The opening weeks of this Premiership campaign will open all eyes to just what sort of Rangers will play their part in the Premiership this season. A reality Kenny Miller believes cannot be overstated.
It is precisely why, indeed, the 36-year-old Ibrox striker rates the club’s curtain raiser at Motherwell tomorrow as of monumental importance. Miller remembers all too painfully how Mark Warburton’s side had eyes rolling after their start to the league campaign a year ago ensured they didn’t get any sort of challenge going to a Celtic that ultimately garnered 39 points more than them. In the end, they weren’t even that close to second-placed Aberdeen.
Miller is convinced that Pedro Caixinha’s completely recast side can be made of stronger stuff. But “one hundred per cent” the start of this season is “huge” to demonstrating the Ibrox club have tackled some of their choking tendencies from a first Premiership campaign.
“We huffed and puffed at the start of last season. We drew, we won, we won, we drew, we got beat, we drew. After five or six games we were already seven points back,” he said bitterly. “We had dropped points with draws against Hamilton, Killie and Ross County and had been beaten by Celtic.
“We can’t be dropping silly points and giving ourselves a mountain to climb which we did last season. All of a sudden that gap became bigger and then the next game the pressure that’s on you to win it becomes so much because you are trying to stay in touch.
“Not only in terms of winning the league but also having a respectable finish. Throughout the course of last season our form was patchy, there were wins, draws, losses. Did we even have five wins in a row? I think we might have got to four but, let’s be honest, if you’re not going to hit that level of seven or eight wins, at least two or three times over the course of the season you’re not going to win leagues. It’s as simple as that. Again, that coupled with the season Celtic had last season there was a lot of pressure put on the boys and we never rose to it.”
With ten summer arrivals, different players will be expected to make Rangers a team that opponents do not relish playing. Miller said it is “no coincidence” that recent solid friendly displays have followed Bruno Alves’ introduction into the team set-up. Much appears to be resting on the 35-year-old centre-back and midfielder capture Graham Dorrans – the two signing coups for Caixinha.
“The manager had identified [leadership qualities] as a trait which he wanted in his players,” said Miller. “Bruno has definitely made a difference and I don’t think anyone could disagree with that.
“Graham has also come in and he hasn’t played at the level he has for as long as he has without being a good player and he was always going to improve us. He’s another cool, experienced head and those two loads have made a big difference to the team.”