McAl­lis­ter fine with lack of re­spect

The Herald on Sunday - - SPORT - BY GRAEME McGARRY

ON pa­per, the chal­lenges fac­ing Rangers in the Scot­tish Pre­mier­ship on a weekly ba­sis should pale in com­par­i­son to those they meet in the Europa League. And yet, the con­trast in the Ibrox side’s stut­ter­ing for­tunes on the home front and their hero­ics on the con­ti­nent is as stark as it is sur­pris­ing.

The rea­son­ing be­hind why a team can swat aside a Mari­bor or a Rapid Vi­enna and yet strug­gle to shake off a Mother­well or a Kil­marnock may have sup­port­ers dumb­founded, but not Rangers as­sis­tant Gary McAl­lis­ter.

Of­ten, when a coach cites a lack of re­spect from the op­po­si­tion, the de­mand for it is im­plied. But McAl­lis­ter hopes their Europa League op­po­si­tion con­tinue to treat the threat his team pose with a mea­sure of dis­dain.

In Scot­land, he con­cedes that Rangers of­ten find it dif­fi­cult to break down teams that are pri­mar­ily set up to stop them play­ing, while abroad, where the op­po­si­tion at­tack them more, it plays right into their hands. All in all, the Euro­pean ad­ven­tures have pro­vided a wel­come tonic to their do­mes­tic strife.

“It’s been very ex­cit­ing,” said McAl­lis­ter. “The games are so dif­fer­ent. It’s been a prob­lem do­mes­ti­cally. Go­ing from that Thurs­day to Sun­day, the type of game plan and the op­po­si­tion to­tally chang­ing at the week­end.

“The Euro­pean games are so dif­fer­ent to the do­mes­tic games. We’re play­ing against qual­ity op­po­si­tion who think they are prob­a­bly bet­ter than us be­cause of where the Scot­tish game is and where Rangers have been in re­cent times. They fancy beat­ing us, so they are com­ing out and I think we’ve sur­prised teams with our qual­ity and our in­ten­sity. And it’s two teams try­ing to win.

“The play­ers have en­joyed it and risen to the chal­lenge. Europe has been a mo­men­tum maker. And, when clubs like this gather like that, any­thing can hap­pen. We’ve en­joyed some nice plau­dits dur­ing the run.

“We’ve just ex­pe­ri­enced a cou­ple of mur­murs do­mes­ti­cally, but the Euro­pean run has been very ex­cit­ing, and I’ve really en­joyed watch­ing some of the games. The play­ers have been ex­cel­lent.

“But I think they are wary of us now, even in Spain against Vil­lar­real – good play­ers, but we caused them loads of prob­lems.”

The frus­tra­tion of the home tie against Spar­tak Moscow lends cre­dence to McAl­lis­ter’s the­ory, with the Rus­sians com­ing to Glas­gow with a game plan not too dis­sim­i­lar to that which the ma­jor­ity of Pre­mier­ship sides adopt. He sus­pects Thurs­day’s game will be a very dif­fer­ent af­fair.

“[They were] a team that came to try to frus­trate – they did their job,” said McAl­lis­ter. “We just couldn’t break them down.

“I think the onus [on Thurs­day] will be on the home team, won’t it? There’s a bit of change there with man­agers and stuff. So the onus is on them to get a re­sult. They need a re­sult.

"Then the game will prob­a­bly give more op­por­tu­ni­ties to pro­duce things in that fi­nal third. The spa­ces open, their full-backs might join in and leave space, be­cause [in] the home game they were pretty rigid.”

The ne­ces­sity for Spar­tak to at­tack in front of their own sup­port­ers may pro­vide a wel­come re­lief for Rangers, but the home tie was a mi­cro­cosm of a wider frus­tra­tion for their sup­port­ers which was then laid bare in the de­feat to Aberdeen and the draw against Kil­marnock – namely, a lack of qual­ity in the fi­nal third to break teams down.

McAl­lis­ter, a classy mid­field schemer in his day, be­lieves the an­swer may well lie in tak­ing a leaf out of his own laid-back style from his play­ing days.

“[The Aberdeen and Kil­marnock games] have been frus­trat­ing,” he said. “We’ve bossed both of them as well, en­joyed a lot of pos­ses­sion. It’s just been that bit in the fi­nal third that’s not been there.

"Maybe a wee bit of com­po­sure [is needed]. We’re a team that tries to play high in­ten­sity and go quick, with quick com­bi­na­tions. But maybe at times you’ve just got to come off the pedal, just wait for the mo­ment to de­liver the pass or the cross or the cut­back. I think that’s just been where we’ve been a wee bit anx­ious.”

The only ques­tion left to an­swer then ahead of the trip to Rus­sia is how Rangers them­selves will ap­proach it. Will they be tempted to adopt the play­book of the ma­jor­ity of their op­po­nents at home, and pack the rear­guard?

“I think it would be dan­ger­ous to go there and play for a point,” McAl­lis­ter said. “I don’t see us try­ing to sit back. I think we’ll be look­ing to try to create some­thing with the fact that Spar­tak have got to try to come and win the game. So we have to look to ex­ploit that. We’ll look to try to score goals.”

Gary McAl­lis­ter and Steven Ger­rard have found it eas­ier in Europe than in do­mes­tic games

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