Ryan Jack eager to help Rangers in ‘tricky’ Euro ties

New Rangers signing Ryan Jack promotes the club's season ticket sales. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS
New Rangers signing Ryan Jack promotes the club's season ticket sales. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS
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For most of the Rangers squad currently being reshaped by Pedro Caixinha, the forthcoming Europa League qualifying campaign will be a new and demanding experience.

From 29 June, the Ibrox side will require to negotiate a weekly schedule of Thursday night football with three qualifying ties to overcome before they even reach the final play-off round.

In the case of Ryan Jack, however, the Portuguese coach has acquired the services of a player who has been there, seen it and come agonisingly close to doing it over the previous three seasons.

Aberdeen fell short at the third qualifying round each year, losing out to Spanish side Real Sociedad, Kairat of Kazakhstan and, most recently, in contentious circumstances to Maribor in Slovenia 
12 months ago.

In those three years, only three teams entering at the first qualifying round have made it all the way to the group stage of the tournament, highlighting the difficulty of the challenge which faces Rangers on their return to Europe after a six-year absence.

“The games are going to come thick and fast,” observed Jack ahead of next Monday’s draw for the first and second qualifying rounds at Uefa HQ in Nyon.

“You have got to be ready. It doesn’t matter who you play. You could be playing someone that you have never even heard of before. I had that with Aberdeen in the past. They are still tricky ties and tough teams and difficult places you have to go. It is not like we are going to go away to a stadium like Ibrox and play in front of 50,000 with a great atmosphere. It could be like playing in front of 2,000.

“We are going to train hard and put a lot of work in on the training ground and I am sure the manager will make sure we are ready for when the first Europa League qualifier comes.

“With Aberdeen last season, when we got the Maribor tie we really felt we had a right good chance of making further progress. But obviously the circumstances over in the away leg weren’t great, the way we went out (missing a penalty and having a man sent off).

“When I had the chance to come to Rangers, the European side of it was a massive factor. I’ve played in great ties for Aberdeen against the likes of Real Sociedad or even Groningen, so it’s a great chance to get big European nights back to Ibrox.”

Jack has enjoyed his first week of training under Caixinha, left, having reported for duty on Monday following his wedding last Friday. The 25-year-old midfielder was happy to sacrifice a honeymoon as he seeks to help Rangers improve on all fronts in the new season.

“My wife fully understands,” added the former Aberdeen captain. “She knew that I was out of contract in the summer and that’s why we never booked a honeymoon. I knew the chances were I would have to be straight back in. I told her there would be plenty of times that we could go away on holiday together.

“When I spoke to the manager he said he wanted me in on the Monday. I knew they had been in for a week already, so I didn’t want to miss too much of the work that was going on.

“There is obviously a major effort going on at the club because the standards last season were not good enough for where Rangers wanted to be. Not all the new players are in yet but when we get the squad together and talk about our aims for the season, then I’m sure we will know a lot more. It’s hard to judge right now but I’m sure we will be aiming as high as we can.

“It could be the start of something special. We are signing players, building the squad and looking really strong. It’s up to us to work hard on the training ground then do the business on match days. You can sign as many players as you like but as soon as you go over that white line, it’s up to us to perform. We want to get a good team spirit about us and make sure we go and do ourselves proud in the new 
season.”

One of Rangers’ obvious weaknesses last season was the lack of a natural holding midfielder, a position Caixinha clearly believes Jack will fill effectively.

“The manager has said that he watched me at Aberdeen last season and liked the way that I broke up play, kept the attacks moving and kept it going through midfield,” said Jack. “He said he would sit down with me close to the start of the season, obviously after we have played some pre-season games, and let me know exactly what he thinks my role will be.

“My early impressions of him have been good. He is a big believer in working really hard on the training pitch and getting across the way he wants to play with his passing drills and so on. So far it is different from what I was used to, but it has been really good and I am starting to learn a lot already from picking up on how he wants us to play, how he works and how everything is going to be run. I am learning as we go along, but it has been really enjoyable.

“The manager didn’t have to say much to persuade me to come here, to be honest. It was just the size of the club and the fan base and the support and the facilities. He just told me that I was a player that he really likes and who he wanted to come to Rangers. He thinks he can improve and help my career. It was all positive. As soon as we had the phone call, it was where I wanted to come.

“When you come to a club like Rangers, you know the demands straight away and what’s expected. Everyone can see, with the signings Rangers are making and what’s going on at the club – even the season ticket sales are over 40,000 – that everyone is trying to do their bit to get the club back to the top.

“I’m no different. I wanted to come here to play a part in getting Rangers back to the top where they belong.”