Rankin’s Hibs wilderness days consigned to past

A jubilant John Rankin, second from right, celebrates with his Dundee United team-mates. Picture: SNS
A jubilant John Rankin, second from right, celebrates with his Dundee United team-mates. Picture: SNS
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Dundee United midfielder John Rankin insists he only wants to lift the William Hill Scottish Cup for himself – and not to prove wrong the man who wrote him off.

The 30-year-old former Manchester United trainee skippered the Taysiders to a 3-1 victory over Rangers in Saturday’s semi-final clash at Ibrox. He is now looking forward to the first cup final of his career next month and explained that it will be an extra-special moment after his dark days at Hibernian. Rankin was frozen out by former Hibs manager Colin Calderwood and even told to stay away from their training base on the outskirts of Edinburgh before being 
released in 2011.

But after reigniting his career at Tannadice, Rankin insists he is not looking to send a message to Calderwood, who was sacked just four months into the 2011-12 season and is now out of work again after being dismissed as Norwich’s assistant alongside manager Chris Hughton last week.

He said: “There is nobody that I had to prove wrong apart from maybe one person – and to be honest, I don’t really care what he thinks. That’s life – you can’t please everybody and I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. I never have and I never will.”

Rankin did not feature at all for Hibs in his final four months in Leith but has made himself a mainstay at United under Jackie McNamara. “That is all about character,” he said. “When the chips are down you need to dig deep. At that time at Hibs, it was a hard time for me. I spent a lot of time myself in the gym on my own. But since I moved to United, I have never looked back.

“Everyone here, the players and the management team, are great and I get on with them. And with the supporters and the club in general, it’s a great place to work. I go in every day with a smile on my face and that makes a big difference. Now I’m 30 and going into my first cup final. I’m just loving the whole experience. The manager gave me the armband at Ibrox, and leading the team out in front of those fans on Saturday made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Getting to the stage in my career that I am at, I know I’m not going to have many more opportunities like this. If we can go to the cup final and come back with the trophy and a medal each it would be great. I’m desperate for that to happen. Growing up in Scotland, you dream of one thing and that is lifting the Scottish Cup.”

The win was the highlight of United’s season so far but capped a miserable week for Rangers after last Sunday’s Ramsdens Cup final disappointment against Raith Rovers. Full-back Stevie Smith, who scored a first-half free-kick after two early goals by Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven put United ahead, said: “These two games are gone now. Although we are disappointed, we need to try to focus on the next game, which is Forfar at home on Tuesday. It will probably take us a day or two to get over this because we put a lot into it. But we need to move on.”

Nadir Ciftci wrapped up the win after goalkeeper Steve Simonsen’s howler near the end, but Smith admitted the damage was already done after the 
Terrors were handed two first-half goals by Rangers mistakes. “Their movement was so dangerous,” he said. “We gave them two goals of a start and it was perfect for them. We had to open up and it left gaps and 
spaces. But even then we coped with it well and it was only at the end they got their third. That was the killer blow.”