Jack ready for Hamilton despite horror tackle
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. “