13 Jan Gers should not fear Dons
Former Rangers boss Alex McLeish insists the Ibrox outfit should not be worried by the threat facing them from Aberdeen.
Gers kicked off the campaign hoping to push Celtic close for the Premiership title.
But Brendan Rodgers’ rampant Hoops have marched off into the distance after opening up a 19-point lead over their old rivals.
Now Mark Warburton’s Light Blues find themselves being chased down by the Dons, with Derek McInnes’ side just two points behind with a game in hand.
But ex-Gers manager McLeish – who made his name as a classy centre-back while playing for Sir Alex Ferguson’s all-conquering Pittodrie side of the 1980s – reckons Warburton’s side should relish the fight.
He told Press Association Sport: “That’s the challenge for Rangers. They have to cope with the fact that Aberdeen want to take second place from them.
“It’s been Derek’s side who have been in second place for the last couple of years and they will want to stay there. It’s up to Rangers to prove they are good enough to meet that challenge.
“But Rangers shouldn’t be worrying about it. They should be all-out confident about proving they are the second best side in the country.
“Mark is trying to bolster his side with a couple of signings and that should give them an extra bit of quality and extra legs. Now he’s done that he will feel a little more certain that they are better equipped to fend off the threat of Aberdeen.”
Gers have opened their January business with the loan captures of Bournemouth midfielder Emerson Hyndman and Arsenal playmaker Jon Toral.
But those short-term additions will not ease the concerns of supporters casting a fearful eye at Parkhead, where Rodgers has already started his planning for next season by signing £2.8million midfield anchorman Kouassi Eboue.
Walter Smith this week suggested Light Blues chairman Dave King needed to risk putting the club further into debt in order to breach the Old Firm spending gap.
But McLeish says the current Gers regime are right to be cautious with their finances.
“Mark will hope these new lads can improve the speed of the team,” he said. “I haven’t seen to much of either player but on paper – looking at the potential they have – Scotland could be a good platform for them.
“This is the market they have having to shop in though. I don’t think Rangers can go big in the transfer market right now.
“They are being very cautious and trying to bring in the right players for this moment.
“Recruitment is absolutely vital over these next few years but right now they can’t go absolutely crazy in the transfer market. The resources just aren’t there and they have to live by their means.”
Warburton will hope his Premier League loanees will be good enough to ensure his team see off Aberdeen.
McLeish was the last Gers boss to miss out on a top-two finish in the top flight back in 2006 – ultimately paying the price with his job.
The 57-year-old, who has gone on to manage Scotland, Birmingham and Aston Villa, still shudders whenever he thinks back to the early part of that campaign when cost-cutting measures – combined with a raft of injuries to star men like Dado Prso – left him relying on a group of untested youngsters.
But he adm its a repeat a third-place finish would be just as difficult to stomach today as it was back then.
“My last year in charge, we made it to the last 16 of the Champions League, but we didn’t finish in second place,” he said.
“It was a pretty horrendous feeling for me. We had some terrible luck with injuries to our top players and while we had a great second half to the season, we lost out on second place to Hearts by a point.
“Our side was getting decimated and I was having to play reserve players who were never going to play for Rangers long term.
“But Mark is building a side now. He’s bringing in guys who are trying to make a name for themselves. If they do well then that will only benefit Rangers.
“But it doesn’t matter who is playing for Rangers, with the mentality at the club the expectation is that they should always finish first. Third is not where they want to be.”