The disintegration of Rangers at Hampden last Sunday infiltrated all aspects of the Ibrox club. How much it even seeped into the mind of Graeme Murty, the Ibrox manager does not attempt to downplay. The 4-0 evisceration by Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final did not only end his prospects of being retained in the role beyond the six-month contract that the man formerly the club’s under-20s coach was handed at Christmas. Murty admits that the mortifying nature of his side’s capitulation meant there was a moment at the national stadium he considered quitting then and there.
“About five minutes after the game finishing,” he said was when that thought gripped him. For obvious reasons. “Given the way it had gone was not what I foresaw. It was supposed to play out as a rip-roaring semi-final and we were going to come out on top. But you have to take the emotion out of it and not make a knee-jerk reaction.
“Candidly, jacking it would have been the easy way out for me. I was asked to take the club forward to the end of the season, I will continue to do that until I am removed because I don’t want to take the easy way out.
“My confidence has taken a helluva dent. Standing on the side, as a young person, in the full glare of that environment and actually going through that is going to dent anyone’s confidence, I’d suggest.
“But there have been bigger managers than me, more experienced managers than me, who’ve gone through similar situations and come out the other side. So you’d have to look at those guys and their examples for the learning that they’ve got and the improvement they’ve made from these circumstances. It’s difficult, I won’t shy away from that fact.”
There is no hiding place for Murty as he seeks to negotiate the coming weeks. The Rangers-career-ending suspensions of Kenny Miller and Lee Wallace that dominated the aftermath of the club’s Hampden debacle spoke of internecine strife that, frankly, has its roots in a manager perceived as weak. It was a similar story with the very public shows of insubordination by Andy Halliday and Daniel Candeias as they were hauled off in the semi-final, and with the full-time rowing between Alfredo Morelos and Greg Docherty.
Murty has seemed at sea amid this maelstrom. He has been pitied by so many, which is a position in which no manager wants to find himself, as he has been presented as the good man out of his depth.
“I am a good guy, I think I’m an affable person, a respectful person,” he said. “I think I’m very open – too open at times. But you don’t get to play in the Premier League and international football without a deep core of resilience and a burning desire to win. I’ve still got that. I’m here and I’m still going to do the very, very best that I can, and I still believe the team have got enough to get where we want.”
Equally possible, is that the dark days could continue to mount up in the five post-split games that Rangers face in their bid to claim second. The mood of insurrection will hang heavily around Ibrox today as the home faithful demand to see the sort of character, desire and effort wholly absent against Celtic last week. A team they will have to face down again at a triumphant Parkhead in only a week’s time.
“In four games against Celtic we’ve had three when we’ve had those things,” Murty said. “Three games where we’ve matched, in my opinion, the best in this country and been unfortunate not to come away with the points we could have gathered.
“So I know the capacity is there. It didn’t happen on Sunday, I can’t quite put my finger on why. Once we see that capacity, we’ve got to reiterate it to the players. Show them what it looks like when they do particularly well and we’ll do everything we can to get that performance out of them for Sunday.
“It’s in our hands. I said it all the way through that this team has the talent, the capacity to finish second. We are in second because they’ve shown ability. Quality at times. Shown fight. We’ve got our belief knocked badly on Sunday because we didn’t turn up and represent ourselves in a proper manner. But they have more than enough to grab second if they continue to believe and continue to pull in the same direction.’
Murty admits, though, that the experience of the semi-final was entirely disorientating. “It was agonising,” he said.
“Standing on the sideline going through that, followed by the week we’ve had and the fallout from it, this has been possibly the most difficult week I’ve had since I’ve come to the football club, possibly the most difficult week I’ve had in football.
“I have had a lot of support. People have texted me to make sure I was alright and said as painful as it is now I will learn from it and get better. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like that. Sometimes it feels too raw.
“Sunday night, for example, wasn’t a time to be on my own. It was a time to be surrounded by people who have your best interests at heart. My mum and my dad, my wife and my little girl, to be surrounded by family when you are being challenged, everyone needs that when life throws up challenges and I am really fortunate I have a really strong family around me that were there for me at that time.
“But you come through tough times and have to hope that by doing the right things on a daily basis you become a better person and a better practitioner at your chosen job.”
Murty knows what it is like to feel denuded by this sport in a particularly cruel fashion. “This has possibly been the hardest week ever I’ve had in football but getting relegated from the Premier League with Reading was rough too,” he said. “The day afterwards I had to go on a radio show and do a phone-in with fans. And I had days at Reading where they had ‘pants day’. All the fans came with loads of pants and threw them on to the pitch because we were pants.” Rangers and Murty have been left in the altogether through having their dignity stripped by the past week.