Rangers road show must improve says Ryan Jack
Even though, for Rangers, Sunday’s trip to Kilmarnock had an “after-the-Lord-Mayor’s-Show” feel about it following the previous weekend’s Old Firm derby victory over Celtic,?it still provided Steven Gerrard’s men with further confirmation, were it needed, that they must still improve their record at places such as ?Rugby Park if they are going to halt their rivals’ domestic dominance next season.
While they played Celtic to a draw over the course of the 2018-19 season, winning two of the four league matches each, they were bettered in the Ladbrokes Premiership by Kilmarnock, knocked out of both cups by Aberdeen, and held by Hibs on three separate occasions. These, of course, are the three teams that finished directly behind them in the league table.
There were mitigating factors for the latest loss. Kilmarnock were gunning for a victory that would ensure third place, their highest finish since 1966, and European football next season. There were also a number of changes to the starting XI from a Rangers team that had won six consecutive matches going into the contest.
At Ibrox, though, demands are so high that even dead rubber defeats won’t be tolerated as Gerrard, pictured, looks to set standards that will finally knock Celtic off their perch.
“In certain games we didn’t show up,” said midfielder Ryan Jack, “like Sunday and the previous one at Rugby Park where we were level on points at the top of the table after the winter break.
“We started badly and never really recovered well enough from that. If you are going to win leagues you need to go to places like Rugby Park, Easter Road, Pittodrie and take full points.
“We have shown that we have the ability in the squad to go and win big games but it’s showing that consistently.
“We did it towards the end of the season but as everyone is trying to make a thing of, there is no pressure then and you’re playing for pride, so we need to do that more consistently throughout the season.
“Part of it is down to mentality. I’ve played in the league a long time so I know what it’s like going to Rugby Park, Easter Road and Tynecastle and they are tough grounds to go to.
“You can’t just turn up and think because you’re Rangers you’re going to win the game. You have to be fully focused and if you aren’t fully focused or switched on then results like Sunday’s defeat will happen.”
Despite the loss, Rangers still go into the summer with a certain degree of momentum having reeled off their longest stretch of victories under Gerrard prior to the 2-1 defeat by Killie.
The two wins over Celtic at Ibrox, also, will boost confidence having failed to defeat the Parkhead side in the two seasons prior.
“The outlook is certainly much more positive than 12 months ago,” added Jack. “A new staff came in at the start of the season and there were a lot of changes with players coming in and others going out.
“It’s been a good season but disappointing that there’s no trophy to show for it because that demand is there from the supporters, staff and everyone at the club to win silverware and as players we haven’t managed to deliver it.
“That is disappointing but I believe we have come a long way and I’m convinced we can challenge for trophies next season because we’re 12 months on and as a staff and group of players we have worked together and know each other better.
“I’m sure there will be more changes in the summer players-wise but next season is about getting focused, coming back for pre-season and the European games come thick and fast, so it’s important we’re ready to hit the ground running.”