Mark Hateley says Rangers must get their next managerial appointment right as the Light Blues mull over their options in the wake of the departure of Pedro Caixinha.
And the Rangers goal scoring legend hopes the club take their time with Hateley urging the board to leave the first-team in the hands of under-20 manager – and current caretaker manager – Graeme Murty for the time being.
Despite spending almost £10m on 11 new recruits this summer, results and performances on the pitch haven’t been good enough. And twinned with a series of high profile spats with players from his own squad, and rumours of a split dressing room, the writing was on the wall for the Portuguese.
Murty, who took on the role of caretaker before Caixinha’s appointment, is back in the senior dug out at least until the board identify a successor but Hateley reckons there is no need to rush an appointment.
“Pedro had to go, absolutely did,” said Hateley, “he was only here for seven months but you have to be winning, winning, winning when you are at a big club.
“And some of the statements he was coming out with were n’t that of a Rangers manager. To be able to shout from the rooftops you have to have done things. You can’t just come in and shout. You need to have a team that can shout for you and back up what you are saying. I think that’s been the problem.
“The board backed him superbly in the summer and brought in a lot of players. But you have to be judged on your results which have not been good and the football has not been good either and some of the things on the training ground have been crazy.
“Part of management is keeping everybody happy and making sure everybody is on side and going the right way. The dressing room can’t be split into sections. It has to be harmonious and fighting and playing for each other.”
While Aberdeen gaffer Derek McInnes is the hot favourite at the bookies, Hateley would like to see an experienced manager take the reigns in the long term but in the short term he would like to see Murty run with it.
“I would like to see an experienced manager come in with a bit of kudos who understands the situation and is used to big clubs but they are very few and far between,” he said.
“McInnes looks to be favourite but he’d be expensive and I don’t know if Rangers can afford that right now. I wouldn’t rush into anything right now. If Graeme Murty takes on where he left off last time, and he got a great performance from the team today (Saturday vs Hearts) then the team are there for him. I’d let him run with it for a while and not be pushed or rushed into anything. We have to get it right this time it is vitally important.
“Rangers will always be an attractive job for managers, the same as Celtic. Look at Brendan Rodgers, him taking the Celtic job , has seen his stock become creditable and has risen dramatically and that is the same for any Rangers manager.”
In addition to being a safe pair of hands for the senior side having Murty coaching the first team would also provide a boost and incentive to the crop of under 20 players who could see a pathway from the youth team to the top team.
“I went away with the U20s to Ireland for a week with Graeme and Craig Mulholland,” explained Hateley.
“I had a chat with U20 striker Ryan Hardie and he is a player I have great faith in him. He is such a natural goalscorer. He has a lot of things to his game which he needs to improve but with the right guidance and coaching Ryan will come on. He will score goals anywhere in and around the box.
“This is why I like the situation with Graeme in charge just now. He has been with the U20s so he knows what is coming and the U20s understand Graeme and what he wants. Ryan and Jamie Barjonas were both involved today and now these guys have faith they can be promoted from the U20s to the first team and that incentive is something you need at any club. Players need to know they can get a chance and not just be moved on.”
Nicknamed Attila by the Italian press after a remarkable leap, above Fulvio Collovati – a defender renowned for his aerial ability – and thunderous winning header which sailed beyond the diving Walter Zenga to earn AC Milan a derby win over great rivals Inter, Hateley quickly became a cult hero at Ibrox.
His ferocious appetite for goals propelled him into the hearts of all Gers fans where he played a huge part in the charge towards nine-in-a-row.
He was 28 when he arrived in Govan but it was a move he could have made three times before he finally completed the switch.
“The first offer actually came when I was 17 to sign for Rangers,” recalled Hateley.
“John Greig tried to sign me from Coventry but they were never going to sell me at that time. Then Graeme Souness tried to sign me twice. First time was at the end of my first season in Milan then again when I went from Milan to Monaco. But he got me third time lucky. Saying no to Rangers was never an option. I could have gone back to Italy, two clubs in London wanted me but as soon as Graeme made the offer there was no question and I was delighted to sign for Rangers.
“It was perfect timing. It was the right time, Graeme had settled in and had brought in the players who formed the nucleus of the nine-in-a-row team and I enjoyed my football immensely.
“Once I had my game fitness back having not played for two years I was able to use the game knowledge I had managed to pick up over the years playing abroad.”
Rangers had always been a club close to the English international who reveals he had picked the club as one of his own before he was ten years old.
“I grew up a Chelsea fan because my Dad played for them but as a youngster I had three teams I used to follow which formed a line through the country. Chelsea in the south, Nottingham Forest in the middle – just to annoy my Dad who hated them having played for Notts County – and Rangers in Scotland.
“I had a good understanding of Rangers and the club, their values.”
In Hateley’s first season with Rangers the league championship went down to the final afternoon. In May 1991 Rangers hosted Aberdeen in a title decider with both teams level on points and on goal difference.
A goal in each half from Hateley secured the title for Rangers in a match the fans, or the man himself, will ever forget.
“The first year is always important so it might be the best memory with Rangers,” he said.
“It was actually my worst return for goals and I scored 19 goals that season and I think Ally (McCoist) had over 30.
“It was a good season for me being back playing football and there on after that year it was a walk in the park for me. Everybody was on side. It took me a little longer than I thought it would to get in the swing of things but two years out of the game is a long time.
“During the game itself Bomber (John Brown) ruptured his Achilles that day and I remember I ended up playing left-back for the last 20-minutes. I was the overlapping Terry Hurlock full-back. I have such fond memories of that.”
A little over a year later and Rangers eased past then-English champs Leeds United in a Battle of Britain to become the UK’s first ever participants in the Champions League.
In the end Rangers came within one goal of a place in the first final of the Champions League, losing out to Marseilles after a controversial series of events where the French side were found guilty of bribing Valenciennes players in their final league match of a season in which they won the title.
Marseille were stripped of their title with chairman Bernard Tapie handed a jail term but the club were also accused of offering bribes in their run to the Champions League final that same season – including a reported cash offer to Hateley himself not to play for Rangers in a group match against Marseille.
“Does it still bother me?,” asked Hateley. “Oh it does, no shadow of a doubt.
“We were so robbed in Europe that year. You don’t get many shots at the Champions League and we were a goal away from the final in the inaugural season which was sensational. But Marseille went on to win it and they should never have been given it. It is what it is.
“We were bitterly disappointed. When the draw was made I believed we could go all the way with the team we had and the way we played,.
“We were great away from home, hard to beat at home but even better away with the style of football we played.
“But you can’t have everything in life and you have to make the best of what everything else.”
Visiting the Lewis and Harris Rangers Supporters Club is a trip Hateley says he is only too happy to make and one the loyal fans from the club which has been officially recognised as the world’s biggesrt Rangers Supporters Club fully deserve.
“I see the boys from the club here (Lewis and Harris) down at Ibrox pretty regularly and I see the expense required to attend games and the time they have to put in to support Rangers and I think it is only fitting that if I am asked to come up that I do so.
“It’s nice to come up here and show face and say thanks to all the people who support Rangers far and wide.
“Some guys come very second weekend to Ibrox so it is only right to come up.”