Jon Toral hasn’t been short of detractors during his loan spell at Rangers so far. To put it politely, the Ibrox support have generally been underwhelmed by the Arsenal midfielder’s performances since he arrived in January.
The 22-year-old Spaniard, however, insists no-one is more critical of his form than himself. Toral admits he has struggled to get up to speed with the demands of Scottish football but remains determined to make a positive contribution in the remaining three months of the season.
“Physically in the first few games here I wasn’t fit enough,” said Toral. “I wasn’t match fit. The manager knew I needed a few games and he gave me those games.
“I think physically I’ve improved recently and I’ve felt better. Now in the last few games, I’ve played in a different position (than) I’ve been used to in my other teams, and played in a little bit deeper role.
“I’m just trying to learn from that and if the manager sees me there, just try to help the team in that position.
“I hope I can show the fans my best form at Rangers. I always hope when I go on the football pitch there is more to come from me. Because I’m very critical of myself, I hope the next game will be better than the last one and that will be the same for the rest of my career.
“When I have a bad game, it’s not easy to sleep. I am really critical of myself and I analyse the games. I know when I play well and play badly. So I just try to put the bad games behind me and focus on the next one and do better next time.
“It’s different playing in Scotland but I’m getting used to it and feel I am getting better and match-fit. I hope that continues.”
Toral’s settling-in period at Rangers wasn’t helped by the abrupt departure last month of Mark Warburton, the manager who had also signed him on loan for Brentford two seasons ago and who was something of a mentor. That said, it wasn’t a completely new experience for him.
“It also happened earlier this season when I was on loan back in Spain at Granada and the manager (Paco Jemez) left not long after I joined,” said Toral. “These things happen at every club, the managers are never safe. But you have to adapt and get used to whatever new manager comes in. I said when I first came here that Mark was a big reason for me signing, because I worked for him before. But this continues and I am here to help the team.
“When he left, he wished me the best for the rest of the season and that’s it.
“Before I came here, he said he wanted me to be part of this and help the team and that hasn’t changed because he isn’t here. I want to work hard and help the team.
“It’s always difficult when a manager goes. But I think the team has reacted alright. The results weren’t always there but I think we have stuck by Graeme Murty since he became interim manager and we’re going to do that for as long as he is in charge.”
Today’s Scottish Cup quarter-final against Hamilton at Ibrox looks set to be Murty’s swansong in the role. Rangers expect to name their new manager next week, with Portuguese coach Pedro Caixinha the leading candidate. Gary Rowett, under whom Toral played while on loan at Birmingham City last season, was also interviewed.
“Gary is a really good manager and I wish him all the best,” said Toral. “But that’s not for me to talk about. The board are working on it and whatever will be, will be. My focus is on Hamilton. At this club, going all the way in the cup has to be a must. We are at home and we have to get into the semi-finals.”