AFTER a punishing run of 11 cinch Premiership, Europa League and Viaplay Cup games in the space of just 37 days, Rangers players have been given strict instructions to take some down time during the first week of the winter break.

Their manager Philippe Clement, though, does not intend to take things easy for very long himself.

The demands on Clement since he replaced Michael Beale at Ibrox back in October have been every bit as intense as those on James Tavernier and his team mates.

The Belgian has had to ensure that Rangers have performed at their very best both at home and abroad on a weekly basis despite their lengthy injury list since arriving in Scotland.

He could be forgiven for wanting to go away and lie in a darkened room for a few days to recover.

However, Clement is determined to build on the progress which has been made during his tenure to date in the second half of the season both by bringing in new players and developing existing members of his squad further. He will, then, not rest up for very long. 

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“I don’t like to switch off,” he said. “For me, it is not important. My body doesn’t need to do anything any more. And my brain doesn’t explode because of doing that all the time.

“I will do things with my family. But I have other things to do. We have a January window to come. So I need to watch players also. I love it and I will do it.”

The former Genk, Club Brugge and Monaco manager has made quite an impact since being brought in by Rangers in the wake of the Premiership defeat to Aberdeen at Ibrox back in October.

The Herald: Rangers manager Philippe Clement, right, embraces Todd Cantwell during his side's win overHis side are now eight points behind leaders Celtic in the league with two games in hand to play against Hibernian and Ross County. They also topped their Europa League group and qualified for the last 16 of that competition. And they lifted the Viaplay Cup for the first time in 12 years last month.

Clement has been satisfied with how his charges have responded to his training sessions and tactical changes in the past two-and-a-half months. Still, he feels there remains significant room for improvement. 

“It’s not about me, it’s about the team,” he said. “I’m happy that everybody is saying they see a different team now with more of a winning mentality. 

“I see more and more quality and that the team understands better and better how I want to see football, how I want to see them run together, how I want them to create spaces for other players. It becomes more and more fluid. 

“These are things that I know if the players keep on working, if they stay attentive and they stay concentrated then after a while it becomes more natural for them. So there are really positive things. But it’s not about being satisfied. It’s about being ambitious to get better.”

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Good managers make players better and Clement has certainly done that with several members of the Rangers squad – Ross McCausland, Dujon Sterling and Kieran Dowell had hardly featured before he came in to Ibrox and now they are all contributing greatly on the pitch.  

But the 49-year-old will not accept any dip in standards when his team return to action after the winter break with a Scottish Cup game against Dumbarton away a fortnight on Saturday.

“I am still curious,” he said. “I am happy that people speak now about the potential of this team. Eleven weeks ago, I hear a lot of people saying there was not potential enough in this team to do what Rangers needs to do.  

 “So it is positive that so many players are growing, and that is what I want to see. I will keep a close eye, together with my staff, on the players who are staying ambitious, the players who are pushing. There are a lot of good examples in that way.  

 “You have a young lad Ross who was just in the academy and now he is playing really regular in the first team because he is performing. Kieran and Dijon Sterling are now playing in other positions. They have done that for the team, or else they wouldn’t play.” 

The Herald: Clement was bitterly disappointed that his 16 game unbeaten run as Rangers manager came to an end against Celtic at Parkhead at the weekend. But he was pleased with the response to the painful 2-1 reverse against Kilmarnock at Ibrox on Tuesday afternoon.

He was particularly pleased with the performance of playmaker Todd Cantwell, who came in for heavy criticism from supporters following his subdued display in the East End of Glasgow, in the 3-1 triumph.

The Englishman pitched in with the third goal before being replaced by Nicolas Raskin late on.    

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“I think this team is in a really good way,” he said. “The dressing room also. The atmosphere every day within the building, with the training, the ambition in the training.

“Now, after our first defeat, which we knew would come one day, the reaction was how I wanted it. We looked at what we had to do to make good, to analyse what went wrong and what we could do better. And then we reacted directly on the pitch again and left everything behind.  

“It’s difficult to single out one player. It’s a total story and every player has his own working points. It’s my job and the job of the staff to point them out and work on that with them. 

“But I am happy with the evolution Todd is making. I prefer to take him out in the 87th minute instead of the 37thminute. I told him that when he came off. He found it funny.”