Nikola Katic back in frame for Rangers after Joe Worrall blunder

Rangers manager Steven ?Gerrard has admitted he could hand a recall to Nikola Katic this weekend as he considers changes to the side which flopped on their return to ?Premiership action at Kilmarnock.

Nikola Katic celebrates scoring against Helsinki at Ibrox. Picture: SNS
Nikola Katic celebrates scoring against Helsinki at Ibrox. Picture: SNS

Croatian international central defender Katic, a £2 million signing for Gerrard last summer, made an impressive start to his career with the Ibrox club but has not started a game since 11 November.

Katic was displaced in the side by on-loan Nottingham Forest defender Joe Worrall, whose blunder gifted Kilmarnock their equaliser at Rugby Park on Wednesday night as they came from behind to beat Rangers 2-1.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Gerrard insists Worrall deserves to retain his backing but, with Connor Goldson still sidelined by injury and veteran stopper Gareth McAuley perhaps unlikely to be asked to play on another artificial surface so soon, Katic could return to action against Livingston at the Tony Macaroni Arena tomorrow afternoon.

“I’m tempted to bring Niko back, yeah,” said Gerrard. “Why hasn’t he featured recently? Because I felt there were two people who could do a better job than him. That’s the obvious thing.

“Niko came in and performed really consistently and really well. He is a player who was brought in for now and for the future. He then had a couple of performances and certain situations happened which affected his confidence. It was my job to protect him and maybe take him out of the firing line at times. In the friendly against HJK Helsinki last Sunday, Niko made a mistake. So I see the players every day and I’ll pick the two I think can do the job and are best suited.

“It’s my responsibility to manage Niko and play him when he has shown me in training that he’s ready to do the job I need him to do. Niko hasn’t come in with any guarantees that he’s the number one centre-back who plays every week. We brought him in because we believe he’s got potential to improve and grow and become a nailed-down regular in this team but it’s never been promised to him.

“I did think he had a dip in his form and his confidence was affected. I do feel as though he’s over that now and he is pushing for a recall.

“I’ve got confidence in Niko that I could play him at the weekend and he could perform well and that performance could lead him on to a run in the team. If he doesn’t play at the weekend you could see him in the coming fixtures. I don’t want to have set players that I go ‘oh yeah they are 100 per cent in the team’. You have to keep the shirt. The performance after the first 20 minutes at Kilmarnock means players have left themselves open. Joe will be looking for some faith from me and his team-mates. He has bailed us out on numerous occasions to deserve that faith. He is man enough and has been around long enough, even though he’s still young, to know he is going to make mistakes. I don’t think he is an insecure boy, where that mistake against Kilmarnock might affect him long term.

“The positive thing for me is he held his hand up and has taken it on his shoulders. The disappointing thing for me was the reaction from the rest of the team following the mistake. It wasn’t good enough.”

Gerrard accepts Rangers are running out of wriggle room if they hope to sustain a successful title bid over the remaining four months of the season. Defeat at Kilmarnock saw them slip to third place in the table, three points behind leaders Celtic who have a game in hand. “The results on Wednesday have made the job a lot tougher for us, that’s the reality,” added Gerrard. “I don’t want to put any unnecessary pressure on the players but the facts are that the job has been made a lot more 
difficult after Kilmarnock and if we don’t get a positive result at Livingston, it gets even tougher.

“We’re aware of that, I’m sure the players are bright enough to know that. But in this situation that we’ve had, after a bump or a little bit of a dip in form, the reaction has been positive and players have found a performance. I want that more consistently.”

Rangers yesterday signed 22-year-old goalkeeper Andy Firth, who worked under Gerrard while a youth player at Liverpool, from English National League side Barrow on an 18-month contract. With Scotland under-21 keeper 
Robbie McCrorie moving to Morton on loan, Firth will provide back-up for Allan McGregor and Wes Foderingham.

Gerrard also confirmed Rangers have had a work permit application approved for USA international midfielder Matt Polster. The 25-year-old should complete his move from Chicago Fire next week with Gerrard not anticipating any further business for Rangers before the transfer window closes on Thursday night.