Hod­son re­calls how Clark got play­ers on a roll

Rangers full-back praises his old Kil­marnock man­ager’s beach bond­ing ses­sion


CHOLES­TEROL lev­els and high blood pres­sure are known to be linked but rarely in the man­ner which Lee Hod­son dis­cov­ered un­der Lee Clark at Kil­marnock last year.

Hav­ing sur­ren­dered a typ­i­cally late goal from Falkirk to trail 1-0 af­ter the Premiership play-off first leg, the Kil­lie boss’s rem­edy for the all-or-noth­ing sec­ond match at Rugby Park was tak­ing his squad down to Troon beach and buy­ing them all a roll and sausage.

It might not be ev­ery­one’s choice of nu­tri­tious pre-match meal but it seemed to help the Rugby Park side play with aban­don as they duly feasted on their op­po­nents dur­ing a 4-0 win.

Mark War­bur­ton, by con­trast, is fas­tid­i­ous about what comes out of the Auchen­howie kitchen but he is cer­tainly search­ing for the right recipe against Kil­marnock to­day to lighten the mood at an in­creas­ingly jumpy Ibrox.

Three home draws al­ready this sea­son have left Rangers play­ing catch up on Celtic while the Ayr­shire side, ar­riv­ing in town hav­ing claimed seven points from the last nine, earned a de­served point in the re­verse of this fix­ture in late Au­gust.

“It [the roll and sausage] must have been a very good move – be­cause we stayed up!” said Hod­son. “Some man­agers might have had us out on the pitch, do­ing shape and tac­tics, but Lee took us to Troon beach and bought us a sausage sand­wich.

“It maybe re­laxed a few of the lads and stopped them think­ing too much about the game the next day and we ended up stay­ing up.

“Those games were mas­sive pres­sure. I’d never ex­pe­ri­enced a rel­e­ga­tion fight like that where we were so close to go­ing down. It is part of this job and you need to be able to deal with that pres­sure. You need to thrive off it. We were 1-0 down from the first leg against Falkirk, but we knew if we played as we could at home we could get the re­sult. We per­formed on the day and de­served to stay up.”

Few head­lines were hogged when Hod­son qui­etly ar­rived from MK Dons for an undis­closed fee just days af­ter his loan spell at Rugby Park ex­pired this sum­mer.

This, it was widely as­sumed, was merely a squad player who could pro­vide re­lief for James Tav­ernier or Lee Wal­lace when their ex­er­tions proved too much. In­stead, against Celtic last Sun­day, Mark War­bur­ton found a way to get all three on the park as Hod­son played right back and Tav­ernier one fur­ther for­ward.

If it was a tes­ta­ment to the ef­fi­ciency of his per­for­mance that he kept his place at Tav­ernier’s ex­pense against St John­stone in mid­week, it may not help his chances of an ex­tended run that he was cul­pa­ble for the Perth side’s goal on the night.

He took too long to size up the op­tions as he sought to play out from the back, and Blair Al­ston nipped in to open the scor­ing.

Hod­son ac­cepts that hold­ing down a first-team place won’t be easy, but does hope that he and Tav­ernier showed enough as they largely blunted Celtic’s fear­some left side of Scott Sin­clair and Kieran Tier­ney to sug­gest that it could be re­tained as a tac­tic for fu­ture Old Firm matches.

“I thought I did okay de­fen­sively,” said Hod­son of his sud­den Old Firm de­but. “I could have been bet­ter on the ball per­son­ally, but that’s me nit­pick­ing. I al­ways watch back clips to see what I could do bet­ter and im­prove on.

“Tav is a good full-back who can get for­ward and de­fend and has got a great de­liv­ery which he has shown al­ready this sea­son. He can show his qual­ity at full-back but if he’s higher up the pitch it could work. I thought we did okay down the right hand side against Celtic and the more we play then you can only get stronger.”

The Old Firm match wasn’t Hod­son’s only re­cent red let­ter day. The warm-up to the Ham­p­den show­down saw him mix it with world cham­pi­ons Ger­many in the colours of North­ern Ire­land ear­lier this month. He ended the day with Mario Gotze’s shirt af­ter a cred­itable 2-0 de­feat in Han­nover, with goals com­ing from Sami Khedira and Ju­lian Draxler. “Play­ing at in­ter­na­tional level al­ways helps you,” said Hod­son. “It def­i­nitely helped me to go in and play against Celtic. That Ger­man team is the best I’ve played against.

“One minute you are up against Gotze who is meant to be play­ing up top then you’ve got Muller on your side. They don’t have set po­si­tions and ev­ery 10-15 min­utes they change. But it was a great ex­pe­ri­ence for me to play against the best team in the world.”

Pic­ture: SNS

IN FAVOUR: Lee Hod­son has risen to promi­nence in re­cent games.

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