Rangers’ Clement has found a new tactic with Ben Davies

Rangers’ Clement has found a new tactic with Ben Davies
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 21: Ben Davies of Rangers celebrates after the team's first goal, scored by Abdallah Sima (not pictured) during the UEFA Europa League 2023/24 match between Rangers FC and Real Betis at Ibrox Stadium on September 21, 2023 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

If there’s one thing Rangers manager Philippe Clement really is very, very good at, it’s bigging up individual players, particularly in the press, and especially in private one-on-one, and no matter how much they end up playing or not playing, they will give him everything they have when they do.

We can offer three cases in point of Ibrox players Clement has publicly or privately supported even when they aren’t necessarily critical first-team members.

We start with Ben Davies:

He was injured, yes, but he’s only actually played a fraction of times under Clement, just the 6, and yet the defender was at pains to explain in the early days under the new boss, how he’d taken him aside and praised him:

“On a personal note I’m happy to be back involved in the team and am most pleased about the fact we got a clean sheet. He thinks I have a good passing range and he wants me to believe in myself a bit more. That’s probably the same for a few players. The early impression from training is that we like him.”

During this period Rangers fans were frustrated Davies was getting quite a few picks, but this is part of Clement’s tactics – to support his players, give fringe ones a few outings, make them feel part of the whole system, and rotate.

Then there’s Ross McCausland. The clamour and praise from fans about the Auchenhowie graduate has subsided a little, with supporters quite happy about results with his not being in the team right now, but that’s the point:

“I don’t know what people are saying, but I don’t care also what people say about my players. I see a player who was four months ago playing in the second team and who has been important in several games already this season. It is a big step up from playing for the second team to playing with Rangers. It is not only about goals and statistics. It is about all the other things you do. How he presses, how he wins balls. How he keeps possession for the team. How he works, how he is in the building. Four months ago, he was a player playing in the second team who nobody knew. Now he has already played a lot of games for Rangers, been decisive in games and played for his national team. I think it is a great evolution in four months. That is why I am happy about it. Because of his mindset and focus and hunger, he will make an amazing career. Rangers will not be the last or the highest place that he will play.”

That was on the 13th of this month. He started the next match but has only been a sub thereafter, and that’s fine. Clement does this, he expresses defence of his players, backs them up, and makes them want to give him the lot, whether playing from the start or not.

And lastly, we can refer to Scott Wright, probably the least popular player in terms of fan favour right now, and what he said about the boss:

“He’s been great. Obviously I didn’t feature as much I probably would have liked under the last manager. He’s come in and he said the whole squad has been given a fresh slate and if you impress him you can try and stake your claim in the team and that’s what I managed to do. Unfortunately, I picked up a wee injury, but that happens in football. It’s about knuckling down again in training and trying to fight back and get that shirt, or just trying to get minutes to help the team. I love the way he works. He’s come in and I think he’s been a breath of fresh air for everyone here. The whole staff on and off the pitch, his training has been very good as well. As I say, the results we’ve picked up have been fantastic for the sake of building momentum as well. He’s just very straightforward. You know what you get with him and he’s very clear with what he wants from you individually and as a team and his intensity of what he wants to do and what he wants to bring as well.”

In short, three players who probably aren’t complete fan-favourites, either big up the manager as a response to how he supports them in private, or have benefited from a public address defending them.

Clement just won’t criticise his players, and even those not universally-loved by fans will feel that paternal instinct from the boss.

This is how to make players give you the earth.

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