AMONG the countless text messages Stuart McCall received as news broke of his appointment as Rangers manager, it was one from his daughter which brought home just how much it meant to him.
“She pointed out that I’ve played for and managed my first club Bradford, played for and coached Scotland and now I’m managing Rangers who I also played for,” he said
McCall has indeed got good reason to feel gratified by a career path which has seen him represent two clubs and one country who are all exceptionally close to his heart.
But the task he has accepted at Rangers is certainly the highest profile and most challenging yet of his professional life.
McCall claimed ten major domestic honours as a player with a Rangers side which dominated Scottish football in the 1990s. The contrast with the condition of the Ibrox club now, as they scuffle unconvincingly for promotion back to the top flight after four years of unrelenting turmoil off the pitch, could not be greater.
“There have only been 13 men to manage this club before me, so to be given the opportunity is beyond belief,” reflected McCall.
“I want to make it a success. I’m not an over-confident person. I know it will be a struggle and I will beat myself up every day but I will do my best.
“If I can get the team promoted, it would have to be up there with anything I’ve done. I have been quite fortunate and I have had a couple of decent achievements in my career. But yeah, it would be up there given the circumstances. It is something to dream about and there will be sleepless nights along the way.” Chief among McCall’s nightmares is the prospect of facing Motherwell, the club he left in November after a hugely successful tenure as manager, in the play-offs at the end of the season should the Fir Park club finish second bottom of the Premiership and Rangers reach the final.
“That would make me sick, it really would,” he admitted. “But I honestly hope and believe that Motherwell won’t be in the bottom two. I’ve had a lot of nice texts from the Motherwell lads.
“There is no guarantee Rangers are going to be in the play-off final but that is our aim. I want to be playing that 11th team at the end of the season. I just hope it’s not Motherwell and I’m confident they are good enough to get out of it.” McCall’s first priority is simply to ensure Rangers are in the play-offs at all, something which has come under threat from a dismal run of form which has seen 12 points dropped in their last eight league games.
His first act as manager was to cancel the players’ day off yesterday, calling them in for a training session before briefing them on what he expects from them in the remaining 11 games of the regular Championship season.
“I want them to have a focus on going up,” he said. “I’ve told them to picture themselves running around Ibrox having won promotion. At this moment in time, and I’m not putting the boot into the players because they know this themselves, anyone who has watched Rangers for the last three or four months would say they’d struggle to go up. But there are enough good squad players I saw as I looked around in that meeting today. They know they haven’t done it consistently enough. They wouldn’t be at Rangers if they weren’t good players. I saw flashes of it today in training. All of the players who have come from all these different clubs, I would have signed most of them.
“But playing for Rangers is different. You need a different mentality. You have to win, win, win and even when you are winning you have to try to win with style. I think everyone would accept that what has happened on the park this season has been unacceptable. I now have an opportunity to try to help out and hopefully I can do that.
“In an ideal world you will come into a job for pre-season and have four to six weeks to look at players, try different systems, and look at strengths and weaknesses. That’s obviously not going to happen and I will have to hit the ground running. But just being out on the training ground again gave me a buzz and I’m relishing it.
“I get paid to try and get the best out of a group of players. There’s no magic formula or a pill you can give them for confidence. It’s about trying to restore self-belief. A couple of results can change things.
“The supporters are there, willing them to do well. They don’t want to come and boo. The club has had a kicking, but the team have had two promotions in the past two seasons and there is still an opportunity to get another one this year.”
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