Steven Whittaker has offered his verdict on Philippe Clement, heaping praise on the Rangers manager while suggesting the Light Blues still have a shot at the Scottish Premiership title.
The Gers currently sit eight points behind Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership table, but Clement’s side do have two games in hand as they look to win their first title since the 2020/21 campaign under Steven Gerrard.
Despite the congested fixture schedule, former Rangers defender Whittaker believes that the Gers’ Europa League matches will give them a boost as the title race heats up in the second half of the season.
As quoted by the Daily Record (13 January) he said: “The European games take care of themselves. The fans love it, the players love it. You’ll find a lot of players are at the top of their game because of the occasion. So Rangers players will love those games when they come along.
“I expect them to be motivated and put in a high level of performance going into them. The progression they’ve had in the tournament in the last couple of years will give them confidence, they’ve done well in it.
“But it also shows them the levels they need to try and hit week in, and week out. That’s always the ask of a Rangers player no matter what – can you reach that every time so you can blow teams away?
“The manager seems to have got a tune out of the players. They are right there challenging at the top of the league and if they keep that form up then who knows?
“The Old Firm is obviously one of the games you want to win and it never quite went their way. But the run of form going into that game was very good and they’ll just want to pick up again where they left off and see where it takes them.”
Blow teams away
Rangers are going to have to play to their maximum level whenever they step on the pitch following the winter break to be able to wrestle the Premiership title back from Celtic, given the Hoops’ early advantage.
Under the management of Clement, the Gers have shown that they are more than capable of blowing teams away. Performances like their win over Real Betis in the Europa League spring to mind where the Light Blues didn’t give the Spanish giants a kick.
Now, as Whittaker suggests, their next challenge is finding a way to produce that sort of performance week in and week out in the league as well to be able to climb to the top of the league.
Booking their place in Europe could well help the Gers reach that level in the second half of the season and hopefully they can start strongly following the winter break.