Lee Wallace motivated by possibility of Rangers going top
There haven't been too many three-game runs across little more than a week for Rangers in recent times like the one that begins tonight at Firhill.
The encounter against Partick Thistle provides the Ibrox club with the opportunity to win a third league game on the spin and go top of the league… for at least the best part of a day. Neither of those feats has been achieved in 2017.
On Tuesday, Pedro Caixinha’s men will return to Firhill for a League Cup quarter-final as they seek to bring a major trophy to Ibrox. That feat hasn’t been achieved since 2011.
The following Saturday, ancient adversaries Celtic pitch up in Govan as Rangers attempt to get the better of them in a league derby. That feat hasn’t been achieved since 2012.
Caixinha himself doesn’t do three-game appraisals; doesn’t concern himself with the look of a league table. His captain Lee Wallace is a little different. The full-back acknowledges that the fact a four-goal win tonight would put them top of the pile in the Ladbrokes Premiership can serve as extra motivation.
“They are good incentives,” he said of what is on offer to Rangers if they were to win their next three games. “There is absolutely no doubt about that.
“While there is a lot of football to be played, it [would be] a nice sight [to go top], especially from where we have come and everything that was made of last year and, of course, how strong our main rivals are.
“They are definitely nice incentives but our main incentive is always to win the games. If we win the games, the consequence is that these things will happen. We recognise how hard the games are. We have an opponent motivated to try and get their first win in the league. We will be aware of that but at the same time we will be going there with excitement and looking to win.”
Wallace is buoyed by what he sees as recent “progression” and “encouraging signs game by game” on the back of successes away to Ross County (a 3-1 win) and at home to Dundee (4-1).
“There is more confidence, for sure,” he said. “I can see that in the players’ eyes. I can see it in their performances as well. The last two games have not been perfect. We know that there are things we need to work on, things within our style. We want to strive for perfection and get those bits right but there is no doubt we are feeling better.
“We are at a good level. We are coming in with a smile on our faces. That’s just natural. If you go the other way, it’s not so much the case. It won’t stop the hard work that’s for sure. But the general demeanour is that we are a bit more positive and there is a stronger spring in our step.”
Wallace has sought to play his part by making Rangers’ new arrivals feel at home. That was never going to happen in an instant with players travelling halfway around the world from Central and South America, as well as Portugal.
“We are dealing with guys who are learning the language,” Wallace said. “They are getting English lessons every day. It’s getting used to the city, getting their families across, getting used to the air, all these things we maybe take for granted.
“The guys are working hard to get where they need to be. Everyday they are getting used to the pressures and the demands that are placed on you at this club. We are making positive steps.
“I can see by looking at the individuals that physically they are getting stronger too. There is a long way to go before we’re happy as a team but we are getting to where we need to be.
“I’ve always tried to act and behave as I always have done as captain of this club. I’m fortunate enough that I’ve got older, more experienced guys around me too. We have Bruno [Alves] who can speak with the Spanish speakers too.
“I am always happy to welcome a new player, show him around the training ground and get him used to the training ground habits like using shin pads in training. It’s the wee things and every wee detail I try to help them with.”
Recent results suggest the new recruits are settling in well, with the work done on the training ground translating into impressive performances on the park. Colombian striker Alfredo Morelos has, in particular, caught the eye with five goals in his five league games since joining from HJK Helsinki.
“We train at a high tempo and that’s why there’s a competitive edge to our training,” Wallace acknowledged.
“On the pitch, they are making the right steps, their football language has been good. Morelos, for example, is a natural finisher and that stood out from the very beginning. In the two v one drills we were doing in training every shot was hitting the back of the net. But all the boys are working very hard.”