This article is part of Football FanCast’s Pundit View series, which provides opinion and analysis on recent quotes from journalists, pundits, players and managers…
Scott Arfield thinks his Rangers side’s work on their mentality will be key this season, admitting that Steven Gerrard focused on his side’s mental toughness over the summer.
Arfield was speaking after his side’s dramatic 2-1 win over Kilmarnock. A last-minute Connor Goldson header gave Gerrard’s men a winning start to the Premiership season.
As well as a strong start to the domestic campaign, the Canadian’s side are well-placed to replicate last season’s journey to the Europa League group stages.
The late heroics at Rugby Park led to Arfield praising the Gers’ belief and mental capabilities. He said: “Mentality. That is the thing that we spoke about at the end of last season, that we spoke about during the season.
“That is what he [Gerrard] has been banging on about, to go as long as possible. It has come to fruition today and we are really happy with it.”
Gerrard had spoken before the Kilmarnock match of how his side struggled to see out games last term. He highlighted the fact, as reported by The Daily Record, that if the games had finished on 86 minutes (rather than completing the 90) Rangers would’ve won the league last season.
While he didn’t directly blame his players for mental fatigue or weakness, it’s pretty clear he’s sought to get players thinking in the right way over the summer, never giving up until the final whistle goes.
The heroic win on Sunday is just a small signal that Gerrard’s methods are paying off. The Gers struggled against Killie last season and with another scrappy draw looming, they found the extra ounce of effort required to squeeze out three points.
There appeared to be a belief in the players that they could win this game, despite a 2018/19 season packed with near misses and late setbacks, as Gerrard alluded to.
The game itself was played in the backdrop of Celtic laying down a marker by walloping St. Johnstone 7-0. Titles aren’t won on the first day of the season, but that result could’ve been playing on the minds of the Rangers players.
Yet they appeared unburdened by such an emphatic result and stuck it out in Ayrshire to ensure their own three points.
The will to win at a ground they previously hadn’t won at in the league under Gerrard shows the gaffer’s desire to sort his side’s mentality is already starting to pay-off.