Ryan Jack’s return vital to Rangers’ title tilt says Steven Gerrard
The Ibrox men have dropped five points since the winter break with Jack sidelined by a calf injury.
It killed the momentum built by a hugely impressive win at Celtic Park at the end of December and Rangers are now at the stage where any more dropped points before the next derby in March could be fatal.
The return of the former Aberdeen midfielder at Kilmarnock is pivotal, according to Gerrard
The Rangers manager said: “I think it’s been clear from the get-go, from the very first conversation I had with him man-to-man that he was so keen to let us know that he was on the journey.
“The way he lives his life, the way he works in training and the relationship I have with him, it’s very clear that Ryan is someone you want with you.
“Ryan has helped us take the standards where we want them to be because of his own personal drive and how he approaches training and games.
“If you could sum Ryan Jack up in one word, he is a winner – and I want winners around me closely.
“I’ve got every trust in Jacko. It’s not been helpful not having him available for the last three weeks. We always have a better chance of being more consistent with him available.
“I have trust in him but so do the guys around about him. Not only does he have the best personal standards for himself, he has that leadership where he pushes others and makes demands of them.
“I think he lifts other players naturally and he does it in the right way.
“He has been at every game since his injury. No one wants this more than Ryan Jack. It’s great, it’s a pleasure to work with him. I love seeing that in a player.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s five-a-sides or an 11-a-side at Celtic Park, he wants to win. If you practise and rehearse every single day how you want to play yourself, more often than not it comes out.”
It was a slip – literally by Joe Worrall – away to Kilmarnock on the first game back from the winter break last season that badly damaged Rangers’ title hopes which were killed off in March by a wretched winless run.
Gerrard said: “It could possibly be redemption for us at Rugby Park. It’s a big challenge for us because we’ve always had tough games there.
“People will obviously compare the return from the winter break from last season to this because we suffered a sore one at Hearts. But for me it’s very much a game in isolation and trying to make sure that the best players are available to go down there.
“Then they’ve got to turn up and perform and if we do, I’m confident we can get the result we got earlier in the season.”
The Ibrox manager will be hoping that Ryan Kent heeds these words as the often-electric attacker can be a matchwinner for Rangers.
Kent feels the team are losing their sluggishness and can now return to the form they showed regularly in the first half of the campaign.
The Mancunian said: “I think we’ve turned the corner. In the last two performances we have got back to where we left off before the winter break. It’s important we build on those performances now.
“We had some discussions in the dressing room and those chats were important, especially coming from the more experienced and senior players who have been in those positions on many an occasion in their careers.
“For the whole team to get that info on board and know what’s required between now and the end of the season is important.”
The Ibrox boss is backing Alfredo Morelos to take all of his recent hassles in his stride and hopes he can be the difference at Kilmarnock.
He said: “We always support all the players across the board. His mindset at the weekend looked alright, he played his part in another win.
“I thought he looked a lot sharper and he took his goal really well last weekend.
“You can’t underestimate the importance of a goal especially if you’re a striker. To go three games without a goal could have had the reverse effect.”
Gerrard rates full back Borna Barisic 50-50 after coming off injured at Hamilton.