Brendan Rodgers believes that Graeme Murty has done enough to be appointed Rangers manager on a permanent basis.
He knows that wins over his Celtic side, this afternoon and in the Scottish Cup semi-final, would enhance the chances of that happening and while he is not feeling that magnanimous, he says the fact his former Reading colleague even has the Ibrox fans believing that there could be a title chase or a piece of silverware at the end of the season proves how well he has done.
Speaking from experience, he warns that if the former Scotland international is overlooked when the job is nailed down in the summer, he will find it extremely difficult to return to his role with the development squad and still derive satisfaction from the job.
“He has done very, very well,” said Rodgers. “It is never easy, your first management job, especially a job of this scale and inheriting what was a difficult situation. He has the position through until the end of the season and he has stabilised the emotions around everything and been able to do it the way he wants. He has brought back a British core to the team, brought in some players who understand what it means to play for Rangers. He and his staff have done a very good job.”
In the past Murty has reverted back to his coaching role with the development players after serving a short-lived caretaker stint but, having been given longer-term control, not to mention the ability to back his views with transfers, Rodgers believes it would be more testing if he had to step back into the shadows now.
“Yes, very very difficult,” he warns. “I remember having the experience when I was at Chelsea. At the time I didn’t even know if I wanted to be a manager but when Jose Mourinho got the sack and I was brought in with the first team for three of four months or so. I enjoyed the intensity, I enjoyed the pressure, I enjoyed the preparation, I enjoyed the highs, I enjoyed the lows.
“I was then offered the chance to stay with the first team [under Avram Grant]. But they brought in Henk ten Cate, who came out of managing with Ajax to be the number two at Chelsea. So that left Henk, Stevie Clarke and then me and I thought ‘I am not going to be doing a great deal here’. Henk had been sent to coach and Stevie was already there. I was the young up-and-coming coach.
“I have always been a lead coach so I went back to the reserve team through choice and it was great, brilliant developing players and coaching. But it had changed. You actually enjoy the pressure so then you want the pressure. It was no coincidence that not long after that, a little while later I became a manager.
“So, I think now for him, if he was out of work then, of course, sometimes you have to work to earn money and you will do that. But I think in this spell he has shown that he has probably got a really good chance of getting the job and then that would allow him to build going forward.”
A win for Murty’s Govan side would leave them only three points behind the defending champions, who would still have a game in hand. But Rodgers says he is distancing himself from chatter about what any outcome could mean in the wider view.
He knows his men, collectively and certainly some key individuals, have not hit the same lofty standards they set last term. That along with improvements across the city has resulted in the opportunity for some to whip up talk of a battle at the top but rather than worry about that Rodgers believes his side will only get better in the run-in.
But he has players returning to fitness, with Patrick Roberts likely to be involved and Stuart Armstrong and Dedryck Boyata back in training and available, if needed.
“There’s no doubt that we missed for a large chunk of the season that creativity and that goalscoring threat. When you think of Pat, Stuart Armstrong, Tom Rogic, those guys were pivotal to the brilliant standard we set last year. It’s not rocket science. If you lose that quality, that incisive player, of course it can affect you.
“Them coming back is very important for us and gives us a great edge coming into this last period of the season.”