Jack ready for Hamil­ton de­spite hor­ror tackle

Evening Times - - SPORT | BACK LINE - Ste­wart Fisher

A RE­LIEVED Ryan Jack re­layed the news last night that he had emerged un­scathed af­ter a hor­ror tackle from Kazakh sub­sti­tute Is­lam­bek Kuat on Scot­land duty on Tues­day night then in­sisted he would have no prob­lem swap­ping the glam­our of the in­ter­na­tional scene for an early kick off on Hamil­ton’s artificial pitch on Sun­day.

If the 27-year-old’s in­ter­na­tional ca­reer so far has been a slow burn, the last seven days have seen it catch fire.

Af­ter two starts and two wins, Jack could even keep Manch­ester United’s Scott Mc­Tom­i­nay out of the team when the Euro 2020 qual­i­fy­ing play-offs tick round in March.

First things first, though and that is the small mat­ter of keep­ing Rangers on pace with Celtic at the sum­mit of the Lad­brokes Premier­ship and on course to qual­ify from their Europa League group.

While he will have the Jan­uary win­ter break in Dubai to rest up, reach­ing the last 16 of the Europa League could limit his prepa­ra­tion time with Scot­land ahead of those March play-offs but Jack wouldn’t have it any other way.

He isn’t the only first-team mem­ber at Ibrox these days com­ing off a big in­ter­na­tional break. Borna Barisic, Glen Ka­mara and Filip He­lander have all booked their spots at the Euro 2020 fi­nals al­ready, while Al­fredo More­los bagged his first in­ter­na­tional goal for Colom­bia.

Asked if there will be a come­down from Cyprus and Ham­p­den to the FOYS sta­dium in Hamil­ton this Sun­day lunchtime, Jack said: “Not at all – there’s dif­fer­ent pres­sures for each of them.

“It’s back to your club, it’s back to three points and keep­ing that mo­men­tum go­ing that we’ve had. We’ve had a great month with great results and Sun­day will be a big test for us. It’s up to us to show up on Sun­day.

“My leg is fine,” added Jack af­ter a studs-up chal­lenge from Kuat which caught the mid­fielder above the shin pad and just be­low the knee.

“Ob­vi­ously, it was a bad one but the ref has seen it as a yel­low. There were a few naughty chal­lenges – I don’t know what was be­hind that but the ref­eree is there to pro­tect us. Thank­fully no-one is in­jured.”

Af­ter Hamil­ton on Sun­day, Rangers com­mence a five­match spell over the course of 14 days which will go a long way to defin­ing their sea­son.

First Steven Ger­rard’s side must visit Rot­ter­dam to take on Feyeno­ord in the Europa League. From there it is Hearts at home, then Aberdeen away the midweek be­fore they face Celtic in the Bet­fred Cup final on the Sun­day. The Thurs­day af­ter that, there is the small mat­ter of a home match with Young Boys which Rangers will hope is a dead rub­ber by then.

The games are com­ing thick and fast but Jack feels the ben­e­fits of the work done in pre-sea­son are pay­ing off now.

“Have I ever played bet­ter? No, I don’t think so,” said Jack. “In the sum­mer I worked hard, got my head down and thought if I want to be part of a big sea­son, I have to work hard. I just want to keep that go­ing.

“It’s a tough sched­ule and there’s no doubt there’s a lot of high-pres­sure games,” he added. “But you’re at a big club and that’s how you want it.

“Maybe at the end of the sea­son I’ll no­tice [tired­ness] but it’s just game, train re­cover, game, train, re­cover and your body gets into a rou­tine.

“I don’t think you re­ally need to lift your­self. You’re play­ing for a big club and as soon as you put that jersey on, there’s an ex­pec­ta­tion to win.

“You come to Scot­land and play along­side top-class and there’s an ex­pectancy, from the sup­port­ers and staff, to go and win games.

“There’s two tough games com­ing up in Europe – Feyeno­ord away will be very tough then Young Boys at home, who’ve been do­ing very well in the group. So we’ve got a lot of work to go be­fore we can say we’ve achieved any­thing.”

They don’t come much big­ger, though, than hope­fully two one-off play-offs in a bid to bring the Scot­land na­tional team back to a ma­jor fi­nals af­ter a gen­er­a­tion of miss­ing out. “The games I’ve had over the last two years have helped me get to this stage, play­ing for my coun­try,” said Jack. “The next two games will be mas­sive. “

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