Steven Gerrard admits Greg Docherty is likely to lead Rangers’ January exodus – despite having done nothing to deserve it.
The Light Blues boss has made it clear he wants to trim back his bloated squad next month and is already drawing up plans for a clear-out.
Leicester midfielder Andy King’s loan could be cut short while Docherty, wideman Jamie Murphy, defender Matt Polster and winger Eros Grezda might find themselves heading for the exit.
Gerrard admits it will be tough breaking the bad news to some of those told they are surplus to requirements and confessed he has sympathy for the likes of Docherty.
The former Hamilton midfielder returned to Ibrox in the summer hoping to kick on following a successful loan stint at Shrewsbury but has been unable to fight his way past in-form trio Ryan Jack, Steven Davis and Glen Kamara to claim a place in the Rangers line-up.
“There will definitely be people leaving the football club,” revealed Gerrard. “I’ll give you that but I won’t give you any names right now because I need to respect the individuals.
“But the squad is too big and we want to try to trim that ahead of the second half of the season.
“It’s part of the job I get paid for. You have to be honest with players. You have to respect them.
“Some players are doing nothing wrong at all. In fact some are doing more than enough to be recognised and put in. Unfortunately we can only put in 11 or pick 18 in the squad.
“The challenge for me is looking players in the eye and saying, ‘Look, you’re doing nothing wrong but I still can’t get you in’.
“That’s down to the form of other individuals in their positions.
“For example, Greg Docherty has been absolutely magnificent with his professionalism and training really well – but in his position we’ve had Ryan Jack who is arguably our player of the season.
“Greg has done absolutely nothing wrong so I have to be respectful for him and understand his situation. Maybe the best thing for him is to go play football. I can’t stand in his way then.”
Nikola Katic will again get his chance to impress on Friday night against Hibernian after Gerrard confirmed the Croatian’s centre-back rival Filip Helander will not be seen in a blue jersey again this year.
The Swede has not featured since limping off against Celtic in the Betfred Cup final and faces up to a month out before he can return to training.
“It’s a foot issue,” said Gerrard. “I’m told it’s a unique injury. The doctor told me that in his 25 year experience in medicine had only seen this issue on a couple of occasions.
“It’s a difficult one to put an exact date on the time he will be out. But he is going to be in a boot for four to six weeks. That’s the starter pack so let’s go from there and see how it progresses.
“I think he’s been in the boot for a couple of weeks now so he will be in a boot until after Christmas and then it will be a case of building the fitness back up.”
Gerrard will also be without top-scorer Alfredo Morelos for the Leith clash after the striker’s Fir Park dismissal.
Jermain Defoe – who hit a hat-trick when the sides met in August – will instead lead the line against Jack Ross’ team as Rangers look to cut Celtic’s five-point lead.
He said: “We’re five points behind with a game in hand – but I think it’s important we just focus on the three points available at Hibs tomorrow.
“Our performances against Hibs since I’ve been here have been really positive but we haven’t had the rewards we necessarily deserved.
“The message is clear – we want the same type of performance tomorrow but we want to be more clinical.”