Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Fleck helps to lift Ibrox gloom

Steven Naismith has hailed teen sensation John Fleck for banishing the "doom and gloom" which dogged Rangers during the transfer window.

Fleck, 17, has made a huge impact at Ibrox since the turn of the year, helping his club claw their way back into the Scottish Premier League title race.

Manager Walter Smith must now decide whether the youngster is ready to start Sunday's Old Firm derby at Parkhead.

Fellow forward Naismith insists his team-mate has what it takes to shine on the big stage and credited him with putting the spring back in the step of players who feared being sold last month.

Rangers admitted in January they needed to offload one of their stars to balance the books, though in the end only fringe men left the club.

"You see all the doom and gloom around the transfer window," said Naismith.

"Flecky has come in and done a tremendous job, so it is looking much more positive now than it did a month ago."

So impressive has Fleck been that Scotland manager George Burley has even talked up his chances of a senior international call-up.

Despite the hysteria, Naismith believes his team-mate is still benefiting from being something of an unknown quantity.

He said: "I think some of the boys who have been in and out of the team, other boys know a bit about, but with John coming through, it is like having a new player; nobody knows how he's been doing, how he plays and he's taken the league so far by storm."

Naismith, 22, is happy to talk up Fleck's credentials, despite knowing they are probably competing for the same place in the team.

"You can't complain with what he has done," said Naismith, who was wowed by the youngster's confidence in scoring his first senior goal from the penalty spot against Dundee United last time out.

"He steps up and pushes a few boys off the penalty situation and — cool as ice — just slots the penalty.

"He's been due his place and, as long as he keeps playing well, I'm sure he'll keep it."

Naismith would certainly relish playing some part at Parkhead on Sunday, when Rangers can return to the top of the SPL for the first time since November.

Celtic were seven points clear of their arch-rivals at the turn of the year but Rangers have bounced back to cut that to two.

"Obviously it's a fixture throughout the season where all four of them are going to be massive," Naismith said.

"It's getting much tighter at the top again and it's going to be a massive game, so it's one we need to perform well in and try to win."

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