John Lundstram on Rangers criticism, talent and future by Malik Tillman

The points accumulated by the bettors and the press were not shared by the players and the patience shown – both by Tillman and towards Tillman – is currently paying off. However, time will tell if Rangers reap any rewards in the long run.

For now, Michael Beale is certain and Tillman’s influence and clout were once again essential on Saturday at Ibrox. His two goals, one in each half, were the standout moments of a largely unforgettable afternoon and ensured Rangers, under Beale’s guidance, continued their unbeaten Premiership run.

It was only natural that Tillman would be the main topic of conversation after the game. That has been the case on numerous occasions this season, if not always as fervently as on Saturday night or in the few other games in which he has cemented his burgeoning reputation.

CONTINUE READING: John Lundstram makes Rangers ‘stand up and count’ for Celtic

Tillman’s talent was never in question, but there were periods earlier in the campaign when his work output was high. At a club where effort is demanded as non-negotiable, the American drew the wrath of a crowd who didn’t need an invitation to vent their anger as Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side were sad at home and miserable in Europe .

It’s fair to say that Tillman has won the majority and those who were skeptical about securing his services from Bayern Munich beyond the end of the season are now very much in the minority.

John Lundstram did not change camp. After the 4-1 win over Aberdeen in October, he called Tillman “phenomenal” and expressed his desire for people to “stand behind him, lift him up and encourage him” rather than calling for him to be “dropped when he did a bad one.” game has’. A few months later, the Scouser was asked about Tillman again.

“It’s okay to say it now, you all planned him out at the start of the season,” Lundstram said after the win over United. “I remember coming in [to the press room] and say, “He’s a young lad, just give him time”.

“He’s honestly up there with some of the best talent I’ve ever seen. He’s a top, top player.

“You guys give him credit now, but you weren’t so kind at the start of the season. But he’s a top player. Everyone stood by him and he’s showing it now.”

So much of the conversation surrounding Tillman has focused on both his future and his present. Beale has often lavished his praise on the playmaker, while the man himself has spoken appreciatively of what his time at Rangers has done for his career.

Rangers initially refused to sign Tillman in the summer but new Bayern boss Thomas Tuchel will have a say in that scenario. The same goes for the 20-year-old and his representatives and interest is sure to grow from clubs across the continent fully aware of his rise at Ibrox.

Beale was “positive” about the situation on Saturday, highlighting the “fantastic relationship” he has with Tillman. It’s an understanding that has certainly helped the midfielder in terms of his performances and Rangers must now hope it lays the foundation for a future at Ibrox.

“His career is his own, he doesn’t need me to come and tell him what to do,” Lundstram said. “You don’t need a draw to come to this club. The draw is here.

“If he wants to stay, he will. If not, his future is bright.

“Does he look happy out there? Of course he looks happy to me.

HeraldScotland: Rangers' Malik Tillman celebrates after scoring the first goal of the game during the Cinch Scottish Premiership game between Rangers FC and Heart of Midlothian

“I would love for him to stay. It’s his personal choice. It doesn’t really have anything to do with all of us.

“If he stays then that will be great for all of us. If not, then we wish him the best.”

Tillman has emerged as the kind of character Beale could build a team around. The summer will be marked by changes across the board and securing Tillman’s services would be a statement of intent from the Ibrox board.

The German-born American internationalist is often a man of few words, but others had many reasons to persuade him. His manager, of course, compared him to Michael Ballack.

CONTINUE READING: Rangers 2 Dundee Utd 0: Five talking points as Malik Tillman shines

Tillman spoke a few weeks ago about what it meant to him to hear fans serenading him with his own song and pointed to the physicality of Scottish football as one of the main areas he’s adapting to after arriving here had to.

Tillman was undoubtedly good for Rangers. Still, whether he stays in the next term or not, Rangers have certainly been good for a player who now has Champions League, Old Firm and Cup final experience on his young resume.

“It will have been tremendous for him,” said Lundstram. “I think he’s going to look back at that time with Rangers as he continues to achieve tremendous, tremendous things in the game and see it as a really important time.

“I hope it’s a long time. But if he doesn’t, I’m still sure he’ll keep going and do great things – and I’m sure he’ll look back with fond memories.”

The technical and tactical improvements are clearly visible in Tillman’s game. He has also evolved physically and mentally and now carries an attitude of expectation not normally imposed on anyone his age.

This tenure had its difficult moments. The Champions League was a painful affair and a loss at Parkhead and Hampden would have been a soul-searching time for Tillman.

CONTINUE READING: Memories and medals ahead of Allan McGregor’s 500th Rangers appearance

If he was knocked down, he got up again. Now, a hat trick of must-win Old Firm games offers Tillman an opportunity to continue his rise and rise.

“It just comes with games and experience,” Lundstram said. “As you get a little older, you become a little more relaxed.

“Once you have games under your belt it just comes with confidence and I think his confidence is just overflowing and he’s showing exactly what he can do.

Herald Scotland: Malik Tillman

“It’s an absolute pleasure to play with him. You just want to give him the ball as much as possible. It’s the same with Todd [Cantwell].

“You want these types of players on the ball as often as possible. I just give it to them five meters away and let them do their thing.”

As the song goes, it said: Give Malik the ball and he scores on Saturday. His tally for the season now stands at 12 goals and five assists, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story of how he sometimes makes Rangers tick.

The degrees both times were as calm and clinical as fans and teammates have come to expect from Tillman. On afternoons like this, it’s invaluable for the Rangers to have someone who can change the game and win the game.

The plan was for him to act close to Alfredo Morelos to give Rangers a physical touch in the last third. Once again, it was Tillman who took charge and came to the fore when Rangers needed him most.

Lundstram said: “We’ve seen how good Malik is from box to box but it’s the numbers he’s getting now [are impressive].

“I’m not sure how many it is for the season but I’m sure he has a few now. It’s great when people see that he’s picking up number after number. It is very good.

“Yes, there is [big potential] but let’s not put too much pressure on him. He’s a great player but it’s encouraging.” John Lundstram on Rangers criticism, talent and future by Malik Tillman

Russell Falcon

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