UPON his return to Rangers almost a year ago, Jonatan Johansson made no secret of the fact that it was a dream come true for him to once again have Auchenhowie and Ibrox Stadium as his places of work. But before long, that dream could well have turned sour.

Brought on to the Rangers backroom staff by then manager Pedro Caixinha, Johansson feared he would suffer a similar fate to the Portuguese coach when poor results led to his sacking. Normally, when a manager goes, his lieutenants fall by the wayside too, and Johansson was facing up to the unwelcome prospect of leaving the club for the second time.

Thankfully for him, his expertise had not gone unnoticed by the man who would step into the managerial role – albeit temporarily – following Caixinha’s departure. And now the Finn, through a belief in the current custodian’s abilities rather than being motivated by self-preservation, believes Graeme Murty has earned the right to a long-term future at the club.

“It’s always hard when a manager changes and staff go too, so of course there was uncertainty,” Johansson said. “The main thing was to focus on your job and the team’s next game, and the games kept coming thick and fast.

“The new manager has come in and done really well, and when he signed until the end of the season it gave everyone that stability. We knew each other from before, but we had that period of working in temporary charge and that’s difficult, because there’s speculation in the papers and everywhere else. After that it’s been very good, especially since the break.

“There’s a buzz around the club and everyone can see how we’ve improved. We want to keep that going as a club as long as possible.”

The defeat to Kilmarnock coming hot on the heels of the loss to Celtic has of course taken a significant edge off of the good feeling that has permeated the club since the winter break, but Johansson is holding on to the positives from the showing against Celtic in particular to provide reassurance that the good times will soon be rolling at Ibrox again.

“We played really well, but as a coach, you don’t want to say that because you didn’t get any points,” he said. “You want to match the result to the performance. But anyone who saw it will see that it was an even game, and there were only small margins that decided the result.

“Since the break, our results have been very good. This is a minor setback, but everyone is determined to get back to winning ways. We knew that we played some really good stuff against Celtic, and we want to take that into the next games.”

Johansson has seen a huge difference in Murty since taking on the manager’s role, and that has accelerated since he was handed the reins until the end of the current campaign. And he wonders just what Murty could achieve if he was given the job on a longer term basis.

“He’s been great, and that has helped him to plan,” he said. “It is difficult to plan week-to-week than it is over a longer period at a club, and he is growing more and more into the role. He is handling himself really well, and I think you have seen massive improvements on the pitch.

“He’s one of those guys who is never happy, he is always looking to improve, and it keeps everybody striving to get better.”

While the international break has been an unwelcome hiatus for Rangers after the last two disappointing results, Johansson is taking the time to brace himself for a hugely important run of games that will determine whether Murty has a long-term future In the dugout at Rangers or not.

“We’ve got some massive games coming up, so we’re just looking forward to the end of the season and hopefully if we get the results, things will take care of themselves,” he said. “We have the massive game in the semi-final and then every game after the split is a tough one.

“We look forward to the challenge, we’re positive about the way we are playing and progressing.”

The management triumvirate at Rangers is of course completed by Jimmy Nicholl, brought on board by Murty himself this season, and Johansson believes there is now great chemistry in the dugout that can only transmit to the playing squad.

“Jimmy Nic has been great and it is great to have him on board,” he said. “He brings so much positivity to the team and he’s seen everything there is to see in football, so he is always there to lend his experience and give advice.

“He loves competition and he’s been great at starting that. He competes with everybody and he always cuts corners to win! I’m not calling him a cheat, but he always tries to win. His competitive streak is still there.”