Criticised Rangers player called 'one of best young talents' - but why pressure is not getting to Ibrox club's on-loan Bayern ace Malik Tillman

Quietly spoken, languid and yet merciless. The elegant Malik Tillman can clearly pack a punch when he wishes.

Aberdeen bore the brunt of perhaps the player's best performance in a Rangers jersey in the Ibrox side's much-needed 4-1 win on Saturday.

It’s often forgotten just how young Tillman still is. Manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst recently stressed that some concessions needed to be made when assessing Ridvan Yilmaz’s impact at Rangers given his age, 21, and the fact he is still settling into a new country.

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The same surely applies to Tillman, who turned 20 as recently as this summer. Because he is on loan from Bayern Munich, it seems he’s not permitted much, if any, leeway. He has been expected to come in and deliver man-of-the-match performances straightaway.

Midfielder John Lundstram delivered a passionate monologue in praise of the player after Saturday’s game which contained echoes of Sven-Goran Eriksson’s plea to media and fans alike following Wayne Rooney’s red card against Portugal at Euro 2008. “Don’t kill him,” the England manager urged. “You will need him.”

Likewise, Lundstram hopes those who have been questioning Tillman’s worth will take a step back and allow him time and space to develop. It sounded like an appeal to the hard-to-please Ibrox fans as much as anything.

“He is honestly one of the best young talents I have seen so people need to stick behind him and stick with him rather than him having one bad game and people talking about him needing to be dropped,” Lundstram said.

They won’t be saying that after his latest performance, with Tillman one of the star men as Rangers defied the doubters, many of them residing within their own support, to comprehensively beat Aberdeen. He later admitted he was frustrated not to score but he did provide the assist for Antonio Colak’s equaliser after Connor Barron had given the visitors a 21st minute lead. Tillman enjoyed the afternoon and relished the space Aberdeen’s attacking game-plan afforded him.

Malik Tillman looked in the mood in Rangers' 4-1 win over Aberdeen on Saturday (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)Malik Tillman looked in the mood in Rangers' 4-1 win over Aberdeen on Saturday (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
Malik Tillman looked in the mood in Rangers' 4-1 win over Aberdeen on Saturday (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

“I have had my ups and downs,” he conceded afterwards when speaking to reporters. “But I feel I have way more to learn, especially from our key players in the team. I can learn from them every single day. I would say I can still improve myself.”

Tillman found himself out of the team for a spell but he has been restored to the starting XI in recent weeks. As with any youngster, he’s been inconsistent. Then there’s the ever-demanding Ibrox support to consider and the fact that even dropping two points against Livingston seven days earlier was treated like a season-ending – and potentially manager-ending – result.

“I think we are under pressure every game, especially from ourselves,” said Tillman. “We have the mindset of wanting to win every game. Obviously, we didn’t win our last game so as I said, we needed to bounce back. And we did that in a good way.”

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Tillman was asked if he is getting used to the pressure of having to win every match, with Ajax next up at Ibrox tomorrow. “I came from Bayern Munich – I am kind of used to it!” he replied rather splendidly. While he might need protection, and should be cut some slack on occasion, he clearly also knows how to look after himself.



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