A beer and a chat with Rangers boss Gio van Bronckhorst convinced me he’ll reverse derby humiliation – Barry Ferguson – Barry Ferguson

It’s the sound that never leaves you, long after the dust has settled on your career.

You’re walking in through your own front door and all you can hear is people scattering into different rooms trying to hide. Your own family doesn’t want to be anywhere near you.

Your stomach is still churning. It’s been eating away at your insides since you came off that pitch. You’ve just been turned over by Celtic. And there’s nothing you can do about it now to take it back. The hurt is almost unbearable.

And yet it’s all you can think about as you replay the 90 minutes inside your head on the bus journey back to Ibrox and then again on the lonely drive back to the house.

Your head’s in a mess and there’s a knot in the pit of your guts. And this is only the start of it. You’re punishing yourself and you know it’s going to last for days.

That’s the price of failing to deliver in an Old Firm derby. The criticism is coming too for the rest of the week and the horrible truth is you know you deserve every last bit of it. There’s no way out of the mess you’ve got yourself into. No option but to suck it all up.

I’ve been there more times than I care to remember and trust me when I tell you, it’s one dark, dark place.

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The easy thing is to curl up into a ball and start feeling sorry for yourself. But if you want to cut it as a real Rangers player then there’s only one way to respond. You have to hit back. And hit back hard.

You have to get back onto that training pitch prepared to do everything in your power to make sure that you’re not going to put yourself and your loved ones through this torture the next time around.

You need to come back into your own home with a swagger in your step, feeling on top of the world.

And that’s how I expect Giovanni van Bronckhorst and his players will be thinking as the clock ticks down to one of the most important derby games Glasgow has seen in years – on the back of the three goal battering they suffered at Parkhead a couple of months ago .

The way they have regrouped since that savage beating tells me they have the character to stand up to what’s coming when Celtic’s team bus pulls up outside the stadium on Sunday.

Rangers battled back at Dens

Yes, they went on to drop four more points against Dundee United and Motherwell but I look at how they battled their way out of big trouble at Dens Park a couple of weeks ago and I see a group of players who are nowhere near ready to throw in the towel and let their title slip away.

That nature of that late win tells me they’ve got the bit between their teeth and that’s the way it’s got to be.

If you don’t have the stomach for this then you have no place pulling on the shirt but what I see is a group of guys who will be relishing the chance to put one over on Celtic rather than being scared about being on the receiving end again.

They won’t need to be sat down and told what’s needed. They already know. The very thought of waking up on another Monday morning feeling like absolute dog s*** all over again is what will be driving them on.

That’s what I thought about when I was sitting there in the dressing room, with my shorts on ready to walk down that tunnel. I’d tell myself, ‘No way am I going to feel like that again after this one. That cannot happen!’

I’m not saying every time I played against Celtic that we won. The record books show that’s not the case.

But when I had been on the wrong end of a bad defeat from them I made sure I used it as a source of motivation for the next one.

Now and again you’d look around the dressing room to see if everyone else was feeling the same way. Occasionally you’d sense that somebody was a bit tetchy or anxious. These beatings can leave scars on the best of them.

So I’d have a quiet word, ‘Let’s do this today. Calm down and make sure we do things right.’

Barry Ferguson in the heat of Old Firm battle

I’m not going to act the big man and pretend I was all that calm myself. My stomach was churning like a washing machine.

Yes, I felt nerves and pressure like everyone else – that’s only natural – but I learned to channel it in a positive way.

And I’m convinced it’ll be the same this weekend. The truth is, Rangers will win this one because they know they need to. Look, a draw is not the end of the world. They’d still be in there fighting for the title as far as the league table is concerned.

But, in their own heads, they’ll know it’s not enough. With seven games to go, this is their chance to grab the momentum by the throat and they can only do that by taking all the points and by doing to Celtic exactly what Celtic did to them the last time out.

It’s plain and simple. Come out of the traps as quickly as you can and get after everything in a green and white shirt. Don’t stop until you’ve run right over the top of them. Make them feel the way you did when you left Parkhead with your tails between your legs.

That has to be the game plan for Van Bronckhorst and, having shared a beer with my old team mate in the home dressing room after last week’s legends match at Ibrox, I’m convinced he knows exactly what is required.

He’ll know too that Celtic will go into this match with the same mindset. Ange Postecoglou doesn’t know any other way. There is no plan B where the big Aussie is concerned.

So I’m fully expecting an absolute humdinger of a derby with goals at both ends.

But my gut tells me Rangers will come out on top by the odd goal in five. Nothing less than a win will do when they walk back through that front door.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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