McAllister fine with lack of respect
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