Rangers striker Martyn Waghorn wouldn’t dare turn his nose up at the Petrofac Training Cup when his only silverware success as a footballer came as part of Sunderland’s youth set-up before he turned professional.
The 25-year-old is unabashed about the prospects provided by today’s semi-final against St Mirren in the knock-out competition contested by lower league sides. To overcome the Paisley team then beat Peterhead in the final would “definitely” mean a lot maintains the former Leicester and Wigan striker. Not least because of where such a decider would likely be held.
To play at Hampden – something I’ve never done and something many players won’t have done – would be great. Me and the rest of the boys are taking it very seriouslyMartyn Waghorn
“I want to win trophies, leagues and be competitive at the highest level,” said the Championship’s top scorer. “I want to win as much as I can while I am here. It’s something I’m desperate to do; it’s why I came to Rangers. I’m enjoying it, it’s a new challenge and to play at Hampden Park – something I’ve never done and something many players won’t have done – would be great. Me and the rest of the boys are taking it very seriously. I didn’t really know much about it [the Challenge Cup] to be honest until I came here. But it’s a trophy at the end of the day which you can put on your CV.”
Waghorn has played in a semi-final previously, when Sunderland met Manchester City in the FA Youth Cup over two legs seven-and-a-half years ago. “They had Daniel Sturridge in the team, Vladimir Weiss was on the wing, Adam Clayton, Dedryck Boyata and more players who went on to play in the Premier League,” he recalled. “They had a very good squad.”
In the Sunderland Echo of that time Waghorn was declared “the key” to his hometown club’s hopes. Now, he is not just a key member of the Ibrox side revived under Mark Warburton but one of the seasoned performers, according to his manager, with at least six under-21s regularly featuring in the club’s first-team squad. Still, there is always the 36-year-old Kenny Miller around to allow Waghorn to feel in his first footballing flush.
“We do young v old on a Friday at training and I am always in the old team. It’s kind of nice because I have played five or six years down in the Championship and have picked up a bit of experience, but we have got a very young team here so it’s nice to be an older player at a big club.
“You feel you can contribute to the younger players coming through, like Ryan Hardie, who is always asking for advice so I try to talk to him as well as Kenny Miller. We are a good mix. Kenny’s been and done the lot, hasn’t he. Kenny is massive for us. Not just on the pitch, but off it too. You sometimes need the presence of Kenny just to calm things down and put things into perspective, like the stuff about what’s going on with the club in general. You can talk to him about the game, tactics and the coaching side too. He loves a moan but it’s just his drive to win. I love that.”
The first few moans and groans from Rangers followers over this team in the Warburton era have been audible since the draw with Livingston on Saturday. Coupled with the recent loss to Hibernian, it has allowed the Easter Road men to draw level with Rangers, who have played a game fewer. The excitable reaction to the games Rangers haven’t won isn’t hard to accept for Waghorn, but suggesting that teams may have worked Warburton’s side out is.
“In the grand scheme of things it’s only one loss and one draw and yet it’s caught on that we are having a bit of a blip, slump, or whatever. We’re not going to win every single game. It would have been nice to do that but it’s football.
“Teams haven’t necessarily worked out how to play against us but they now sit in and hit on the break as much as they can. We are still creating lot of chances, creating very good play, but teams are making it harder for us to be as quick and decisive in the final third. We have to deal with that.”