NACHO Novo supplied the goal that clinched the Scottish title for Rangers on “Helicopter Sunday” in 2005, coolly slotted home the penalty that took the Ibrox club through to the UEFA Cup final in 2008 and netted a long-range volley that won the Scottish Cup in 2009.

So it is fair to say the Spaniard is well placed to assess whether a striker can lead the line for the Glasgow giants and provide the cutting edge in the final third that is required to land silverware in Scotland and triumph in Europe.

He believes Kemar Roofe, who scored a hat-trick in the 4-0 victory over cinch Premiership strugglers St Mirren in Paisley on Sunday, is more than capable of doing both and is convinced Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side can enjoy a hugely successful season at home and abroad as a result.

Glasgow Times:

Novo has been baffled by the criticism which has been aimed in Roofe’s direction since Alfredo Morelos suffered the thigh injury that is going to sideline him for the remainder of the 2021/22 campaign.

Fans and pundits have argued the Jamaican internationalist lacks the physicality required to play as a lone striker in a 4-3-3 formation and called for Van Bronckhorst to alter his set-up and tactics to give the former Leeds United and Anderlecht player greater support.

However, the Rangers Hall of Fame member disagrees and expects the £4.5m signing to be a key man in the Europa League quarter-final second leg tie against Braga at Ibrox on Thursday, Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic at Hampden on Sunday and in the remaining five Premiership matches. 

“Roofe is a great player,” he said yesterday at a Premier Sports media event to promote their coverage of the Scottish Cup semi-finals.  

“Morelos will be a big miss as he is one of the best players in the team. Since he has come to Rangers he is getting better and better every year. But he is injured now and Roofe has to prove he can play every game and score goals. I think it will be good for him to get the chance to show he can be Rangers No1 striker.

“He is always in the right place and he showed that against St Mirren on Sunday. For his first two goals on Sunday he found a yard of space inside the area and he is so clever. It’s a difficult thing to do, but he found that area and he knew where the ball was going to be and showed he knows where the goal is.

“Does it take games to get up to sharpness? It can do, but I think it is up to the player to show they are ready when needed. I have been there myself and it can be difficult not playing, but it’s up to you to be fit and sharp.

“I believe if you are training full-time every single day and you push yourself to the limit then you are good to go when the manager needs you. He has shown what he can do so I don’t think he needs time. It will be interesting to see what he can do, but I believe in him 100 per cent.”

Novo added: “Morelos is a totally different player to Kemar. But I think he can play wherever he wants to. He’s good through the middle or on the wing. If he is up front on his own, he needs to have that support coming from midfield.

“Ryan Kent is playing well again and impacting games. The players will know where Roofe likes to receive the ball and his movements after working with him. Joe Aribo is another who will need to create chances for Kemar to score more goals.

“For me, I think Roofe is the main man right now. You can see his movement and he will create chances with that. He still has to put them away, but his goal return is good. Now we will see on Thursday and Sunday what he can do. They are two massive games for Rangers and their season.”

Novo helped Rangers bounce back from a 2-1 defeat in the final Old Firm game of the 2004/05 season at Ibrox that left them five points behind Celtic in the Premier League with just four games remaining and lift the Scottish title on the final day.

He was bitterly disappointed that Van Bronckhorst’s men were beaten at home by Ange Postecoglou’s leaders by an identical scoreline earlier this month – but he is convinced James Tavernier and his team mates can still retain their trophy.  

“The league title race isn’t over,” he said. “You never know what can happen. It’s happened before and the team can still win it mathematically. They have to take it game by game and win them and see what Celtic can do.

“They have Europe, the semi-final as well as the league but that’s what you want at a club like Rangers. You want to be involved in the big games in as many competitions as possible. That’s how it should be at Rangers and they should try to win everything.”

“As soon as I signed for Rangers I remember Sandy Jardine gave me a wee book. It was all about the values of the club. It was incredible, it showed you the mentality of the players, how it needed to be. It was basically that Rangers need to win every game.

“Sometimes you can’t. Celtic will obviously be the same. But the mentality has to be win, win, win. I loved playing with that pressure, that was the values of the club - win every time you play.”

Rangers have dropped vital Premiership points after big European games on four occasions this season and Novo can remember how a hectic schedule of matches at the end of the 2007/08 campaign contributed to them missing out on the Scottish title.

But Novo feels Van Bronckhorst’s team should go all out for victory in all three competitions they are still involved in and is hopeful they can surpass the achievements of the Walter Smith side he was a member of.

“It happened to us when we went to Manchester,” he said. “It was the first year where we played so many games. We played 68 games.  This was tough, we were going the full length of all the competitions. Maybe there was a bit of fatigue, but that can’t be an excuse, there are no excuses.

“You have to deal with it. We won together and we lost together. We just wanted to prove yourself and I think Rangers have a good chance of doing that in the next few games.

“They are all good memories and memories that will die with me. I really enjoyed my time, but now I want Rangers to progress and be the best they can be in the league, in Europe and the Scottish Cup. Hopefully they can make something special that’s even better than the team I was part of.”


Nacho Novo was promoting exclusively live Premier Sports coverage of Celtic v Rangers this Sunday from 1pm Premier Sports is available on Sky, Virgin TV and the Premier Player from £9.99 per month, and on Amazon Prime as an add-on subscription.