Josh Windass believes he has finally earned the trust of Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha as he bids to establish himself as a key performer for the Ibrox club.
The 23-year-old attacking midfielder opened the current Premiership campaign on the end of a stinging rebuke from Caixinha, who publicly criticised his lack of defensive diligence during the 2-1 win over Motherwell at Fir Park at the start of August. But Windass has delivered an improvement in that aspect of his play which has now seen him start Rangers’ last four games and emerge as an influential part of what Caixinha is attempting to achieve.
“As everyone knows, I need to work on the defensive side of my game,” said Windass. “Attacking wise, I’m more comfortable and my performances have been more consistent this season. Hopefully I can get a few more goals and create a few more chances to stay in the team.
“You have to gain the trust of any new manager who comes in. To stay in the team, he has to know you can do a job for him. I think I’ve done that – maybe not at the start, but I think I’ve gained a bit of trust from him now.
“I speak to him quite a bit and he tells me where I need to improve, what I need to do. It’s about more concentration. He drums it into me all the time that I need to focus on the other side of the game.
“My first thought is always to attack and try to do something going forward. In some other games we play, if our backs are against the wall, that’s when you have to do the other side of it and I’ve been doing that more. He will show me video clips of where I haven’t done it, where I’ve done it wrong and where I have to improve. It’s not led to any goals for the opposition, but it has led to chances for them which might not have happened if I’d been in a different position.”
The enhanced relationship between Windass and Caixinha allowed the pair to see the funny side of the player’s involuntary sliding tackle which sent his manager flying at the side of the pitch during the recent Old Firm game at Ibrox and became an internet sensation.
“It’s been in a few of my mates’ group chats!” smiled Windass. “The gaffer laughed about it, so it was alright. I got a big grass burn from it at the time, so I wasn’t too happy. But the gaffer came up to me the next day and laughed about it. To be fair, he got up quicker than me at the time.”
Windass saw his debut season at Rangers, following his move from Accrington Stanley in the summer of 2016, disrupted by a series of minor injuries. He believes his improved conditioning may be partly attributed to a change of routine which has seen him making greater use of the swimming pool at Rangers’ training ground. “I just started doing it this season,” he said. “I’m quite tired in the mornings so I like to try and freshen myself up before training. I just come into the training ground a bit earlier and go into the pool. I swim, stretch, I come in just after 8am to do it.
“Craig Flannigan, our head of performance and preparation, has always encouraged us to go into the pool and stretch after training. I’ve started doing it before just to wake myself up more!
“It might help in terms of cutting out some of the short term injuries but I like to think I work hard away from football with the stuff I do, so I think it’s just a coincidence – but you never know.
“At Accrington, I was playing every single game and didn’t train as much through the week. But you train more here, as well as playing in the games, and that caught up with me a little bit last season. Everything seems to be alright this season.”
Windass believes the cancellation of Rangers’ trip to Canada last weekend for a friendly against Benfica may prove to be a blessing in disguise ahead of tonight’s Premiership meeting with St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park.
“The international break has been good,” he added. “We’ve been in training for most of it, working on a few things and hopefully we’ll see the benefit of it in Friday’s game. The Canada trip being cancelled meant we had more time training here and it saved us a long journey as well. So you can look at the positives.”
l Josh Windass was speaking at the launch of Rangers Soccer Schools Autumn Holiday Courses which will run from 16-20 October.