Gordon Smith on Rangers: McLeish, Saints test & top two hopes

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It’s been a difficult few weeks for Rangers fans, with managerial uncertainty and back-to-back defeats in the Ladbrokes Premiership. But tonight’s meeting with St Johnstone could flicker those hopes of a second-placed finish back into life.

There’s also a big decision to be made regarding Mark Warburton’s replacement as boss. And I’d like to see a certain former Gers boss take the hotseat…

The battle to catch Aberdeen

Rangers have a lot more quality in their squad than we’ve seen them produce in the past few games, and I think the next managerial appointment is key.

There’s no doubt that on paper they’ve got the ability to catch Aberdeen if they drop more points – but the next manager, whoever that is, has to get better performances out of them.

The ability that Rangers have as a squad is reflected in the fact they made it up to second spot – but that good work’s been undone during the last month.

They’ve now got the ability with tonight’s game in hand against St Johnstone, to cut the gap back to six points. If they can do that, it gives them a glimmer of hope in the race for second place.

Aberdeen are obviously favourites to get that second spot, but Rangers aren’t out of it yet.

McLeish would be my choice for boss

I think when a permanent manager comes in, players know that they have to perform – that they’re battling for their future. I have huge respect for Graeme Murty, but I do think that with a club like Rangers – where the focus on the club is so intense – you need someone with experience of handling a big club.

Personally, I’d love to see Alex McLeish back in the Ibrox hotseat. There’s a different level of pressure managing at Rangers or Celtic, but he showed he can cope with it – and his track record at Ibrox was brilliant.

Saints will prove a tough test

Hosting St Johnstone tonight will be a tough test for Rangers. Although they lost to Kilmarnock at home last weekend, I actually think they’re often more effective on the road – because of how Tommy Wright sets his sides up.

They took a point from Ibrox earlier this season in a 1-1 draw, and taking points off their fellow top-six sides has been an area where Rangers have really struggled this season.

It’s an absolutely huge game. I think if Rangers win tonight, it revives their hopes of second-place and rebuilds momentum. Lose or draw, and I think it’ll be extremely hard for them to get up there with Aberdeen.

The Gers have the quality to win tonight – but they need to go out there and show what they’re capable of.

Cup triumph could prove pivotal

I’d say the game on Saturday is almost as important. Rangers have Hamilton Academical at Ibrox in the Scottish Cup Quarter-Finals, and if they could push on and win that trophy, it would be huge.

Lifting a trophy would help to boost that winning mentality – which has always been a hallmark of Rangers – in the current squad.

It’s also great to win cups, and this season at least, it represents an opportunity to break up Celtic’s potential treble – which Rangers fans would obviously love to see happen.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing

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Gordon Smith

Former Rangers and Kilmarnock forward Gordon Smith is a name synonymous with Scottish football having enjoyed a successful playing career before being appointed head of the SFA and then working as a highly respected pundit. Read his exclusive thoughts on the SPFL at Ladbrokes News.