GAME OF PA­TIENCE PAYS OFF AT LAST FOR JACK Rangers star is ready to stake his claim for a reg­u­lar start as Scots pre­pare for play-offs

Scottish Daily Mail - - Scotland Special - by MARK WIL­SON

TWO years on from mak­ing his se­nior in­ter­na­tional debut, Ryan Jack hopes his Scot­land ca­reer is fi­nally be­gin­ning. A first start in his reg­u­lar role felt like a land­mark mo­ment for the cen­tral mid­fielder who has so im­pressed in Rangers colours this sea­son.

Slot­ting in be­side Cal­lum McGre­gor in na­tional boss Steve Clarke’s 4-2-3-1 shape, Jack gave an as­sured per­for­mance in Satur­day’s 2-1 win over Cyprus in Ni­cosia.

The 27-year-old was used as right-back by in­terim man­ager Malky Mackay when winning a debut cap in a 1-0 friendly de­feat by Hol­land in Novem­ber 2017.

That was an ex­pe­ri­ence marred by boo­ing from a sec­tion of fans at Pit­to­drie in the wake of his move to Ibrox.

Then, un­der Alex McLeish, came a sub­sti­tute ap­pear­ance in last year’s friendly rout at the hands of Bel­gium. Jack was in­tro­duced to the Ham­p­den maul­ing with a suf­fer­ing Scot­land al­ready 3-0 down.

Fur­ther com­pli­ca­tions ar­rived this term. Go­ing straight from an recog­nised re­cently with an im­proved con­tract that runs un­til 2023, un­der­lin­ing his sta­tus as a key part of Ger­rard’s plans.

Dou­bling the Ibrox club’s quest for sil­ver­ware with a place in Clarke’s Euro 2020 bid has the po­ten­tial to turn this into the cam­paign of his dreams.

‘That’s what I am hop­ing for, that it’s a suc­cess­ful sea­son,’ he con­tin­ued. ‘Ev­ery­thing is go­ing well so far.

‘Club level has been very good. I have been do­ing well in Europe and now I’ve got a start for my coun­try after be­ing called up.

‘Get­ting the win was great but in foot­ball you know ev­ery­thing can turn very quickly. You can’t rest on it. It’s about more hard work and keep­ing things go­ing.

‘Grow­ing up, you al­ways want to play for your coun­try. You see the games at Ham­p­den when there are full houses and the at­mos­phere that cre­ates.

‘You want to be part of it and I’m al­ways proud to be in­volved. But we can’t get car­ried away by any­thing now. We have won two on the bounce, but we want to go three and then try to get Scot­land to a ma­jor tour­na­ment, which would be a great achieve­ment.’

Jack’s nat­u­ral dis­ci­pline and de­fen­sive aware­ness could be valu­able to a team who are still too easy to cut open. Those are qual­i­ties also at­trib­uted to Scott Mc­Tom­i­nay, so does Jack see it as him against the Manch­ester United mid­fielder — cur­rently side­lined — for a guardian role?

‘Not at all,’ he coun­tered. ‘If you look at the mid­field there is tal­ent right through it. Kenny McLean and Scott Mc­Tom­i­nay are out with in­juries. Then you have my­self, Cal­lum, John McGinn, John Fleck, Stu­art Arm­strong. The list is end­less be­cause there is so much tal­ent in the one po­si­tion.

‘Ev­ery time I get a chance, I just want to stake a claim. That’s all I can do. I’m sure the other boys are the same when they play. We are all work­ing for the same goal and want to get to a ma­jor tour­na­ment.’

To do so, Scot­land will have to main­tain the pos­i­tive as­pects seen in Ni­cosia from mid­dle to front, while some­how find­ing a tougher cen­tral de­fen­sive core.

Jack dove­tailed neatly be­side McGre­gor at the mid­field base. Be­ing on the same side as his Old

Firm ri­val was ac­tu­ally a case of turn­ing back the clock.

‘I’ve played with Cal­lum before for the Un­der-21s,’ he re­called. ‘It was good. I en­joyed play­ing with ev­ery­one, to be hon­est. I felt we dug in well when we had to and showed a bit of re­silience.

‘It was ob­vi­ously a tough night and a tough test, but it was job done and we got the win we wanted. First half, we did well. Sec­ond half, they scored and that was a bit of a sick­ener but we showed a great at­ti­tude to come back and get in front again.

‘The man­ager did say that if we face ad­ver­sity we have to stand up to it. We did that.

‘The gaffer has been re­ally good with me. It’s all pos­i­tive and we are now look­ing to take that into Tues­day night.’

De­ter­mined: Ryan Jack (main) and (above) in ac­tion dur­ing Scot­land’s win over Cyprus at the week­end

Well done: Ryan Jack is a vi­tal cog in Steven Ger­rard’s Rangers side

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