Ryan Jack has urged his team-mates to show the courage needed to bear the weight of expectation which is suddenly threatening to prove too onerous for the squad of players assembled by Steven Gerrard at Rangers.
Wednesday night’s pedestrian 1-1 draw at home to Kilmarnock in the Premiership intensified the scrutiny on Gerrard’s team which had followed their Betfred Cup semi-final defeat by Aberdeen at Hampden last Sunday.
It has even drawn comparisons with the start to last season which saw Pedro Caixinha sacked after posting identical win-draw-loss numbers in the opening ten league fixtures of the campaign and also falling at the last-four hurdle in the League Cup.
But Gerrard, of course, has successfully re-energised Rangers with the significant feat of leading them into the Europa League group stage, banishing the ghosts of the humiliating first-round exit suffered against Luxembourg minnows Progres Niederkorn under Caixinha.
That said, Gerrard can ill afford to see his team fall any further off the Premiership pace in their remaining two games before this month’s international break, away to St Mirren tomorrow and then at home to Motherwell on Remembrance Sunday.
Midfielder Jack insists there is no cause for panic yet at the club but accepts there is an urgent need for the players to take up Gerrard’s public challenge to accept more responsibility as he tries to restore Rangers as a credible trophy-winning force in Scottish football.
“It’s important to stay calm,” said Jack. “There is no crisis, there is no negativity among us. It’s important that we stick together and, if we do that, I’m sure we will come good.
“There has been a lot of changeover at the club this year, a whole new staff, a lot of new players. At this club, there is a big demand on the players and it has a great support. Traditionally it has won trophies and been successful.
“As players, you need to carry that weight when you are playing. Every game, there is an expectation. When you don’t live up to that, you have to be brave and face what comes your way. We’ve got another chance at St Mirren on Saturday. We need to go out and show a reaction and I’m sure we’ll do that.
“As soon as you pull that jersey on, it’s for three points or it’s to get to a cup final, or if you get to a cup final, it’s to lift a trophy. We have only been together a few months, so it’s not all down and negative. We are still positive. We’ve just had two frustrating results but there is a chance to go and put it right on Saturday.
“The players on the pitch have to take responsibility. We can’t be saying ‘oh, it’s this, it’s that’, and making excuses. It’s us who are on the pitch. It’s us who cross the white line to go on and do the business. In the last couple of games, we have not produced. We have a lot of experienced players in the dressing room, a lot of players who have their say, a lot of players who have been at the club before. They have been there, done that and won trophies. So there is a lot of experience in the squad and it’s important that we all knuckle down and stick together.”
Jack says Gerrard’s warning that he will make changes to the squad if the current players do not improve their level of attacking performance has been welcomed in the dressing room.
“That’s just motivation for the players to realise that every day you need to be on top of your game,” added the 26-year-old Scotland international.
“Every match at this club demands standards, you need to be at the top of your game every day in training or you get left behind.
“Training has been excellent. It’s as good as it has been. Obviously on the back of Sunday’s disappointment, there can be a hangover. But training was lively, it was a good standard.
“You just have to keep working, there’s no other answer for it. Get your head down, stick together and it will change. We weren’t good enough on Sunday, we never won the game. So we knew there would be a wee bit of a hangover. Wednesday was just another frustrating night.
“We are a team. We win together, draw together, lose together. There no pointing fingers in our dressing room, saying ‘it’s your fault’. Collectively, we are all together. If we win, we celebrate together. If we lose, we move on together. The last two games have been frustrating but I’m sure everything will be alright if we stick together.”