’ve had a bad spell and you can say what you like about the surroundings at the club being not ideal, but we’ve got to be professional and do what we do and the players have to do what they do.
“Is it good for Rangers to stay in the Championship? I don’t think so. Is it good for Scottish football? One hundred per cent no. So we want to get promotion 100 per cent.
“This club’s got to be in the top league, it has got to be competing for the title. It’s got to get back playing in Europe. It’s got to get back to all the good things and at the moment sitting in the Championship is not where we want to be.”
Kenny Miller and Richard Foster are both out tonight but Lee McCulloch and Steve Simonsen should return from suspension. It will also be a chance for a rare start for Nicky Clark as Miller’s replacement and he scored in a 4-0 win the last time Rangers were at Stark’s Park on 12 September.
Clark said: “It would be great to get the chance to play again. That September game was probably our best performance of the season.”