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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Aidan Smith

Kenny Miller urges Cyriel Dessers to step up at Rangers before it is too late

Kenny Miller has urged Cyriel Dessers to keep his head down at Rangers, insisting the response to his big miss against Celtic will make or break his Ibrox career.

The Nigerian striker has come under fire for his performances since moving to Gers in the summer, with consistency levels far from the required level.

In glimpses, Dessers has shown that he could be a valuable asset to Rangers, but after suffering a nightmare miss against rivals Celtic before the turn of the year, the pressure is now on for the 29-year-old to produce the goods.

And Miller, who bagged 111 goals in 291 matches during his two spells at Ibrox, now feels the frontman has to step up before he is ultimately shifted out by manager Philippe Clement with replacements coming in.

Reflecting on Dessers’ big miss against Celtic, Miller explained: “Listen, he has had a tough run since he came to the club. He is only six months into his Rangers career so it’s still early. He had a big opportunity to convince a few people about him, and he was in good form going into the game against Celtic.

“He had scored a few goals going into it, and the one in Seville against Betis was outstanding. And a big goal as well. So you were hoping that would have turned the corner for him.

“And it isn’t to say he can do that. He missed a chance. That it. But it is unfortunate it was in a big game, and a big game Rangers didn’t win. When that happens - as a forward - he would be looking back on that, still be thinking about it.

“I can recall misses over the course of my career that I still think about now…even though they were 10 years ago. Those big opportunities in the big games that you don’t take where your team eventually don’t win, you always think about them.

“He has to keep at it and that’s one thing he has done. He has put the head down and been there, and he has had to be with no-one else to play up front at the moment. He has had to carry the can for that, whether he has been good, bad or indifferent. You have to give him credit for that as well and it isn’t to say he can’t turn the corner.”

Asked if the miss will be playing on Dessers’ mind, Miller continued: “Until the next one comes around. And you put it to rest. That’s it. There has been lots of talk about him but he is there, he is always there to be shot at, and takes the stick. You are hoping it turns.

“And if it doesn’t there is a transfer window we are in now and the manager has already signed another striker. That brings competition and that is what big clubs need.

“You can’t hide. The only way to deal with it is to keep putting yourself out there and try and be in the right position to take the chance. Every forward scores goals eventually.

“You can’t afford to hide, you need to keep putting yourself out there, and to be fair to him he’s done that. He’s maybe just taken the big moments. Well, he did that with the way he took that goal in Seville, and lot of people thought ‘right, maybe there is something in here’, and you are just hoping it had turned.

“And it did, I think the fans had a little bit, I don’t think they were on him as much in the moment going into the Old Firm game. But when you don’t take these big chances, you don’t get the result, there is always going to be scrutiny.”

Some have suggested that Dessers may now have had his last match as Rangers' first-choice striker with the club actively recruiting for new attackers in the January transfer window.

But Miller insists you can’t pin the Celtic performance on setting him back in his Gers career.

“I don’t think you can say that, because you don’t know,” he said. “It never set me back, it didn’t bother me, you have to keep going and going until the next one. I don’t think you can say that because you can't pigeonhole into the same mindset. Everyone is different. How he responds to it we’ll see.”

Miller also feels that Rangers are still well in the Scottish Premiership title race despite their defeat to Celtic on December 30.

Brendan Rodgers’ side moved eight points clear at the top of the table with the victory, but Clement’s Govan outfit still have two games in hand, which could close the gap to just two points.

Miller explained: “I think it is there to be won, for either team. When Philippe Clement there was a lot of work to be done and I think any kind of hurdles he has had to overcome or boxes to be ticked, he’s done that.

“He has the chance to close the gap right up with the two games in hand - though you can’t take anything for granted these points are automatic and would much rather have them in the bag.

“But the general consensus is the gap has been closed with the points available, the League Cup has been won, the Europa League group has been topped and he has got more out of the group. Which he had to with three months before a transfer window came around.

“He had to get more out of the group while winning. Apart from that blip at Celtic Park, he has come through with flying colours with 18 games with one defeat. There is no doubt he has managed to get that response from the team that potentially was missing before he came in.

“Listen, he has done fantastic. I think the best thing I could say is that he seems to have created a better feel about the place. There is definitely a better feel within the stadium and within the fans.

“The players look as if they have a bit more belief and a bit more confidence and that is what a manager’s job is. Don’t underestimate it. For me, coming in with the group and what they had been showing up until that moment, the first two or three months could be his toughest.

“But he has come through it, he has sailed through it. He has done it with a smile on his face. He has done it with standards, with demands, saying the right thing, not getting complacent and being hungry for more success.

“As he said after the League Cup final. He’s done everything he needed to do and it will be an interesting January to see where he goes from there.”

Miller has also been hugely impressed by the impact of winger Ross McCausland who has broken through and kept a regular spot in Clement’s team.

The 20-year-old’s performances for Rangers meant he was rewarded with a full Northern Ireland international cap and Miller now feels he is a hugely important asset to the team.

He added: “He’s been great. He had four, five appearances from the bench and every time he came on an impacted from the bench. And then from that he has done something that not many from that position have done at Rangers in recent years: he has grasped his chance and nailed down his place.

“He has come in and took his chance, deserves to be playing, and in my opinion is the best option at the club in that area of the pitch. At the moment. It is great as everybody likes to see young players coming in. Can you rely on him moving forward to go and win leagues and things? Time will tell.

“But listen I don’t think he has had a bad game since he has come in. Yes, he has had games when he’s not been maybe as effective but he has always been working hard, been positive and direct.

“He is a good ball carrier, which is something Rangers have maybe not had for a while. For a 20-year-old lad to come in, it is a big responsibility. Particularly when it wasn’t a great moment. But the manager obviously sees him every days and knows he can go and nail that slot.

“It will be interesting to see over the January if there is another player signed for in there how it will affect him. Will it push him on? How does he respond? These are all challenges that younger players have to overcome because at some point he will come out the team. It is about how he responds to that and whether he comes back stronger. But listen, at this moment in time he has that jersey and someone has to take it off him.”

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