THERE was, as the defeat to Celtic at Parkhead at the end of last month underlined, a need for Rangers manager Philippe Clement to strengthen his squad during the January transfer window before Abdallah Sima suffered his injury.

Yet, the loss of the Sima, who Clement yesterday confirmed will be out ‘long-term” at his pre-match press conference ahead of the cinch Premiership encounter with Hibernian at Easter Road tonight, has increased that necessity.

The Belgian expressed confidence that another one of his players will step up and fill the considerable void left by the Senegalese forward in the coming weeks. However, it is undeniable he will miss his second highest scorer both at home and abroad in the weeks and months ahead.

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He has brought in Portuguese striker Fabio Silva from Wolves on loan and should complete the signing of Mohamed Diomonde from Nordsjaelland in Denmark imminently even if he was unwilling to talk about the Ivorian midfielder at Auchenhowie yesterday.

But losing the left-sided Brighton loanee, who has been sent home from the African Cup of Nations in the Ivory Coast by his country after suffering an unspecified injury during training, for the foreseeable future is a hammer blow. The 22-year-old has netted no fewer than 15 goals in all competitions.

Clement conceded that he and his colleagues in the recruitment department may need to rethink their strategy before the window closes a week tomorrow. “It (the loss of Sima) is something we need to take into account of course,” he said. “We will discuss that.”

The Herald: Rangers have made undoubted progress since the former Genk, Club Brugge and Monaco manager was appointed back in October – they have drawn nearer to Celtic in the Premiership, lifted the Viaplay Cup and qualified for the last 16 of the Europa League.

However, their manager appreciates they need to improve even further in order to depose their city rivals as Scottish champions come May and confessed that he will not be entirely optimistic about the second half of the 2023/24 campaign if they fail to add more fresh faces.

Asked if he would be content and confident if no more new recruits come in, he said: “No. Because that was not the idea of the club. But I am confident that we will do the things that we are all aligned on.

“I’m always confident. If I saw people in the building who were lazy and not working day and night to get our goals and to do what we want to, if I felt the board is not wanting to help, if the investors thought the January market is not important, it would be a different feeling. 

“But I have a feeling everyone is doing their ultimate best to get what we want to get. Is it a guarantee? No, but that’s the case for almost all teams in the world. There are a few with so much money they can do it, but not too many. 

“You see also the transfer market in general started really slow. So I know it’s not an easy market. I see with the people who want to bring in transfers are doing their ultimate best and I see it with my players also. 

“In that way, I’m relaxed. I’m also on top of it because if I see something going down, I’m there also.  I’m confident this club is growing in every sense. There’s a big difference in this building, in every department, from three months ago. If we continue growing like that we will reach our goals.” 

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Clement was far more concerned with Sima yesterday. He knows exactly how the man who has become a firm favourite with Rangers fans since moving to Glasgow in the summer is feeling just now having been through the same experience as a player himself.

He was left out of the Belgium squad for the World Cup in Japan and South Korea back in 2002 after helping his national team to qualify for the finals after suffering an injury in the final game of the season.

“It is a big blow having an injury like that when you are representing your country in an important tournament and going out,” he said. “I know those feelings. Been there, done that. So I have told him.

“We played the last game before the World Cup, a cup final with Brugge, and I got a tear in my hamstring. It was a serious injury. It was complicated because it was three weeks before the team went to the tournament.

“The national coach was there so we talked afterwards. He told me, ‘If you can run in two weeks I will take you, even if you have to miss the first two games’. But at the end of the two weeks I could do that and he didn’t take me to the World Cup. That was a double blow.

“But afterwards he announced he would become the coach of Standard (Liege) and he took a Standard player to the World Cup. The pieces of the puzzle fell together. It was a big blow to me. I know these situations. It is about how you react as a person. You can stay disappointed and stay down, but it doesn’t help you. You need to look forward.”

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Clement added: “It made me stronger afterwards, but at the moment itself it was a big blow. It is like you fall in a black hole. I have always been a positive person so I worked really hard to be back for the next season and to play a good season and I had maybe one of the best seasons in my career out of that motivation.

The Herald: “It is important in life. Everybody gets blows and disappointments, but the most important thing is how you react in those moments. Abda will be somebody like that. He has the right mentality.

“I have to say he was more positive than I expected when I spoke to him. Abda is someone with a really strong mind and a really positive hardworking person. Of course he is disappointed, but he is already looking forward to working hard and coming back as fast as possible.

“I have genuine concern about my players. They are like my children. It is the same with players I had before. I still have a lot of contact with players from Brugge or from Genk or from Beveren or Monaco. If I see they have a difficult period I will pick up my phone also. I think it is normal if you have that relationship that you support each other.”

Clement will find out exactly how long Sima will be unavailable for today. However, he is confident the player will be available for selection before his loan agreement ends. “I expect he will be back this season,” he said.