Kenny Miller sat down with Sky Sports News ahead of Sunday’s Old Firm game to discuss “mad-cat goalkeeper” Allan McGregor, Steven Gerrard’s influence at Rangers and whether Alfredo Morelos can end his barren run against Celtic.
Rangers have already won the league – their first title in 10 years – but there is still plenty to play for on Sunday, as Celtic bid to put an end to their rivals’ unbeaten league season.
Miller, once a striker for both teams, admits Rangers’ unbeaten record will add spice to the match but says neither club need any extra motivation when it comes to an Old Firm game.
Before Sunday, though, Rangers have a huge Europa League last-16 second-leg tie against Slavia Prague on Thursday, finely poised after a 1-1 draw in the Czech Republic last week.
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Asked how Thursday’s crunch-match will impact the Rangers players, Miller told Sky Sports News: “Thursday will be their immediate focus, but what Rangers have still got to aim for is an unbeaten season, which would be an incredible achievement to add to an already unbelievable season.
“They’ve still got that to hang on to. Obviously the league has been taken care of, but any game against Celtic is massive.
“Celtic’s motivation will probably be to stop that unbeaten season and spoil the party a little bit. The most important game is always the next game and the fact it’s an Old Firm game makes it even more important.
“I’ve been involved in an Old Firm game where the league was already won, but we still went into that game as fierce as ever, as prepared as ever and as focused as ever to get the result.”
‘Mad-cat McGregor best I’ve played with’
McGregor was decisive for Rangers in the last Old Firm game at Ibrox on January 2, keeping out a dominant Celtic side, before the Gers went on to win the game 1-0.
Miller, who played with McGregor for Rangers in his first spell at Ibrox, says the goalkeeper is the “best I’ve played with and is still producing big moments at his age of 39”.
“It’s credit to him because there’s always been a perception of Allan that he’s a bit of a joker and a mad-cat goalkeeper, and he is – but when he turns up to work nobody works harder,” Miller said.
“He pulls off huge saves at big, big moments. Like you say, the Old Firm game he was absolutely outstanding in, and he was the difference.
“Rangers were under a lot of pressure in that first 15 or 20 minutes while Celtic were playing some outstanding football and creating chance after chance but they just couldn’t find a way past him.
“That’s what he does. He brings about 10 or 15 points a season with some of the saves he makes. He’s definitely had a hand in Rangers’ European run with the big saves he’s made.”
Gerrard is keen to keep McGregor beyond this season, when his current contract expires, and the Rangers boss has said he will hold talks with the veteran goalkeeper before the end of the campaign.
McGregor is 39 and there is no clear indication of what he wants to do with his future.
Miller says keeping McGregor will be vital for Gerrard as he looks to build on this season’s triumphs.
“It’s huge,” he said, when asked about the importance of keeping McGregor and Steven Davis next season.
“It’s the influence that they can have on the dressing room because those two guys have lived it.
“They know what it’s like to win the leagues and the cups and playing the European nights at Rangers.
“Both he and Steven Davis were massive, massive signings for Steven Gerrard when he came to the club. Not just for their ability but for their mentality.”
‘Gerrard brought the standard back to Rangers’
Gerrard has overseen a mammoth overhaul of Rangers since his appointment in May 2018 and has reaped the rewards, turning the side into a force to be reckoned with both domestically and in Europe.
Rangers are 20 points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership and a goalless draw on Thursday against Slavia Prague would ensure their place in the Europa League quarter-finals – another competition where they are also unbeaten this season.
“I think the whole team has come on leaps and bounds over the two or three years, and it’s credit to Steven and his staff because he’s brought a standard back that was maybe missing for a year or two before he came in,” Miller said.
“We can say it now, that it was always going to take time, it wasn’t going to happen overnight. Steven had to get his claws into the team and get a feel for what the club and the players’ mentality were, what the demands were.
“It has been a wonderful season so far to watch it from afar as a supporter.
“We’ve had the European campaign and again to be unbeaten at this stage in Europe as well – it’s an outstanding achievement on the home front and a European front.”
Will Morelos break Celtic duck on Sunday?
Morelos has been in fine form since Christmas, scoring eight goals in his last 12 games for Rangers, having managed just seven in his first 23 games of the season.
The Colombia international will be hoping to carry that goalscoring form into Sunday’s trip to Celtic Park, so he can end his 14-game run without a goal against Celtic.
Miller says failure to score in the Old Firm games can be “make-or-break” for some players, but he argues that has not been the case for Morelos and he has full confidence the striker can score on Sunday.
“It will happen at some point,” said Miller of Morelos scoring against Celtic.
“Alfredo has scored important goals in big games, it has just been a goal in this game that’s eluded him. He has had big chances but it would not surprise me if he goes and gets that goal.
“He’s been an outstanding signing since the minute he came to this club. The goals he has scored in big games, both domestically and in Europe have been outstanding. His performances have been good.
“He’s always been in good goalscoring form, so it would be no surprise if he breaks his duck on Sunday.”
Rangers boss Gerrard admitted at the start of the season that Morelos had become distracted by speculation linking him with a move away.
Miller says that interest from European clubs was inevitable with the form the 24-year-old has been in since he arrived at Ibrox and he has been impressed by Morelos’ reaction after an unsettling summer.
“There’s been speculation about Alfredo since he came to the club because he was a young striker, scoring a lot of goals, getting a lot of headlines,” added Miller.
“He’s run some really good defences ragged over the years, particularly in Europe, and I think that’s where people take notice, including teams on the continent.
“He seems to be refocused. It’s been a wonderful year for the club and him. He’s not scoring as many goals as he has done maybe, but he is a big contributor to that team.
“When he is not playing, they miss that physical element upfront because he can work a back-four, back-five whatever it is – he has terrorised some big players over the last two or three years.”
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