THE Rangers supporters who will flock to Ibrox in their thousands this evening will be fully expecting to see their on-form heroes record an emphatic Scottish Cup victory over the Ayr United side managed by former Celtic captain Scott Brown. 

They will doubtless enjoy baiting Brown, who became their No 1 hate figure during his time as a player at Parkhead, every bit as much as watching their team in action in the Scottish Gas-sponsored competition.

The Glasgow giants’ manager Philippe Clement, though, will approach the fifth round tie against the Championship outfit tonight with a sense of trepidation.

Rangers have undergone a remarkable transformation since he took over back in October – they have lifted the Viaplay Cup, topped their Europa League group and moved closer to their city rivals in the cinch Premiership.

READ MORERangers boss Clement fires Brown quip ahead of Ayr United clash

The Belgian, though, knows full well that cup upsets can and do happen. He noted that his former club Monaco were knocked out of the French Cup on penalties earlier this week by fourth tier Rouen. And he has personally overseen surprise results in the past. 

“I was involved with a shock for sure with a smaller team,” he said. “My first trophy ever was with Genk against Club Brugge.

“I went to Genk when they were in the second division, we won promotion and then the next year we finished eighth. We qualified for Europe in the Intertoto Cup which was amazing as everyone expected us to be relegated right away.

“The next season we finished second and won the Belgian Cup by beating Brugge in the final, just two years after being in the second division. Brugge had finished that season as easy champions in the league and everyone expected them to win the final also. But we won it 4-0.

The Herald: “Before the game there was a team picture. Brugge was with just the 11 players. But we took our photo with about 20 players and all the staff, everybody involved. That was the atmosphere and feeling in our group. It was just a nice trip to have a great experience in the national stadium for the first time. So I know what that is like.

“It’s always challenging. It’s about showing quality, mentality and respect. The best example was Thursday night. Monaco went out of the club against a second division side. These are not things I want to see happening here.”

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Clement is well aware of how successful Brown, who took over at Somerset Park last month, was in the East End of Glasgow and how reviled the former Scotland midfielder is in Govan as a consequence. But he is only concerned with Rangers performing at their very best and progressing to the quarter-finals.

“I know him as he was a very good player,” he said. “But I’m not busy with public enemies or things like that. We are busy with our team, with the game, with playing good football, with winning games in a good way and with qualifying. That’s the most important.

“Everybody who is in this round is just four games away from winning the trophy. It’s not very far. So we have to be focused on that and not all the other things around us as that has nothing to do with us.”

Clement did, however, give a response to Brown’s impish remark about having “a lot of love” for Rangers earlier this week. “I read that he loves Rangers,” he said with a smile. “That can be really good between us also on the sidelines.”

Winning the Premiership and going further in the Europa League are probably of more importance to Rangers directors and fans than lifting the Scottish Cup. The financial rewards are certainly far greater.  

But Clement, who has Ben Davies available for selection again and who may start new signings Oscar Cortes and Mohamed Diomande, is not the kind of individual who will prioritise one competition over another. He is well aware that the Ibrox club, domestically at least, are expected to lift every piece of silverware they challenge for.   

“At the end, it’s about winning the trophies,” he said. “Of course, some competitions are more difficult than others and you need to be realistic about that. Winning the Europa League is more difficult than winning domestic competitions, that’s clear. There is more quality in the other European leagues.

The Herald: “But every trophy we take this season will be very important to us because the club is full of history with a lot of trophies. But it’s not been regular in the last few years. Everybody is working really hard to get back to that situation where we are winning more regularly.”

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Clement was photographed at a restaurant in Ayr this week after having lunch there with his wife – but he dismissed suggestions he had been in the town on a spying mission ahead of the Scottish Cup encounter with United and expressed his surprise his visit had made the headlines.

“My assistant Brian (Gilmour) lives there in the neighbourhood,” he said. “My wife likes to see things in Scotland and Brian said it was nice to go there to see the Burns Museum. It was good, but apparently you cannot move without being in the newspapers!”

Clement knows that if Ayr United beat Rangers in the Scottish Cup at Ibrox tonight it will be front page news and he will do everything in his power to prevent that from happening.