STUART McCall has urged Rangers players to ‘keep their mouths shut’ and do their talking on the pitch when it comes to this Sunday’s Old Firm match.

The pre-amble to this weekend’s showdown has been dominated by talk of a roar emanating from the Ibrox dressing room after the two sides were paired to meet again in the last four of the William Hill Scottish Cup next month, but first up is the small matter of a Ladbrokes Premiership meeting in Govan this Sunday which will define the strength of the Ibrox side’s title challenge.

A win could cut the gap to three points, having played a game more, while defeat would leave them staring at a nine-point deficit. No wonder McCall feels it would be wise for the Ibrox side to keep their counsel going into the games.

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“Rangers have a stronger squad now than they did when they played them in December,” said McCall. “If everyone is available they have options. But my advice to them would be to play the game and keep their mouths shut. There are still a few younger guys in there just getting to know what it’s all about. They won’t have played in this type of game.

“My advice to them would be ‘let your football do the talking’,” he added. “’Don’t get caught up in hype’. I know they have to do interviews. But put the senior men forward and don’t set yourself up for a fall. I saw the fans turn on [Josh] Windass the other week after he shushed them at Partick Thistle. And I thought, ‘just keep your mouth shut’ because you can be great for a bit, but all you need to do is lose 1-0 and that’s it. Celtic will think ‘yeah, everyone is talking about Rangers, that’s fine’. That will keep the pressure off. “

Having drawn twice with Rodgers’ Celtic team in the East End of Glasgow, victory in either match would be a huge feather in the cap of Graeme Murty as he endeavours to keep hold of the Rangers job beyond this season. But one of the ironies of the former Scotland full back’s situation is that the better he does, and the closer the Ibrox side appear to be getting to their historic rivals, the more big -name managers may be attracted to the position.

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“You hear down in England all the time about this being a ‘Mickey Mouse league’ or whatever,” he said. “But put yourself in Brendan’s shoes - life is great for him, he has European football and good players to work with. He’s not short of a bob or two and is working at a club where he wants to work. But I think if we are talking top managers looking at Rangers, they would want a budget which allowed them to come and have a go at Celtic.

“If they back up the January window with a budget to make the next window as fruitful – and I know there were a few loans - then it’s a stepping stone,” said McCall. “And it looks more encouraging than it has for some time. They signed Docherty for £600k. Murphy will come for £1million. We are not talking money that’s going to topple Celtic at this moment. But you are getting a core that gives you a chance.

“Is that job appealing? Yes. But it also has to be appealing off the park. It’s not enough to say Rangers finished within five or six points of Celtic. They will ask, ‘now what are we going to do about that?’ Have we got investment to come in? Can we really put in a proper challenge to Celtic?

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“This should be a job which appeals to top managers,” he added. “But, listen, Graeme can only keep doing what he is doing. The results and performances have been much improved against Celtic. Long may that continue.”

Sadly for his sake, McCall, out of work now after departing Bradford, wasn’t at Ibrox as interim manager long enough to be able to put his own stamp on the team. “My situation was totally different because Graeme in January got a chance to bring in not just good players but good people as well, good types,” he said. “That helps the dressing room, then you have the experience of Kenny Miller and Lee Wallace, even though they are not even involved at the minute. Before they were go to men. You have the experience of Russell Martin, and Jamie Murphy who has played at a good level down in England

“I was just honoured to do it, it didn’t matter to me. But that is a key element – being able to bring the people you want in, getting the right types in. But you never know, because even when you see players playing at the lower divisions and then they come to Bradford in front of 18,19,000 and it is a bit much for them. And you get that with Rangers and Celtic too.

“Until they are actually there you don’t know. And I guess that is more so with the foreign lads. They would all have been in Nandos when they beat Aberdeen twice, then when you lose to Hamilton you don’t go out for a week. It is the expectation of people, you have to have the right characters who can deal with that. Expectation levels have to be kept down but they are progressing the right way, and the squad is getting stronger.”

**Stuart McCall was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is a proud sponsor of the Scotland national team