John Brown insists players make a judgement on managers in the inner sanctum of the dressing room every bit as quickly as supporters do in the stands. Luckily for the Rangers’ nine-in-a-row legend sussing out Graeme Souness and Walter Smith was about as easy as it comes considering the league title was delivered nine times in his near-decade at Ibrox.
Be it through their knowledge, the way they handled big names or simply by delivering results, every move made by the gaffer is scrutinised by those under his charge according to Brown. That’s why he loves what he’s seeing from his former club under Philippe Clement in the five months since he replaced Michael Beale. Rangers have now got the real deal according to Bomber who lifted eight titles, three Scottish Cups and three League Cups between 1988 and 1997.
He reckons Clement has the same aura as Souness and Smith. And he’s confident the Belgian is on the right track to getting the same results with the Treble still up for grabs. Rangers supporters might want their side to blow away Ross County by more than three goals tomorrow night to go top of the league for the first time this season. But Brown reckons there’s no danger of Clement, or more importantly his players, getting ahead of themselves in a title fight he reckons will go to the wire.
“The manager will not be putting big demands on how many goals they get. It would be great to go top. We are in a good vein of form. But it is great because he is keeping the players’ feet on the ground.
« Walter and Graeme had that. Walter’s man management skills were great. But if you got on the wrong side of him . . . Graeme had that as well. Look back at the players he moved out, international players. Reputation meant nothing to him, it was all about the football club.
“Philippe has come in and won the respect of the dressing room by how he is putting his points over to his team. Players suss out managers, figure out if they are up to the task or not. That is the reaction you are seeing from the squad to the present manager. Everything is low key, he just gets his points over and he is not looking too far ahead. It is just next game. That is all you can do.”
Clement has shown more than once already that he’s not afraid to make a big call. Whether it’s hooking Todd Cantwell before the half time whistle has even blown or moving on summer arrivals Sam Lammers and Jose Cifuentes in his first transfer window Clement isn’t one for messing around – or being messed around.
Brown said: “I look back at my own career with different clubs I was at. You suss out how much knowledge the manager has got and whether you like him or not.
“I think this squad of players are looking at the manager and they are winning football matches. They are coming in on a Monday morning, they are enjoying the content of the training, it is all geared towards winning the next game.
“The players are thriving. I loved coming in on a Monday morning because you knew you were coming in to a quality manager, whether that was Graeme or Walter. The content of the training was competitive every day.
“We had a lot of international players and the competitive edge was there even in small-sided games.
“We still wanted to win from Monday to Friday. You set the tone for how you played on the Saturday with how you trained.
“I think this manager is the same. He has got that across to the players – that he will demand a lot through the week in training to take into the games. The good thing is he has brought in a few players in the January window and that freshens up the squad and creates competition. There have been a few come in and a few have gone out. It is just one game at a time.”
One player Brown reckons will be key in the title race is the rejuvenated John Lundstram. A player he’d love to see extend his contract beyond the end of this season.
He said: “Absolutely. You want to retain your best players and if he is willing to consider that then it is great to the club. He has got great experience.
“Lundstram is hitting the best form he has had since that season we got to the Europa League final. He was outstanding that season and he is showing that form again.”
• John Brown was talking as he joined fans at Ibrox to promote The Rangers Youth Development Company and their Union Jackpot half-time draw.