Graeme Murty has challenged his players to use their stirring display at Parkhead yesterday as a springboard to better things in 2018.
The Rangers manager believes the qualities that underpinned the scoreless draw he considered should have been a win owing to a set of “really good chances” for the visitors in the second half, can be the foundations for progress.
The Ibrox club have blown hot and cold under Murty, now three games into his spell as permanent manager following seven weeks as an interim. Impressively taking the heat yesterday, and against Aberdeen and Hibernian, they have frozen to suffer defeats to Hamilton, Dundee, St Johnstone and Kilmarnock since he was given the reins after Pedro Caixinha’s sacking.
“You have to accept what the players give you and today they gave me a top notch level of concentration, focus and intensity. We have to use that as fuel to move us forward from here,” said Murty, who claimed a 1-1 draw at Celtic Park as the club’s interim in March.
“We can’t take a backward step because, I’ve told them, when I walked out of this place last time it was with a sense of a job well done. I sit here with a real sense of a job and a journey that we’re just starting out on. We have to use that to move forward and if we do, this game will have served a good purpose beyond just getting a point.
“We have shown at Pittodrie, Murrayfield and Easter Road that we can step up to a level that can cause anyone problems. Our job and task collectively is to ensure that is our minimum standard. If we do that, then we are on a really good path to improving our lot and making sure that we do close the gap [on Celtic].
“Look at their bench and the fact they can buy a £4.5 million sub in [Olivier] Ntcham, and Leigh Griffiths too. They have really deep pockets, lots of resources and we have to show that we can close the gap by being great at what we do. I thought we did that today.”
After surviving several scares in the opening period, anger proved the fuel for Rangers to take the game to Celtic after the interval, Murty revealed. “It was great at half-time because there were some frank exchanges of view amongst the players to try and improve,” he said. “That energy took them out into the second half. From the whistle, they showed good concentration, good intensity, good focus and not a little ability.
“[You let them have their say] then you control it, you get it back in, you get them focused. I made sure that when they walked out on to the pitch no negativity would be tolerated. No negatives in body language or to one another. We only had to be positive and I thought in the second half we were really positive.
“As Celtic grew in momentum they caused us different problems and moved people around, which is going to happen because they’re a really good team. It’s just about solving problems.
“In the heat of the moment in a changing room and your hormones are charging round and your energy is high, it gets a bit fraught and frantic. Let that release off, let the guys get it out and then give them a really good solution. That’s what we did.”
Murty would not be drawn on Rangers’ approach to Falkirk for Jimmy Nicholl. The former Ibrox full-back and current Northern Ireland coach is expected to move to Ibrox to take on the role of assistant manager, though it is believed a compensation fee has still to be agreed between the two clubs.
“I’m not going to talk about anyone who is employed by another football club, either players or staff,” he said. “That’s not my place.”