Ryan Jack: Rangers boss Steven Gerrard got in touch so quickly over Scotland
Steven Gerrard’s once unlikely position as a fully paid-up member of the Tartan Army is now seemingly confirmed.
This status might come under pressure in the countdown to June 18 next year, when Scotland face England in an eagerly-awaited Euro 2020 group fixture. But Gerrard has been unmasked as an avid Scotland supporter as Steve Clarke’s side finally brought to an end 22 years of pain by beating Serbia on penalties to secure a place at next summer’s finals.
Ryan Jack has revealed that one of the first in a stream of congratulatory messages he received after last week’s dramatic victory was from the Rangers manager, who had been watching the drama unfold on television at home even though England were playing a friendly on the same night against Republic of Ireland.
The former England skipper had already helped the Scottish cause when replacing Jack at half-time of the recent 8-0 win over Hamilton Accies in order to help preserve the midfielder’s energy ahead of the trip to Belgrade. Gerrad later explained he was doing a favour for Clarke before such a crucial clash.
The thoughtful gesture certainly helped. Jack was one of the standouts on a strength-sapping night as Scotland were forced into extra-time by a late Luka Jovic equaliser.
Gerrard was swiftly on the phone after David Marshall’s later penalty save from Aleksandar Mitrovic. So, too, was Ibrox assistant manager Gary McAllister. He was the Scotland skipper when Scotland last qualified for the European Championships. He also knows one or two things about the pressure of penalties and is preparing to be assailed by reminders of his miss against England in the run-up to next summer’s Wembley re-match.
‘I really appreciated it’
“I got messages from both and there were a lot coming through,” said Jack. “The manager was probably one of the first ones after the game to message me. He said: ‘Well done, I watched the game, great performance, great team performance and it’s great to see you get through.’ I really appreciated that, as I did all of the messages.”
Although Gerrard’s first priority is Rangers, he will be cheered by the manner in which Jack has become such a vital member of the Scotland side alongside Old Firm rival Callum McGregor. It was just over a year ago when Gerrard and Clarke seemed set on a collision course after the Rangers manager accused his Scotland counterpart of running Jack into the ground shortly after an Old Firm game. The midfielder had been handed a double training session which saw him run over 10km. Clarke later acknowledged it had probably been excessive. Jack returned to his club with a swollen knee and missed the next game after the international break against Livingston.
Everyone has made up now, it seems. All is sweetness and light even after Sunday’s Nations League clash against Slovakia, which saw a much-changed Scotland team lose for the first time in over a year.
Jack is set to return to the side alongside McGregor tonight as Scotland seek to secure promotion to Nations League Pool A with a win over Israel. Winning their group will also provide them with a good chance of qualifying for another play-off, this time for the 2020 World Cup due to be held in Qatar. Jack and McGregor look set to be a fixture of the Scottish midfield for years. Fascination with their respective club loyalties might fade over time. That’s not yet the case currently.
Rivalries put to one side
“I’ve always been asked this question, obviously Callum’s at Celtic and I’m at Rangers,” said Jack. “We’re big rivals at club level when we play each other. But I think when we come away for Scotland, we come away to be professional and to do a job for our country.”
The sight of Jack and McGregor dancing around the dressing-room together was one of several memorable snapshots following the final whistle in Belgrade. Club boundaries melted away as the Scotland team, along with the nation, came together as one.
Jack is realistic about one thing, however. Come this weekend friend will become foe again, specifically in the case of him and Andrew Considine, another recently established Scotland hero, when Rangers host Aberdeen at Pittodrie. Jack are Considine are especially close having been teammates at Pittodrie for so long prior to the former’s contentious Ibrox move.
Jack has enjoyed the defender’s recent rise to international prominence on the back of his recent performances as well as his stag do theme of a few years ago being adopted as unofficial national anthem ahead of Euro 2020. The ‘I Can Boogie’ phenomenon is still playing out, but the frivolity will be put to one side this weekend.
“I’m sure Andy will be putting the boot into me on Sunday trying to get three points and I’ll be the exact same,” said Jack. “You want to win three points for your club. But you come away on international duty, it’s about being team-mates and trying to achieve things together for your country.
“You kind of forget how well Andy has done,” he added. “He’s always been that Mr Consistent, even when I was at Aberdeen he never missed a game. He was an eight-out-of-ten every week and as a team-mate, you can trust him.
“The ‘I Can Boogie’ stuff has gone crazy. It shows the team spirit and togetherness we have. After the game we put that song on, and we knew that would get Andy up dancing. The big man was straight up there. It’s great to see and shows the team spirit the manager has built. We’ve built those relationships as a squad as well.
“You’re all team-mates and I know Andy very well, having been club team-mates with him. I still keep in touch with him off the park. But as you say, when you come to league business and competing against each other, you go out on the park trying to win.”
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