Gary McAllister says Hampden heartache against Celtic can drive Rangers on to League Cup glory this season

At no time in his two-and-a-half years as Rangers manager so far has Steven Gerrard come closer to ending Celtic’s monopoly of domestic silverware than at Hampden last December.

Rangers assistant manager Gary McAllister is targeting Betfred Cup success this season after last year's defeat against Celtic in the final. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The 2019-20 Betfred Cup Final was an agonising experience for Gerrard and his players as they outplayed their Old Firm rivals for most of the contest, but ran into an inspired display from goalkeeper Fraser Forster for the Scottish champions who claimed a 1-0 victory.

It maintained the unprecedented sequence of consecutive domestic trophy wins by Celtic, which now stands at 11 and could be extended further when they contest last season’s delayed Scottish Cup Final against Hearts at Hampden on December 20.

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Rangers’ most immediate opportunity to stop the run comes in the Betfred Cup once more. As they prepare to start their campaign with a round of 16 tie away to League 1 leaders Falkirk on Sunday evening, assistant-manager Gary McAllister has urged their players to use the painful recollections of last year’s final as motivation to go all the way this time around.

“That memory of last season must spur us on, we played as well as we could,” said McAllister. “On the day, we were very unfortunate not to get the result and we go into this game against Falkirk knowing the prize is a place in the quarter-final. We want to try and repeat things and go one better as that’s the carrot which is being dangled.

“We are desperately trying hard to get Rangers back to winning ways. We will do our due diligence and show Falkirk almighty respect as we want a good run in this competition so we will field a strong side.”

Depending on just how many changes Gerrard makes to his starting line-up, Sunday could represent a first return as a player for Scott Arfield against the club where he started his career.

The midfielder left Falkirk ten years ago and has enjoyed a successful career at Huddersfield, Burnley and now Rangers. Having been restricted mostly to substitute appearances at the start of this season, the 32-year-old has been in outstanding form since breaking back into the starting line-up and scored his sixth goal of the campaign in the 2-2 Europa League draw against Benfica at Ibrox on Thursday night.

“In all honesty, his reaction to finding himself out of the team and not getting as many minutes as he wanted did not surprise me,” said McAllister. "Knowing the fella and working here with him for two-and-a-half seasons, he’s that type.

“He’s infectious. That sort of reaction is something that has to spread right through the entire squad. The fact Scotty is involved in a lot of our good play is there to see.

“There’s big emphasis on the numbers now. When you’ve scored a goal, can you make a goal? He’s providing that.

“He’s providing us with something a little bit different from the middle of the park. He has that ability to run from the mid-third and join the guys in front.

“He has been a nice link between the two and it causes problems for opponents.

“He’s in a really good place and is going back to his old stomping ground at Falkirk, where it all started. It will be a big day for Scott going back there.”

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