Memories of Rangers and Gazza for Antonio Conte - but Spurs boss believes Rangers are ready after stern test
Rangers and Spurs celebrated a player who had signed for both clubs in the Walter Tull Cup, but it was another player of both teams recalled by the memory of Tottenham boss Antonio Conte on his return to Scotland.
Not Jermain Defoe, who handed Hugo Lloris the trophy after Spurs’ 2-1 win ended the silverware’s 18-year stay at Ibrox. And not Alan Hutton, another link between the sides whose previous record-breaking sale was again eclipsed by Calvin Bassey’s transfer to Ajax last week.
Instead, Ibrox reminded the Spurs boss of his encounter with Gazza during the 1995/96 Champions League and a 4-0 Juventus win on the southside of Glasgow.
“I remember the game, we won against Rangers,” Conte laughed. “I was marking Paul Gascoigne and was running a lot compared to him. My game finished before the end because he injured me!
“We are talking about the past and for sure I have had the pleasure to play at this amazing stadium and against Gascoigne, an icon as a player.”
His own Spurs icon, Harry Kane, put Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s team to the sword on Saturday, ending Rangers’ pre-season preparations with a quick-fire second-half double after Antonio Colak had opened the scoring for the home side on 24 minutes.
Rangers, cash rich from the sale of Bassey that more than doubled the £9m Hutton deal in 2008, now have an abundance of optimism too.
The manager was beaming, despite the defeat.
Two strong performances against English Premier League opposition, a cautiously favourable draw in the Champions League qualifiers and a squad van Bronckhorst will settle upon once he adds Ridvan Yilmaz to the pool - there are reasons to be cheerful.
Seeing Colak get off the mark, Rabbi Matondo again a star of the show and the first minutes in a Rangers jersey for Malik Tillman, who showed strength with his robust runs in the second half, was each a welcome sight for 43,000 at an increasingly busy and uplifted Ibrox.
Conte believes Rangers were “a really good test” for his team.
“They are more ready to start the league. We [Spurs] still have two weeks to try to find peak fitness before the Premier League.”
Van Bronckhorst still has decisions to make in half that time before lining up against Livingston on Saturday lunchtime.
Allan McGregor saved all but two frankly unstoppable shots from Kane and reminded Ibrox his one-year contract extension was not simply a long goodbye playing second fiddle to Jon McLaughlin who started in midweek.
In front of them, who partners Connor Goldson once Ben Davies is up to speed is another undecided area. The recruit from Liverpool was not even on the bench against Spurs with John Souttar looking more settled and increasingly confident in the face of a top class strikeforce - Kane, Heung Min Son, Dejan Kulusevski and later, Richarlison.
Then there is Yilmaz – a rival for Borna Barisic at left-back.
All are good options for the manager at the start of a season – even for one who has lost the quality of Bassey and Joe Aribo this close season, but replaced them with Tillman, Matondo and Colak who all stood up to the rigours of Spurs.
Next, it’s the SPFL, but Conte says Rangers are ready to go.
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