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STEVEN GERRARD was forced on the back foot yesterday after denying claims that he said his Rangers side were on the brink of a title triumph — but insisted the Ibrox side are willing to put up a fight.
Former Gers striker and TV pundit Andy Gray was quoted on Tuesday suggesting Gerrard had made that bold prediction when they met after Sunday’s friendly trouncing of Marseille.
Gray said the former Liverpool skipper had informed him that he he was “absolutely convinced there’s a title in” his Rangers side and that could happen “this year.”
But the Ibrox boss issued a strong rebuttal, insisting he would never be so rash to make such bold claims before a season has even got under way.
“I’m not sure where that’s come from because I’ve never spoken to Andy Gray about winning the league,” he said. “That’s never come out of my mouth.
“I had a conversation with Andy after the game about Qatar and the World Cup. We spoke about certain areas in Qatar for us to maybe try for a pre-season or winter break.
“Those were the only two topics on the conversation. I never spoke to Andy Gray about winning the league.
“I don’t think I’m naive enough to say anything like that to anyone.
“What I will say if people bring up that topic up is that we are prepared to put up a fight and challenge.
“We are always respectful to other teams that we are up against and the situation up here over the last few years.
“I just don’t think there is any need before a ball is kicked to say something like that.
“All I can say is I categorically deny that came out of my mouth.
“We are confident, we’ve got belief. We believe we’ve progressed and the squad is a lot stronger. We want to put up the best challenge we can and I’ll back my players.
“But I won’t be making any rash or bold or naive comments before a ball is kicked. I don’t think it’s necessary.”
The title battle does not get under way for another two-and-half weeks, so Gers’ focus remains on their Europa League qualifiers for now.
And with his side boasting a 4-0 lead from last week’s first-leg win over St Joseph’s, Gerrard will make use of his the extra options he has this summer by making changes to the team that triumphed in Gibraltar ahead of tomorrow’s Ibrox return.
Jon Flanagan is still out with a hernia problem while new signing Filip Helander remains short on fitness, but Scott Arfield could return.
“It’s not a temptation to make changes — it will happen,” he said. “The team will look different tomorrow.
“It gives me an opportunity to give people a chance out there.
“I’m looking for individuals to show me they can play in our system and our way and show they’re up to fight for a shirt.
“We’ve got a lot of numbers in terms of the squad and I want people to show they want to fight for a jersey all the time. So it’s a chance for those picked to play tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Gerrard has continued trimming his “bloated” squad, with Eduardo Herrera extending his Club Necaxa loan for another six months, while Ryan Hardie has joined Blackpool for an undisclosed fee.
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