THE Aberdeen fans who will file through the turnstiles at Ibrox this evening will be optimistic of seeing an immediate upturn in form due to the arrival of the vastly-experienced and straight-talking Neil Warnock as interim manager.

Philippe Clement, whose Rangers team will leapfrog Celtic into top spot in the cinch Premiership table if they beat their Pittodrie rivals by three goals, has high expectations for his opposite number as well.

He is hoping that Warnock is bolder than a few of his top flight counterparts, is eager for his players to go on the offensive and entertain their supporters, is unprepared for his charges to sit back, defend in numbers and try and score on the counter attack.

The Belgian confessed he has been disappointed by the negative approach taken by many of the sides he has faced domestically since he moved to Scotland back in October as he picked up the Glen’s Manager of the Month for January award at Auchenhowie.

It is maybe no surprise that Clement made his comments in the wake of the league encounter with Livingston in Govan at the weekend. The bottom-placed Almondvale club failed to register a single shot on target or win a corner in a game they lost 3-0. They also had just two touches of the ball in the opposition box during the course of the 90 minutes.

Clement, though, knows the relegation-threatened West Lothian outfit are by no means alone. 

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“For me, what I want for Scottish football is that managers who are coming in are brave to play,” he said. “I think there is still a step to make there. I see moments when teams can play better football than they are showing because they are sometimes afraid to do it.

The Herald: “I see in the warm-up sometimes how they are built, how they are technically. Then I don’t see it in the game. I think afterwards it is a little bit of a pity. There is still a step to make. It is probably better than maybe 10 years ago or something. But there is still a step to make I think. There are teams who do things and then there are teams who are afraid to do it.”

Cynics will claim that it is, with the vastly superior budget which he has to work with, easy for Clement to be critical of a manager being cautious and suggest that if he was in charge of a team that was playing Rangers he would do exactly the same thing.

The 49-year-old, however, stressed that he has never “parked the bus” in his coaching career. Not when he was starting out in with Waasland-Beveren and Genk in his homeland. Not when he was in charge of Club Brugge and they were facing European behemoths and Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid in the Champions League group stages.

“I know that people sometimes say it is not possible,” he said. “I had it my first weeks at Waasland-Beveren when I started. My players came to say, ‘Coach, we cannot do that’. But if you train on it, if you work on it, at this level I think they all can do it, to play more instead of only reacting.

“I need to go really far back, but I don’t think I ever did it really. Not with Brugge in Madrid or against Paris Saint-Germain or those clubs. But those are choices for clubs to make, it is not my job to change football in other clubs.”

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Clement is unsure what to expect from Aberdeen, who announced yesterday morning that Warnock will take charge of their first team until the end of the 2023/24 campaign, this evening with the 75-year-old at the helm. However, he did admit he was impressed that someone who is in his eighth decade is still working at such a high level.

“Aberdeen have a good team, they have a lot of qualities,” he said. “For me, they are top three, top four in quality out of all the squads in the league.

“I don’t know what we will get. We are ready for every scenario. When a new manager comes in, maybe they put a bus on the 16 and wait for a transition and set pieces, maybe they press high, maybe they try to build from the back. We need to be ready for everything. That is our job.

The Herald: “I always admire people who want to do this job because I know how time consuming it is and how much work they put into it. So I always have respect for that. Honestly, I don’t think at 75 I still will do it. I am sure my wife will agree with that.

“But you never know. I started this job as an under-21 coach thinking I would do it for the next 30 or 40 years and it went another way. I know already out of my life and all of the experiences in my life that planning that long-term is not good.

“Just enjoy the day and go full in every day. That is how I live now, every day to give the best of myself for my club, for my team, for my staff, for my players and for my family. Then we will see.”

Clement, whose team drew with Aberdeen at Pittodrie in the Premiership back in November and then beat them in the Viaplay Cup final at Hampden in December, knows the visitors tonight will be fired up regardless of who is giving the pre-match team talk because of the intensity of their rivalry with Rangers. 

“You feel it more from the Aberdeen side, that they’re really up for this game,” he said. “We’ve seen that they’ve taken four points out of six against Rangers. They won the first game, then got a draw in the next. So you see the extra motivation. Okay, that is what it is. We need to focus on ourselves.”