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Gordon Smith: Graeme Murty got the job because Rangers had no Plan B

Rangers interim manager Graeme Murty (SNS)
Rangers interim manager Graeme Murty (SNS)

GRAEME MURTY can take a huge step towards clinching the Rangers job long-term by beating Celtic next Saturday.

Friday’s announcement that his stay was being extended until the end of the season showed two things.

One, that the Ibrox Board had no Plan B when their move for Derek McInnes fell through on the verge of completion.

Two, that they have belief in the ability of the man called in to fill the gap.

It is clearly a decision aimed at stabilising things, and is not without logic.

Murty, at the moment, doesn’t possess the experience required to be manager of Rangers.

But by the summer, the board will have a proper assessment of his managerial ability – or lack of it – and a decision can then be made.

He has, effectively, been handed a longer audition.

To land the post, he will have to impress.

Specifically he will have to steer Rangers to the Premiership runners-up spot, a trick which can be achieved by cutting out embarrassing defeats such as the recent loss at home to Hamilton Accies.

So yesterday’s result at Rugby Park was the last thing he needed.

It only increased the onus upon him to convince that he can put up a challenge to Celtic in the Old Firm derbies.

His first opportunity to do that in his new role is not long in arriving.

Don’t forget, this is the man who led his team to a creditable 1-1 draw at Celtic Park while caretaker boss back in March.

What’s more, the fantastic performance by Hearts in blowing Celtic away 4-0 at Tynecastle last Sunday has shown what is possible.

Not by forgetting about all the threats the Hoops possess in the pursuit of goals, but by going on the front foot and pressing them high up the park, and standing on their toes.

By restricting the time and space available to good players, there is the chance their nerve, as well as their technique, will start to crack.

While praising the tactics deployed by opposite number Craig Levein on the day, Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers made the point he had seen it all before.

That very similar plans had been used against his side over the course of their year-and-a-half unbeaten run but come up short.

It makes sense. For all the media focus on managers in the modern game, winning a football match is never as simple as just coming up with a set of instructions.

You need the players to understand their orders, and to implement them to the best of their ability.

Then you need to hope those players prove superior on the day to a group sent out with counter messages aimed at exploiting your weaknesses.

In this specific case, when you are talking about taking on a team which has completely dominated the domestic scene, you are hoping Celtic have an off day.

Likewise, that luck goes your way because if the best team is going to win, then it is going to be Celtic.

If Graeme Murty gets his selection and tactics right, though, he has a chance.

My choice would be for him to play three central defenders – Bruno Alves (if fit), Danny Wilson and David Bates – in the backline, with another, Ross McCrorie, just in front as an additional layer of insurance against the threat posed by the likes of Moussa Dembele, Scott Sinclair and James Forrest.

This would free up James Tavernier and Declan John, two naturally attacking full-backs to bomb on up and down the wings.

Inside them Jason Holt and Ryan Jack should be charged with shutting down Celtic’s midfield, with Josh Windass asked to help where he can from the front of the midfield diamond, while also supporting lone striker, Alfredo Morelos.

Beating the champions at their own ground will take a huge effort, there is no denying that, but Celtic are by no means invulnerable.

Surprises can and do happen. Back in April, 1984, Rangers’ 1-0 victory at Ibrox came at a time when they trailed Celtic by 11 points.

I mention that one because the man who hit the winner for the home team – with a spectaular overhead kick – was Bobby Williamson, who, it has emerged, has been receiving treatment for cancer.

I wish Bobby a speedy recovery – and a Happy Christmas to everyone.