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Stuart McCall backs Ibrox men to hit the big time once again

By Andy Newport

New Rangers boss Stuart McCall believes the Ibrox men can still win promotion - and with it secure him the job long term.

The club's new interim chairman Paul Murray has put the former Motherwell manager in charge until the end of the season.

The nine-in-a-row icon now has 11 games to save the club's campaign, starting with Saturday's home clash with Livingston.

With Championship leaders Hearts 22 points in front of the Light Blues, McCall knows his team's only chance of clinching a top-flight return is by the play-offs.

But Rangers have won just three of their last 10 games and are now looking worriedly over their shoulders at Queen of the South and Falkirk closing in quick. McCall will have to inspire a rapid turn-around but he insists his weary troops can still be fired up for the fight.

Asked if promotion was still achievable, the 50-year-old said: "Yes, it has to be. Since the defeat to Hearts in November when Rangers could have gone three points behind them at the top, Hearts have gone on and soared.

"Unfortunately our performances and results here have slipped down. Confidence is a big thing in football but it's like any walk of life, if you have confidence you do things better. It's a big, big challenge. Obviously there's no doubt about that. If anybody has seen the side of late, they will know it is a big challenge.

"But ultimately it is a massive opportunity. It's a great honour and privilege to come in and try to help the club at this moment in time and something I'm looking forward to.

"I've had a million and one text messages wishing me good luck and I will need them all. But there is enough quality in that dressing room to do better than we have."

He added: "We have got to hit the ground running. We have got two big home games coming up. The supporters will be there. They don't want to come and boo and criticise. They want to support the team. Hearts have been outstanding and they will win the league, there's no doubt about that.

"Hibs are on a great run and Falkirk and Queen of the South have shown what good sides they are.

"It's now our turn. We need to turn this round. There are still enough games to do it and everyone in that dressing room has got to believe that this can still be a successful season."

McCall's appointment was not confirmed until shortly after 5pm - around an hour after it was announced caretaker boss Kenny McDowall had left the club following his tortured three-month stint in charge.

The new man will be assisted by his former Fir Park number two Kenny Black but he admits he is still unsure what role current Murray Park coaches Ian Durrant and Gordon Durie will play over the next two months.

But McCall knows it is up to him to prove he is worth a deal beyond the summer.

"Kenny Black and I are under no illusions. We are here for the short-term," he said.

"But we have got an opportunity to put our mark down. If we can do well, then who knows what happens in the future?"

McCall confirmed he has told Scotland boss Gordon Strachan that he will give up his coaching duties with the national side while in charge at Ibrox.

Celtic boss Ronny Deila welcomed Virgil van Dijk's successful red card appeal which leaves him free to play in the Scottish League Cup final against Dundee United at Hampden Park on Sunday.

The Dutch defender was sent off in last weekend's 1-1 William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final clash at Tannadice after tangling with Calum Butcher, with United midfielder Paul Paton also being dismissed in a case of mistaken identity.

Just before Deila and his United counterpart Jackie McNamara had their respective pre-match press conferences, it was confirmed that Van Dijk's red card has been rescinded, soon followed by news that Paton's card had been overturned too.

And United striker Nadir Ciftci was cleared after being offered a two-match ban for allegedly kicking Celtic skipper Scott Brown at Tannadice. The panel found the case "not proven".

The forward will still miss the final after picking up his second booking of the competition, but is free to play in the Parkhead Scottish Cup replay and the Scottish Premiership clash between the two sides the following weekend.

Deila said: "I am very happy for Virgil. He has been unlucky twice with red cards, so it is very good that he didn't get any suspension and can play in the final."

Belfast Telegraph


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