Pedro Caixinha’s tenure as Rangers manager was both ill-fated and brief, but if there is any saving grace for the Portuguese it comes in the form of some of his signings.
Alongside Alfredo Morelos and Daniel Candeias, the recruitment of Ryan Jack on a free transfer from Aberdeen has, after a sticky first season, eventually proved to be a shrewd piece of business. Signed in the summer of 2017 on a three-year deal, the midfielder was yesterday rewarded for his growing influence at Ibrox with a new deal that will keep him at Ibrox until 2021.
Playing under two of the best British midfielders of their respective generations in Steven Gerrard and Gary McAllister, Jack has kept Rangers ticking along this season to a metronomic beat. No longer blighted by indiscipline and freed from the serious knee injury that saw him miss the second half of last season, the 27 year-old has evolved into a key figure in Gerrard’s plans. There was little hesitation when the chance came to prolong his stay.
“The club approached me and said they wanted to extend the contract and I was delighted to do that,” he said. “I am enjoying my football, more than I ever have in my career. I am learning off two of the best midfielders to have played the game and I think there is a lot more to come from me. I see this as the place to hopefully produce that.”
His personal future secure, Jack now wants rewards for the group as a whole. Rangers have manoeuvred themselves into a promising position heading into the final three games of the year – starting with St Johnstone away tomorrow – but Jack is honest to admit that there are rarely plaudits sent the way of plucky runners-up. If Rangers are to turn this season from a promising one into a memorable one, there needs to be silverware residing in the Ibrox trophy cabinet come the end of it.
“There is no hiding at this club,” he added. “The fans demand that the players produce silverware and we know that.
“When we spoke as a group at the start of the season, we wanted to be successful at Rangers and be remembered as a team that could go on and win something. If you come second or third, or lose in cup finals, nobody really remembers that. But people say ‘he was part of the team that won this cup or that cup’. That is the aim, and hopefully we can go and do that this season.”
McAllister, the Rangers assistant manager, praised Jack for both his leadership and versatility.
He said: “The manager and all the coaching staff are delighted he has extended his contract. It’s a reward because he has been very impressive from day one.
“From Monday to Friday, he is a leader. He is a great example for the younger players around him in terms of his attitude and the way he goes about preparing for games and training. He is also a player capable of doing different roles. Sometimes when you play in the middle of the park, you get pigeonholed as a certain type, being a defensive player who does things simply.
“But there is more to Ryan’s game and he has shown that when he has moved away from the No 6 role to a more advanced one. He can cope with the ball, be creative and play forward. The contract is a big reward for all that package.”
With Jack’s future secured, Rangers will also be hoping to hang on to Morelos in the January window. Gerrard has said he would “fall out with people” if the Columbian was allowed to leave and his assistant was of similar mind.
“He reminds me of quite a few South American strikers,” said McAllister, who revealed Scott Arfield and Gareth McAuley could both miss the game at McDiarmid Park. “He is very powerful, quick and needs very little back-lift on his execution.
“There probably will be [interest in him] but if we’re sat where we are in the table come the end of the month, it can’t be a consideration at all. He is a key player for this group.”