Steven Gerrard did indeed launch a major surprise with today’s team as Ibrox Noise told you, but absolutely not the one we predicted.
We had South Africa’s Bongani Zungu in the starting XI, but not only was he completely AWOL from the match day squad entirely, there was also a surprise start for Ryan Jack, whose performances of recent weeks have been a little underwhelming by his standards.
With his injury concerns and his being a doubt for this match, we were more than a bit taken aback by his presence on this pitch especially.
Not only needn’t we have worried, but Ryan Jack absolutely benefited from his absences lately, and put in easily his best performance this season, in another case of Steven Gerrard’s rotation making players more hungry.
Jack’s displays this campaign have been a little subdued. Never hiding, he’s not been as overt as usual, not standing out, not looking as defensive or robust as we’d come to expect.
Indeed, talk about him among fans of becoming captain has gone very quiet in the past few months, with not only present incumbent James Tavernier’s fine displays, but Jack’s own being a little below his best.
All that changed today as the Jack we’re more used to showed up, possibly aided by the slight tweaking to formation which saw him purely being anchored as a lone defensive midfielder and not really partnering with anyone.
He managed two tackles, a clearance, and at least one interception, with a far more industrious outing – it wasn’t quite as tubthumping as his previous best, but it was much more like it, and he looked a man with a point to prove.
There’s a great deal more competition in his position now, and Stevie has made a change to enhance it further, not just with the addition of Zungu.
Jack knows he’s no longer an automatic first pick, and will rotate.
And it’s making him fight harder for his place.
Today was a fine showing, and he’ll be happy he’s given his manager a small headache.