AS someone who grew up in the land of Total Football and represented the Netherlands no fewer than 106 times, Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst is keen for his team to turn on the style and entertain their fans whenever they take to the field.
But the former Feyenoord, Arsenal and Barcelona defender cum midfielder is certainly not averse to his charges digging in and grinding out results any way they can when the occasion demands it.
So he was by no means despondent with the display in the narrow 1-0 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on Wednesday night that kept them in touch with cinch Premiership leaders Celtic at the top of the table.
Rangers came up against opponents who are currently fighting to avoid relegation on a poor surface away from home in midweek. Van Bronckhorst, then, was more than content for to take the triumph and move on.
The result ended a dire run of form on the road. The Glasgow giants had drawn three and lost one of the away matches they had played in the league since football resumed after the winter break heading into the fixture. So he was not about to criticise the standard of the performance in Perth.
He knows the battling qualities and mental resolve that was shown by James Tavernier and his team mates will just as important as their technique and flair during the final nine Premiership matches of the 2021/22 campaign.
“We wanted to leave with the three points,” he told Rangers TV. “That was the most important thing. We knew it was going to be hard in the circumstances and we got the early goal through a great move, a great pass and a great run from Glen (Kamara).
“We had a couple of chances to score even more. (Alfredo) Morelos hit the post, Scott (Arfield) had a good chance to score. Second half was just about surviving this game. They played the long balls, they played the second balls and it was really tough to play our normal game on this pitch.
“You could see the ball was not moving well. But in the second-half we did not give any chances away and we scored an offside goal. I don’t know if it was offside, but we were close to scoring to make it 2-0.
“Sometimes you want to see good football, but the most important thing for me, and for us all, was to get the three points.”
The most satisfying aspect of the Rangers showing against St Johnstone for Van Bronckhorst was the clean sheet.
To say his defence has been porous this year is an understatement. Before Wednesday night they had picked the ball out of their own net 10 times in eight league outings. There have been calls from fans and pundits for goalkeeper Allan McGregor to be dropped.
They were up against the side that has scored the fewest goals – just 18 in 29 games – in the division this term at McDiarmid Park. Still, the Dutchman was encouraged by how they nullified the threat posed by first Nadir Ciftci and Callum Hendry and then Michael O’Halloran, Stevie May and Theo Blair.
“We didn’t give chances away,” he said. “We had to be sharp. We were sharper than we were in our last home game against Motherwell. We did well. It was not a good game, it was not a beautiful game, the circumstances were hard. But these games you have to win as well — and we did.
‘It was all about the duels, the fighting. Sometimes you have to have that also in your game to win and we did that today.”
Glen Kamara netted what proved to be the winning goal in just the third minute of the St Johnstone game and Van Bronckhorst wants to see ball-winning midfielder, who has often found himself on the bench in recent weeks, continue to get forward and contribute in the final third during the run-in.
“We have midfielders who can do it,” he said. “Joe (Aribo) can do it, Scotty as well. But Glen can as well. He scored a couple of weeks ago against Hearts with the same movement. Sometimes when the spaces are not there you need runs from midfield and today that gave us the important goal.”
Rangers’ 150th anniversary celebrations will continue in the Premiership game against struggling Aberdeen in Govan tomorrow. The team will wear a special Gallant Pioneers-themed kit in a tribute to the four teenagers who formed the Glasgow club in the March of 1872. Van Bronckhorst is hoping to give the bumper crowd a victory to cheer.
“It’s all about the three points,” he said. “We know it is a special game for all of us because it is an anniversary game. So even more we have to win this game.”