Rangers’ form dip since winter break piles pressure on Steven Gerrard says Alex McLeish

Rangers’ form since the winter break has piled the pressure on Steven Gerrard’s men ahead of this weekend’s Scottish Cup tie against Hamilton.

Former Rangers manager Alex McLeish relished warm weather training as an Aberdeen  player. Picture: SNS.
Former Rangers manager Alex McLeish relished warm weather training as an Aberdeen player. Picture: SNS.

That is the view of five-time Scottish Cup winner and former Ibrox boss Alex McLeish, who knows that fans of the club do not take too well to barren seasons.

Celtic’s domestic dominance in winning the treble treble means that silverware has been hard to come by and a couple of stutters in January mean it will be difficult for the Govan outfit to prevent their rivals making it eight league titles in succession.

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But it has been more than 60 years since a Rangers manager was able to survive two seasons without silverware, rendering cup success an even greater priority this term.

“That’s the pressure you’re under at the Old Firm,” McLeish added. “They’re unique in world football because both teams are expected to win every single game they play; those demands are always there.

“My personal experience was of winning the treble in 
2002-03 and then following that up with a barren season. That felt like the end of the world to me and that’s how hard you can take it, particularly because you know you haven’t made the fans happy.”

The title chasers are away to Hamilton on Saturday, looking to progress to the quarter-finals but with the manager still shy of his first trophy, McLeish has warned them that they need to regain their early season form – soon.

“Before the break it was looking extremely good for Rangers,” said McLeish. “They have come back a bit slow and Celtic are still the team that have to be beaten. Whatever the reasons – Morelos out again for a bit – there are still a lot of differences between the teams.”

But having relished winter sunshine training as a player, he is at a loss to explain the Ibrox squad struggling in the wake of their last two mid-season camps.

“In my Aberdeen days with Alex Ferguson, he would take us on a week’s break in between games,” he recalled.

“If we were playing in Glasgow, we would maybe fly from Glasgow to Marbella or Mallorca and spend a week there, do some warm weather training and maybe have a night out where we had to be back at a certain time for the curfew. But he drilled it into us and every player going back was saying that we cannot afford to go back here and start slowly.

“We always seemed to do quite well in the run-in and Alex felt warm winter training was good for that. Stevie will be tearing his hair out.”

l Premier Sports is the home of knockout football in Scotland, broadcasting the William Hill Scottish Cup and the Betfred Cup.

Premier Sports will screen live and exclusive coverage of Hamilton v Rangers (Sat 8 Feb) in the Scottish Cup fifth round. Available on Sky, Virgin TV and via the Premier Player. Visit www.premiersports.com for details.