LIKE so many people in the British game at the time, Bob Malcolm had a preconceived notion about what Kevin Muscat was like both as a player and as a person when the defender joined Rangers back in 2002.

He thought that Muscat, the ex-Crystal Palace and Wolves centre half cum right back who arrived in Govan on a free transfer, was a stone-cold psycho who cynically scythed down opponents.

Malcolm was certainly aware he was a controversial individual who had been branded “a lowlife” and “a nobody” as well as “the most hated man in football” by some of those he had come up against in the past.

Yet, the Scot, who struck up a friendship with the Australian internationalist which endures to this day driving him in to training at Auchenhowie every morning, quickly discovered that notorious reputation did his team mate a gross disservice.

READ MORESteven Davis breaks Rangers silence over interim role

“He was an all-round top guy and a great footballer as well,” he said yesterday after being asked to recall what training and playing with Muscat, who has been installed as the bookmaker’s favourite to take over from Michael Beale as Rangers manager, was like.

“I personally don’t think he ever got the credit which he really deserved as a player. People had this perception of him as a headcase because of some of his tackles or whatever.

“He certainly loved a tackle, but he never once went out to try and deliberately hurt anybody. He just wanted to win the ball and at that time you could take the ball and the man. When he had the opportunity to do that he would. But he was still a great player.

“He was good with the ball at his feet and was an excellent passer. He was vocal as well, he had an opinion. He had been captain at a few of his clubs. But sometimes you don’t need an armband to be a captain. That is an old school thing. He was a real leader.”

Glasgow Times: That Muscat, who helped Rangers win the League Cup, Premier Division and Scottish Cup and complete their seventh and to date last domestic treble during the solitary season that he spent in this country, has moved in to management since retiring from playing and enjoyed many noteworthy successes both in Australia and Japan has not come as a surprise to Malcolm. 

“You could sense that he was guy who would move into coaching,” he said. “When I was in Australia with Brisbane Roar later in my career, he was the player-assistant coach at Melbourne Victory under Ernie Merrick. He just rolled into it, it was natural for him. 

“He has taken his approach to playing into management. He has a style of play that works for him as well. At that time in Australia, a lot of clubs had a Dutch mentality and Victory played with a 4-3-3. Since then, he has developed that.

“His sides probably play a way that is not greatly dissimilar to how Celtic played under Ange Postecoglou. But Kevin also knows that, as much as you want to be going forward, you need to defend as well.

“He did as well as he could in Australia and went over to Japan and took over Yokohama F Marinos. He has done great there. They have won the J1 League and the Japanese Super Cup despite not having the biggest budget. He has done a fantastic job.”

READ MOREHas Michael Beale weakened Rangers with his Ibrox recruitment?

The prospect of Muscat succeeding Beale, who was sacked on Sunday in the wake of the dire 3-1 cinch Premiership defeat to Aberdeen at Ibrox, has not been particularly well received by Rangers supporters.

However, Malcolm, who is taking a break from coaching just now as he recovers from an ankle replacement operation and who attends every home game as a fan with his son, believes it would be a shrewd move by the Glasgow giants’ board. 

“I would 100 per cent approve of Kevin being appointed,” he said. “We need a manager who is going to come in and make big decisions and I think somebody like Kevin wouldn’t have any qualms about doing that.

“For me as a Rangers fan, taking away the fact I am friends with him, that is what I want, somebody who is going to put his heart and soul into the job, not just pick up the pay packet.

Glasgow Times: “He knows the expectations of the fans, he knows he needs to win every game. I don’t see why he wouldn’t be, at the very least, somebody worth speaking to.

“Listen, Kevin is enjoying the job he is in just now and might not want to come to Rangers. But he might want to speak to them, hear what the situation is and listen to what they want to do going forward.”

Malcolm, who won every honour in the Scottish game during the 12 years that he spent at his boyhood heroes, believes it is vital that Rangers bring in an experienced manager, not just a talented coach, when they replace Beale.

READ MORESteven Gerrard reunites with Rangers colleague at Al-Ettifaq

“When Steven Gerrard was the manager, Michael Beale was the coach and everything was done through him,” he said. “Going into management was the next step for him, but it hasn’t really worked out for him. When you are a manager, you need to trust your backroom staff. He brought them in, but I don’t know if he did that.

“The vibe I got was that he took training himself and the backroom staff were there to back him up. When you are the manager of a club the size of Rangers you need to step back and have faith in your staff to take the sessions. That is what great managers in the past, Alex McLeish, Walter Smith, Dick Advocaat, all did.

“Gerrard as well. He lifted the club up single-handedly with his force of personality and presence as much as anything. He had played under great managers and had the experience of seeing how they operated. He knew how to do that himself. 

“The way he handled Alfredo Morelos when he was getting sent off all the time for needless fouls and wasn’t acting as professionally as he could off the park showed that. He didn’t play him. It didn’t matter that he was the best striker, when he acted like an idiot and did stupid things he didn’t play.

“Beale may have been able to put on a training session that was different class, but there is a lot more to being a good manager than that. There is a big difference to being good coach.”

Glasgow Times: Malcolm added: “The Rangers directors have to realise that there is a totally different pressure at Ibrox. You need to win every game. Beale did well at QPR and they are a big English Championship club in London.

“But it is acceptable for them to win a few, draw a couple and lose a couple. That isn’t acceptable at Rangers. To lose three league games in seven is just not good enough.

“I am sure he had big hopes and thought the players he brought in would be able to challenge for the title. Listen, they still might. But they looked like a dejected bunch on Saturday. I didn’t see much fight there.

“Apart from Jack Butland, I don’t see any leaders out there. I don’t see anyone grabbing people and giving them a boot up the a***. There was an acceptance of their fate. 

“I am sure Beale will be a great manager in the future, but I think the Rangers job maybe came too early for him.

“I probably look at the matches in different ways to every other supporter. I probably look at them from a coaching perspective. At the moment, I don’t see an identity, a way that we are trying to play. That is the disappointing thing for me.”