Rankin excited about title challenge with local club Clyde

John Rankin in action for Clyde during the Betfred Cup tie with Motherwell (pic by Craig Black Photography)
John Rankin in action for Clyde during the Betfred Cup tie with Motherwell (pic by Craig Black Photography)

John Rankin has packed plenty into his career over the years - but this season is set to bring him a completely new challenge.

The 35-year-old midfielder has never been part of team going into a new season expecting to challenge for the title.

But that’s about to change - and with his local team.

Rankin, from Cumbernauld, is embarking on what may well be his last season after a 15-year senior career which has seen spells with Ross County, Inverness Caley Thistle, Hibernian, Dundee United, Falkirk and Queen of the South.

He said: “It’s a strange one for me because any league I’ve ever been involved in before there’s always been a team that’s got a way bigger budget than anybody else and you know you’re competing for a European place or a top half finish.

“But in League Two the target is promotion and it’s achievable for any team so I don’t seen any reason why we can’t achieve that.

“The manager’s assembled a good squad, but every team has and it’s just about starting the season on a good run.

“Last season the boys just fell a wee bit short near the end but if we can get that form right from the off it gives you something huge to build on and a platform to go and cement a real good challenge.”

Last shot at glory

Rankin acknowledges this could be his last season as a senior pro - and therefore his last chance to land a championship medal.

He said: “This is the first time I’ve ever played part-time football. I came out of the full-time circuit because I got offered a full-time coaching role which was too good to turn down and at that point I was going to find it difficult to play.

“But when I spoke to Danny and the chairman and the board it became really appealing. Being a local boy I wanted the challenge and to try to achieve something.

“I spend a lot of time at Broadwood with my kids, even in the gym myself, so to be able to do that for the last part of my playing career - and my employer was quite happy for me to continue to play, which was great - I really wanted to play one more season and then we’ll think about it at the end of that.

“It excited me and to be 35 and be excited by something that someone’s put in front of you when you’ve never really experienced part-time football before, I thought that’s something I want to try.”

Pre-season confidence

Rankin believes there’s plenty of positives the Bully Wee can take from their Betfred Cup efforts into the League Two campaign which kicks off on Saturday with the visit of Cowdenbeath to Broadwood.

He said: “I’ve been involved in many pre-seasons where you can have a really good pre-season and then start the season and it’s really poor, or a really poor pre-season and the complete opposite when it starts.

“But I thought the boys have been gelling together.

“Against Edinburgh City we were quite disappointing, we huffed and puffed and nothing really fell for us.

“The Queen of the South game I wasn’t involved in, but against Stranraer I thought that was an impressive performance, especially away from home. We looked comfortable, we looked tidy, aggressive, hungry - especially on the break.

“Against Motherwell, and top flight opposition, I thought for 75 to 80 minutes we matched them until the full-time part came in.

“They have extra time to work on things and that wee bit extra in their locker and near the end that told.

“But it was a decent performance and one you look to build on in the weeks coming up.

“It’s a Scottish mindset when you’re playing against a team two or three leagues above you you let them have the ball.

“But we handled it pretty well. The manager’s game plan went pretty well. Against Stranraer we stuck to the same system and shape and even although it was Motherwell we didn’t do it any differently.

“Just before half-time I thought we were the dominant force and if anyone was going to score a second it was ourselves.

“But they’ve just got that extra bit of quality and can bring in players that have got a lot of experience and it changes it.

“You look at the full pre-season, and I include the Betfred Cup in it, the boys will take great confidence.

“We matched Motherwell for a good 80 minutes and that’s something you build on and something that can only stand us in good stead. I know a lot of teams from our division did reasonably well in the group stages but definitely for ourselves it’s good for confidence, for the younger ones.

“Not only that but we’ve played four or five different formations throughout the group stage, so there’s definitely some the manager has assembled that can be adaptable.”

Helping youngsters

Rankin hopes his experience can play a part in helping to develop some of younger players at Clyde.

And he’s only too well aware of the momentum they built up under Lennon in the second half of last season - something he hopes they can pick up again in the weeks and months ahead.

He said: “At the end of the season you’re looking at results throughout Scottish football and saying ‘Clyde’s won again’ and it’s something the players get in their minds.

“There’s no better feeling than when you turn up before you actually get stripped you know you’re going to win.

“That’s the kind of mentality that the big clubs have and at that stage of the season last year it looked as if that’s what the boys had.

“You look to get into a good run and build a bit of momentum. If we can do that at the beginning and get points on the board. I think our home form is crucial, if we can get a good few results at home hopefully we can mount a challenge.

“Helping younger players is something I’ve always done, no matter what club I’ve been at. A lot of young boys that I’ve played with have gone on to massive things and sometimes you think ‘wow, how did they get there?’ when I played with them only three or four years ago.

“But they always had the ability, it was just about having the belief and being able to fine tune it and they worked hard and did so.

“I’ve had the privilege of working with some really good youngsters over the years and hopefully I will do again this season.”