“He had a classic line – ‘I never look at the table’,” recalled Murty of Coppell, the man he played under at Reading in their successful English Championship winning side of 2006.
“He used to say it all the time, so much so that the young lads at Reading did a fantastic skit about it at the Christmas party one year, one of them pretending to be Steve and tripping over furniture and banging into things because he never looked at the table!”.
But if Murty is proving himself to be someone capable of maintaining a sense of perspective in any situation, he is also acutely aware that the final league table will go a long way to determining whether he remains as Rangers manager beyond the end of this season. Put simply, he can’t afford too many more setbacks like the weekend 2-1 reversal at home to Hibs.
Ahead of tonight’s fixture at Partick Thistle, their game in hand on rivals Aberdeen, he remains confident of their prospects of securing the runners-up spot which would represent a degree of progress for the Ibrox squad.
“We want to close the gap at the top but we need to be judged where we finish,” added Murty. “Alright, we are going to be judged harshly because of who we are, fine. But let’s look at the progress and the steps we’ve made, and I believe they are positive ones. Definitely.
“We have a positive environment around the place right now and we’re trying to implement a positive culture so that we move away from this fragility of one game being the best thing since sliced bread, and one game being the worst thing that’s ever happened to us.
“It hurts to lose like we did on Saturday, don’t get me wrong. I hate to lose anything. Ask anyone who knows me, I’m the world’s sorest loser, but let’s get a bit of reality about it.
“We lost a game, but we lost it through a bad decision on our part, and I don’t think I could actually ask for much more from the players who were on the pitch. As conscious as I am about the need to win every single game, there were lots of positives for us to take.
“I think we are still well placed to finish second. I think we’re in a good place. We’ve got a challenge ahead of us, but I think we’re in a better place than what we were two or three months ago.
“I don’t think we’re in as good a place as we will be come the end of the season in terms of the way that we play and the understanding we have of one another, because let’s not forget, this is still a fairly new team, with players who are just in the door.
“We still need to blend, so when you have a setback, that’s when your culture and your environment is tested. I’m really quite grateful that we have a game straight after so that I can see how the guys react. From what I have seen from the way the guys have trained, they are ready to go again.
“We made four mistakes in a row in the space of ten seconds against Hibs and that cost us at least a point. Talking to Neil Lennon and his staff after the game, he was really impressed with us which I suppose is really easy to say when you’ve won the game.
“But he thought Hibs were out on their feet and he was grateful to get the penalty because he thought the atmosphere was amazing and our fans were great. It’s just a shame for the players that they worked so hard and didn’t get any reward for it but those are the breaks in football and you move on, pick yourself up.”
There could be a return to action tonight for Kenny Miller, the veteran striker back in Murty’s squad for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury in mid-December. “Kenny is available and has been pushing hard to play,” said Murty. “But you have to be really careful the players complete everything in terms of their recovery before you push them back in. He has now done all that, so he is fit and available.”
Murty was also encouraged by Jordan Rossiter’s 60-minute run-out for Rangers’ Under-20 side yesterday as they defeated Valencia 1-0 in Spain. The ex-Liverpool midfielder, plagued by injury since signing for Rangers, has been sidelined since September.
“It’s good for Jordan, I am really pleased for him,” added Murty. “He deserves a bit of good luck and good fortune and positivity because he’s worked extremely hard. It’s really hard when you are injured because people forget about you. People deride you at times. But let’s give the guy some due, he’s absolutely worked his socks off and I hope he gets some reward for it.”