Philippe Clement runs the Rangers injury numbers in Celtic contrast as boss doubles down on defiant stance

Defiant Rangers boss Philippe Clement insists he doesn’t have to mind the gap when it comes to chasing Celtic.

And he’s adamant that with a fully fit squad, his Ibrox side are more than a match for Brendan Rodgers’ champions-elect. The big Belgian bristled at suggestions his side have some serious catching up to do after allowing their arch-enemies to saunter off towards yet another title triumph. The meetings between them have been tight alright this season, with Saturday’s derby seeing Celtic edge to their third narrow, single-goal victory this term following last month’s 3-3 Ibrox classic.

But when you examine a larger sample size, the evidence suggests Rangers’ record against their city neighbours is trending towards a gulf the width of the Clyde. Three wins in the last 15 derby battles hardly tells the story of a club competing at the same level as Celtic. Clement, though, is perfectly entitled to point out he’s only been in charge of three of those encounters.

And the Rangers boss insists it's harsh to judge him when he’s had his hands tied by injuries. “For me, there is no gap,” he insisted. “If we are both with our full squads, there is no gap.

“A few weeks ago everyone said there was no gap. In points, there was also no gap because we niggled back seven points and we went longer in Europe.

“So when there’s full squads, there is no gap. But when you are missing nine players, it’s a big thing. I heard a lot when Celtic were missing two players and it made a big difference. And it was a big difference when they came back.

“So of course missing nine makes a big difference. Even with two losses and a draw [against Celtic], we have one point more I think in the last six months. No. There is not a big gap.

"But we need to prove that on the pitch and in the results against each other and in the other games also because it is not just against each other. We need to grab those moments.

“That is part of top football. If you score the first goal you have another scenario, another dynamic of the game.

“For sure in this game, it would have been different. We had this chance also to do that, we had two good ones to score the first goal. You need to take that moment, it is our responsibility to do it.”

Clement’s responsibility now is to pick this team and its supporter base up off the floor and cajole a response from them, first a week on Saturday when they take on Celtic again in the Scottish Cup Final and then when next season’s challenges come around.

Clement has scope to make changes with a string of first-team stars heading out of contract. Others, though, will need moving on having lost once and for any remaining trust the Rangers faithful had in them.

Clement knows the fans’ faith has been pushed to breaking point and said: “I understand that. And there is only one way [to fix it], that is working extremely hard to make things better. I can tell the fans that people are doing that here, and that we are working really hard to make things better and to change the situation.

“As I said, having that many players out in big parts of the season, and also in the years before, we are going to change that. That is going to also be a major part in recruitment in that way.

“I know fans, they want to see things on the field. They see already a team that keeps on digging in, so that was also one of the concerns in the beginning of the season, that they didn’t fight for the colours, didn’t fight for the team.

“That was not the case in the last couple of months. We had that one game at Ross County, but in all the rest they have been working hard. But we need to still show more quality to make the next step, and everybody is working hard on that.”

Stopping Celtic was a task that gobbled up Gio van Bronckhorst and then mauled Michael Beale. But Clement is undaunted by the job ahead of him next season.

“Because I see what has happened in the last couple of months,” he said. “I'm very disappointed about the result, of course. But I know what happened in the last couple of months.

“I know what people in the building are doing here now to make this club better. And we agree about a lot of things.

“We have had a lot of decisions around that and I feel that this is a club that the board and the people in the building all want to work hard to make things better. And things will become better.

“It’s not like I am determined more than ever because I was really determined when I first stepped in the building.

“It’s just the same. But then, you can say more determined in the way that I know the people inside the building better than when I stepped in. And that is a big thing. You know how the fans are.

“They have been sticking behind the team these last couple of months after a disappointing few months. It’s about working hard together to make this club more and more successful.

“Every fan of Rangers knows that we want the best for the club. That we want to work hard for this club. That we want to give our lives for this club, to make it better again.

“But Rome was not built in one day. We need a lot of work here after a lot of work that has been done already in the last couple of months. We still have a way to go but I can promise the fans I will work every minute that I am awake to make their dreams come true."