CARETAKER manager Jimmy Nicholl wants the Rangers players to show their fighting spirit and battling qualities when they take on Kilmarnock for three important league points on Saturday.
It’s been a tough week for the Light Blues with the squad recovering from an Old Firm defeat before Graeme Murty was relieved of his duties as manager on Tuesday morning.
His first-team coach Jonatan Johansson and assistant Nicholl will now be in charge of the team for tomorrow’s massive Premiership fixture against Steve Clarke’s men – the last at Ibrox this season – and the latter hopes to get a positive reaction from every player following last weekend’s disappointment.
Nicholl said: “This is a huge match for us and after the frustration we all felt following the Old Firm defeat we must do everything we can to return to winning ways before we travel to Pittodrie on Tuesday night and Easter Road next Sunday.
“On Tuesday it was announced that Graeme was being relieved of his duties as manager of Rangers and, of course, I was very disappointed to see that happen.
Graeme gave me the chance to return to the club back in January and I will always be grateful to him for that opportunity.
“He is a young coach with so much knowledge and enthusiasm for the game and we all wish him well for whatever he chooses to do next.
“This is the third time in my career that I have been a caretaker manager and it is a position you don’t want to see come up because it usually means a close colleague and friend has lost their job.
“Unfortunately, that has been the case again this week but Jonatan and I have done everything we can to create a positive environment at the training ground as the players prepare for our important remaining fixtures.
“Everyone in the squad was hurting after the visit to Parkhead and I know from experience that there is nothing worse than losing a Glasgow derby, especially in the east end of the city.
“But at a club the size of Rangers there is no time to dwell on defeats, you have to dust yourself down and quickly be ready for the next challenge.
Having watched the boys train and spoken with them I’m confident they are ready to go again, but they now have to show their hunger and desire when they run down the tunnel and cross that white line.
“A manager or coach can say different things in the dressing room pre-match to try and motivate and organise their group but when the players get out in front of the fans they have to take personal pride in their performance.
“You have to want to win your individual battles and early tackles to put that wee bit of fear into your opponent and ask questions of them, especially here at Ibrox.
“Our home form overall this season hasn’t been anywhere near consistent enough with nine wins, two draws and seven defeats, so the objective today is to give something back to the fans.
“Kilmarnock will make it tough, we know that, but with the quality we have throughout our squad we should always be confident of claiming three points.
“Last weekend was a sore one and the result at Celtic Park hit every player hard, but what is important is how we recover and respond to the criticism which has been aimed at us.
“The only way to answer that is to go out and give 100 percent and make sure you walk off the pitch having given everything to help your team return to winning ways.
“That is the message I’ll be passing on to the players and hopefully they can go out at the end of a difficult week and produce the kind of performance I know they are capable of.”
Nicholl has confirmed that David Bates has trained with the squad this week having recovered from an ankle injury but Josh Windass and Lee Hodson have picked up knocks. Wes Foderingham (shoulder) and Declan John (hand) remain out.