Jamie Murphy out to add steel to Rangers spine

Jamie Murphy celebrates after scoring in the win against Bury at Ibrox. Picture: Getty
Jamie Murphy celebrates after scoring in the win against Bury at Ibrox. Picture: Getty
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The Brighton players stared at Jamie Murphy and wondered why his face was tripping him so early in pre-season.

Was it the hard training? Had he picked up an injury? No. Rangers had just been embarrassed in Europe by being knocked out by Progres Niederkorn in Luxembourg.

Murphy could not believe it. He was used to the grand Champions League nights against the might of Europe and the remarkable adventure that led Rangers to the 2008 Uefa Cup final.

Now, 12 months on, he insists that there will be no repeat of that debacle as Rangers prepare to face the largely unknown side Shkupi from the Republic of Macedonia in the first qualifying round of the Europa League in Steven Gerrard’s first competitive match in charge.

Murphy said: “I remember that night. I was obviously down at Brighton at the time and I was surprised as much as anything.

“Teams like Rangers shouldn’t be getting put out as early as that. But it happens and you move on.

“It’s up to us that it doesn’t happen again.

“Everyone at Brighton could see the disappointment in my face – just ask Conor Goldson!”

New Ibrox manager Gerrard believes the embarrassment in Luxembourg is a salutary lesson of what can happen if you let your standards drop as he prepares to face a side that has never played in Europe before.

Gerrard said: “I haven’t watched these games. They’re nothing to do with me. They were played under the previous manager.

“If you don’t approach games in European competition with the right attitude and mentality you can face major problems.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s the first qualifying round or it’s the semi-final, if you don’t approach it right you’re in trouble.

“I just need to make sure that the players are ready, focused, don’t disrespect any opposition and come in with the right mentality. I am confident if we come in with the right mentality, focus and concentration we will be OK.”

Lifelong fan Murphy was reared on some great European nights at Ibrox and he believes that they can return as Gerrard revives the fortunes of Rangers, who warmed up for Thursday’s game with a 6-0 win over Bury last Friday in front of 41,015 fans.

The 29-year-old said: “I’m really looking forward to it. I remember coming to a few European games, especially when we were in the Champions League.

“I was at the Man United game when Wayne Rooney scored that penalty so late on.

“I went to the games against Porto and Inter Milan – and they are games that stick in my head, as well as the run to the Uefa Cup final.

“So I think that’s why the defeat last year in Luxembourg was harder to take.

“The club has been through some tough times over the past five or six years and we can get it back to where we were.

“You can only build one stage at a time, get through rounds, do well, perform, score goals.

“It’s up to us to go out on Thursday and put us on the first step.

“I think the manger probably wants this to be a team people fear.

“He doesn’t want it to be easy for clubs to come here and think ‘we might have a chance here today’.

“That’s what it was like a few years back – everyone feared coming to Ibrox.

“That’s what we need to make it again. We can do it again. Whether it takes two weeks or two years, I don’t know, but it’s up to us to do it.

“I think the club can definitely get back to where it was.”

Murphy is one of the few players in the side with decent European experience from his time at Motherwell – and he’s still their top European scorer with seven goals.

Of course, the roles were reversed then because the Steelmen were the underdogs going in against the bigger sides. Murphy said: “I played loads of games in Europe with Motherwell against the likes of Levante and Panathinaikos.

“I always enjoyed playing in Europe. It was a big start to the season playing against teams ranked higher than us and a chance to go out and perform.

“Maybe it brought out the best in me. It was quite early in my career so it was good to go out and try to prove yourself on a different stage.

“It’s something I always looked forward to and something I enjoy watching on telly too.

“We were going into games against teams like Panathinaikos and being really up for it. We wanted to do well.

“We didn’t do that well, but it was our biggest game of the season, even though it was the first game of the season.

“We’re well aware our opponents on Thursday will be well up for it. I’m sure they’re looking forward to playing in Europe just as much as we are.

“We have to go out and perform. If we can do that and score goals like we can, we should go through.”