All that can be asked of any person in charge of a football team is that they manage their resources. Rangers interim boss Graeme Murty is certainly doing that.
Murty acknowledged that the Ibrox men will have to play considerably better against Hibernian at Easter Road on Wednesday than they did in defeating Ross County at the weekend if they are to turn a first sequence of three consecutive league wins since last December into a first such four-in-a-row since those closing weeks of last year.
The Rangers caretaker manager’s growing assurance in backing himself to find solutions to problems suggests he can tweak his squad to produce better in Leith than they did in “getting the job done”, as he acknowledged was the product of a middling display against a Highland club that led them for 50 minutes on Saturday after Craig Curran had planted a header past Wes Foderingham early on.
Rangers may be floundering behind the scenes as they reel from the shock of Derek McInnes rejecting the manager’s job, but Murty is proving a steadying influence on team affairs he will dictate until the new year.
Murty hasn’t succeeded in getting a turn out of the enigma that is Carlos Pena. He spun that into a positive, though, in saying after Saturday’s victory that his “gut” told him to reshape the side and introduce Alfredo Morelos for the anonymous Mexican at the interval.
Morelos, pictured, proceeded to end a ten-game scoring drought with the equaliser. The Ibrox side then snatched a winner through a second goal in as many weeks from Danny Wilson that indicated they are carrying a greater set-piece threat than under previous managers Pedro Caixinha and Mark Warburton.
Articulate and reasoned, Murty seems to be able to get his point across to his players. They have now won five of their seven games under him. In doing so, they have become – by dint of goal difference, albeit – the team closest to Celtic, and indeed only five points adrift of Brendan Rodgers’ domestic invincibles.
Murty’s astute tactics in the back-to-back wins over Aberdeen changed perceptions of him and his team for the better.
Central to that was his decision to deploy teenager Ross McCrorie – a centre-back prospect – as a deep-lying midfielder. McCrorie, before he was forced off with a knock, produced drive and deftness when his team needed it against Owen Coyle’s men. A young player in danger of being over-hyped after Caixinha’s crazy comment he could be among Scotland’s best ever defenders – a remark that under-20 coach Murty questioned because “the last thing we want to do is put him under pressure” – the interim’s handling of him has been faultless.
On Saturday night Murty talked up McCrorie’s talent, about “how highly we rate him” and how lacking in arrogance but rich in resoluteness he was in standing up after a horrendous mistake was key to Hamilton’s victory the other week.
Murty has succeeded in picking up McCrorie and the rest of his squad off the floor following the week that brought that defeat and a loss at Dundee but the 43-year-old does not seek to present himself as a master of man management.
“You just make it up as you go along,” he joked. “It is difficult but I said when I came in the first team that people definitely care what you think if they think that you care about them. It is about building relationships. But also first-team players have to know that you can impact them at first-team level and get them success.
“So I am particularly pleased for the staff that a change we made at half-time against County worked and Alfredo comes off the bench and scores and that Daniel [Candeias] has come back into the team and gets an assist.
“The players need to know that the staff around them can make them better and make them successful. If you can do that, as well as having a good personal relationship with them, you will go a long way to getting buy-in from the players and I think we have got that as a staff. It is not just me, it is all of the staff – Craig Flannigan [head of performance], Jonathan [Johansson, Murty’s assistant], Colin Stewart the goalkeeping coach has done wonderful work with Wes [Foderingham] and Jak [Alnwick]. I would credit the staff, it is not just me.”
It is Murty who is front and centre, though. In every respect.