As Rangers bid to prevent their winless run against Celtic stretching into double figures on Sunday, their need for someone to step up and change the current narrative of the Old Firm rivalry has seldom been more acute.
According to former Ibrox hero Stuart McCall, they now possess a player capable of genuinely threatening the dominance Celtic have imposed on the fixture under Brendan Rodgers’ management.
McCall believes Jamie Murphy, a player upon whose formative years he had a major influence while manager of Motherwell, could prove to be a trump card for Rangers in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden.
Murphy has scored five goals for the club he supported as a boy since joining them on loan from Brighton in January, a deal which is scheduled to become permanent this summer.
McCall feels the timing of the 28-year-old’s move to Ibrox has been ideal and is backing him to have a major influence in their attempt to end Celtic’s quest for back-to-back domestic trebles.
“It’s all about what happens on the day but Jamie has got the ability to give Celtic a hard time on Sunday,” said McCall.
“There’s no doubt about that. You’ve already seen what he can do for Rangers so far. The goal he scored against Motherwell at Fir Park a couple of weeks ago, I saw him do that so many times when I was manager there – coming inside, coming inside again and then cutting the ball back into the net.
“It was a terrific signing for Rangers in January. He’s at the right age now to play for them. When I was at Motherwell, Jamie was linked with Rangers then but I don’t think he was ready at that stage. He is now.
“His career path has been terrific. He went to Sheffield United when he left Motherwell and I was delighted about that, having worked there before, even though they were in the third tier of English football at the time. He then moved up to Brighton, played in front of big crowds and helped get them into the Premier League.
“Coming back to Rangers at this stage of his career has been perfect for him. You saw in the last game against Celtic at Ibrox that he was one of the better Rangers players that day.
“I’m really pleased for him that he is doing well. I believe the contract beyond the summer is sorted for him, even though he is only on loan at Rangers at the minute. Certainly, though, he is one who can cause Celtic problems.”
McCall speaks from experience when he assesses what is required to triumph in an Old Firm semi-final, having enjoyed a 100 per cent winning record against Celtic on such occasions during his own playing career – three in the Scottish Cup and one in the League Cup.
The most memorable of those for McCall was the 1992 Scottish Cup showdown which saw Rangers win 1-0 despite playing with 10 men for 84 minutes after the early dismissal of David Robertson.
“I only watch that three times a week!” laughed McCall, whose ball-winning ability saw him set up the only goal of a dramatic night at Hampden for Ally McCoist.
“Sometimes it is about a bit of luck,” he added. “We had a man sent off after just six minutes on a night when it was bouncing down with rain.
“I always look back on that game as being the night that Walter Smith’s Rangers team were born. We had just gone out of Europe, Hibs had beaten us in the League Cup and our league form was okay, but not running away with anything.
“If Celtic had won that night, then maybe Rangers wouldn’t have gone on to have the success they did in that era. McCoist put the chance away well and then we had that bit of luck. Celtic should have had a stonewall penalty, Paul McStay hit the bar and Andy Goram was what he always was in goal for us – inspired.
“You can look back through the history of these games for little defining moments and Walter might look back at that one. Once we managed to win with 10 men, the belief in each other really grew. It was Walter’s first season after Graeme Souness had left and new players had come in.
“It was a big moment. I was fortunate enough to play in four semi-finals against Celtic and win them all. That was when Rangers were going through a good period.
“Now, it’s Celtic who are in the ascendancy but you can look at their last two games which have shown they are not invincible. Last season, you looked at Celtic and thought ‘Whoa - how do you beat them?’ This year, Rangers have improved since January, albeit that they have had a couple of blips recently.
“But they have got players in the team now who can give Celtic a game. They have to turn up. Rangers have to be at their best to give themselves an opportunity.
“They can look back to two years ago when Mark Warburton’s side beat Celtic on penalties. So anything can happen in a tight game like I think this one will be.”
*Stuart McCall was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup.