There could soon be an entire team of new faces populating Steven Gerrard’s revamped Rangers playing squad. The 11th signing of a summer spree seemed on the way this weekend before the collapse of a move for Manchester City defender Kean Bryan. It came as the Ibrox club prepared a second bid for Hearts striker Kyle Lafferty after the Tynecastle club rejected an initial £200,000 offer.
Jamie Murphy, one of the ten players to have completed a deal with the Ibrox club in the close season through making his loan signing from Brighton permanent, would not be averse to Gerrard continuing his overhaul. The 28-year-old winger believes, though, that any further reinforcements are not imperative for the club to achieve their desired targets.
The early continental outings of Gerrard’s Rangers have yielded three clean sheets and encouraged that there could be an assuredness about the Ibrox side previously wholly absent. A 1-0 victory away to Croatian side Osijek in the opening leg of their Europa League second-round qualifier suggested the nascent side is coming together smoothly. Smooth enough for Murphy to believe that the resources are in place to forge a steely side.
“Yeah, absolutely” the former Motherwell man offered when asked if he was confident Rangers have enough strength going into a league season they begin at Pittodrie in a week’s time. “I am sure that if we never signed anyone else with the players that we have got we will be more than capable. If we do sign another couple then great.
“From what the boys have said about the start of last season it wasn’t very good – I wasn’t here to say either way. The new manager has come in and we have got a good feeling from the training. What we have to take from that is to try and win every game.”
A friendly against Wigan at Ibrox this afternoon gives way to the crucial second leg against Osijek. There is certainly work to be done to book a third-round qualifying tie with either Slovenians Maribor or Georgian club Chikhura Sachkhere. But if this is performed successfully then Rangers will have put daylight between their summer and the desperate one from 12 months ago wherein they were humiliated by Luxembourg part-timers Progres Niederkorn. That would not be insignificant for Murphy.
“The first game we played against the team from Macedonia [Shkupi] it was a big thing for us to get through after last year,” he said.
“There was a little bit of a mental block after that game last year. And it was mentioned, it was mentioned a few times before that. I think that was a really big game for us. Obviously as a team they weren’t that brilliant but to just win that game and get through it was a big thing compared to last year.
“Now the opportunity is there for us. It’s a big game Thursday. I think they were a better team than a lot of people thought. I think you saw that from last year when they put PSV out. So Thursday is massive for us. There’s a chance there if we get through for more games in Europe, which is what the club wants and want the fans want.”
The European sortie has merit beyond the specifics of whether the club could possibly make it through the four rounds required to reach the group stages. The fact that the Rangers goal has yet to be breached after 270 minutes of competitive football – regardless of the standard of opponent – points to Gerrard having had a measure of success in building the solid base that he identified as a priority. The defensive triangle of goalkeeper Allan McGregor and centre-backs Connor Goldson and Nikola Katic, are notably all new additions. They were recruited to address a fragility that consistently undermined the Ibrox club’s efforts last season.
“Defending was a big part of the emphasis when the manager came in,” said Murphy. “We scored the most goals in the league last season so it isn’t that area that needs to be improved. We have to keep them out. We have been working hard on defending as a team. But when we have got a back four or five like we have then it makes things easier.
“It could be frustrating [last season]. We were either winning games 3-2 or losing them 3-2. That isn’t ideal. The first thing is not conceding. If you do that you aren’t going to lose the game. We need to go out there and entertain and score goals. But hopefully we can be secure at the back as well as doing that.”
Goldson, inset, is a player well known to Murphy from their time together at Brighton. The Scotland international had no doubts about the 25-year-old’s suitability for the Ibrox club as soon as the wheels were set in motion on his £2 million move.
“At Brighton he was behind Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk who are really good,” he said. “He was unlucky not to get more opportunities. But he was good enough to play in the Premier League. He just never got many chances. He was a good friend of mine down there and when I heard he was going to come I knew he would be a good signing for us. He showed that in the first couple of games. I am sure he will keep that going for the rest of the season.”