Rangers boss Philippe Clement on cup alert and says: I’m not busy with public enemies or things like that
Philippe Clement can speak with experience about the dangers of underestimating the cup underdog. The Rangers manager was a player with Racing Genk when they reached the 1998 Belgian Cup final on the same day as his future employers were losing the Scottish equivalent to Hearts.
Genk had finished second in the league but some way behind champions Club Brugge, their opponents in the final. Brugge were massive favourites to complete the double against a Genk side that had never played at the national stadium in a final before. It looked like a formality. Instead, Clement and co went on to triumph 4-0, landing him the first trophy of his career. It remains a happy memory but also serves as a reminder, ahead of the visit of Ayr United to Ibrox on Saturday evening, that complacency can often be the mother of a comeuppance.
“I was involved with a shock with a smaller team,” he recalled. “My first trophy ever was with Genk against Club Brugge. I went to Genk when they were in the second division, we won promotion and then the next year we finished eighth. The next season we finished second and won the Belgian Cup by beating Brugge in the final, just two years after being in the second division.
“Brugge had finished that season as easy champions in the league and everyone expected them to win the final also. But we won it 4-0. I remember the small but important details. Before the game there was a team picture. Brugge was with just the 11 players. But we took our photo with about 20 players and all the staff, everybody involved. That was the atmosphere and feeling in our group. It was just a nice trip to have a great experience in the national stadium for the first time. So I know what that is like [as the underdog].”
Clement also highlighted the shock cup loss suffered this week by another of his former clubs, Monaco, who were beaten by third-tier Rouen. Their manager does not want a similar stain on his record. “That’s why I spoke about Monaco as I know from experience how you can lose those kinds of games,” he added. “It’s about showing quality, mentality and respect.”
Scott Brown’s return to Ibrox as Ayr manager will serve as a fascinating sub-plot but Clement was not of a mind to give it additional oxygen. “I’m not busy with public enemies or things like that,” he added. “We are busy with our team, the game, playing good football, winning games in a good way and qualifying. Everybody who is in this round is four games away from winning the trophy. It’s not far. So we have to be focused on that and not all the other things around us that have nothing to do with us.”
Rangers are still also actively pursuing a league title and Europa League success but in Clement’s eyes the Scottish Cup remains as important as he looks to make winning a habit. “Every trophy we take this season will be very important to us because the club is full of history with a lot of trophies. But it’s not been regular in the last few years. Everybody is working really hard to get back to that situation where we are winning more regularly.”