Rangers must keep their feet on the ground, says Whittaker

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Steven Whittaker believes Rangers have taken a massive step towards exorcising their demons in the Champions League thanks to their win over Bursaspor at Ibrox.

The Scottish champions had already earned plaudits for kicking off the campaign with a draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford in Group C. But they knew they faced a huge psychological test against Bursaspor in front of their own fans after being let down by their home form in Europe in the past.

The 1-0 win over the Turkish champions was Rangers' first European victory at Ibrox in seven attempts and Whittaker is now relishing the visit of Valencia in a few weeks. "The home form is obviously something we wanted to improve on from last year," he said. "We have managed to do that in our first home game. We've got another home game against Valencia next and we are looking forward to that one as well."

Rangers sit joint top of the group with Manchester United but Walter Smith's men will proceed with caution. "We can't get too carried away," Whittaker added. "We are two games in and we have had two good results. We'll enjoy that but there is a lot of football to be played.

"We have four points from six and that's a good start but we have two tough ties against Valencia next."

Rangers again opted for five at the back, with Whittaker and fellow full-back Kirk Broadfoot pushing forward down the flanks. The defensive tactics earned mixed reviews after the goalless stalemate in Manchester but Whittaker believes Smith was again spot-on with his formation against the Turks.

He said: "We started the game really well, created a few chances and managed to get the goal. We probably could have added to our tally.

"We attacked from the start, we put them under a bit of pressure and the crowd got behind us. We managed to find the goal and sat on it a little bit.

"The opposition in the Champions League is of a good standard and, if you're not on top of your game, they can take you apart. We definitely had to concentrate throughout the 90 minutes."

Kenny Miller has been on top form with 10 goals in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League but it was Steven Naismith who stole the show on Wednesday night with the only goal of the game. Whittaker said: "He has been fantastic. He has picked up goals and put in good performances and hopefully it will continue."

Robert Martinez is relaxed about Gary Caldwell's return to the Scotland squad despite the defender having yet to start a first-team game this season for Wigan.

The former Celtic man last played on May 9 against Chelsea, where he was sent off in the 8-0 defeat, following which he had a hip operation.

He played an hour for the reserves in midweek but will not be involved this weekend against Wolves.

However, Levein today recalled Caldwell in to his squad for the Euro 2012 qualifying double-header against the Czech Republic and Spain on October 8 and 12 respectively. But the Wigan manager said: "We have a very good relationship with Scotland. They know exactly where Gary is. The two medical departments have been in contact and I am quite happy for Scotland to call Gary up and use his experience and leadership. Physically they know he cannot be available for the two games but he is capable of performing in one of them.

"The demands of international football are very different to the demands of the Premier League. Gary is ready to play 45 minutes of international football if that is what Craig Levein wants. From our point of view it would speed up the rehabilitation period for Gary and get him closer to full fitness for the demands of the Premier League. It will be a great reward because Gary has been working hard and deserves the call up.

"Representing his country is something he really enjoys and takes real pride in. I am sure if Gary can join the squad and train, he is going to show the level he is at and that will be a real asset to the squad."

Martinez continued: "We are extremely delighted and proud for him at Wigan that a player who has not played a minute is highly rated by his national team manager. That is something that is going to help him physically and mentally so he is ready to play for Wigan.

"What is important they know Gary's treatment and the programme he has been through. He is four to six weeks ahead of schedule. We did not expect Gary to be on the pitch now. That is real credit to the work he has done."

Comments