WHEN Bobby Russell first joined Rangers, he didn’t exactly fit the mould of player that you might expect manager Jock Wallace to have in the Ibrox first-team.

He couldn’t defend, for one, but along with Gordon Smith and Davie Cooper, he spearheaded a new attacking outlook that led Rangers to the treble in their first season as regulars.

Such feats, and such a calibre of player are, sadly for Rangers fans, a thing of the distant past. But Russell himself has seen plenty of reason for optimism over recent weeks as current Rangers manager Graeme Murty has gone on the offensive.

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The excitement over the five goals plundered at Hamilton on Sunday of course has to be weighted against the caveat that three went in at the other end, and for Russell now, the challenge for the men in light blue is to now strike a balance between the exciting attacking play of the likes of Daniel Candeias, Josh Windass and Jamie Murphy, with more defensive discipline from flying full-backs James Tavernier – who he believes has improved tremendously in that regard – and Declan John.

“There has to be room for the attacking players,” Russell said. “I couldn’t defend to save myself, but you had the likes of Alex MacDonald behind me that did a lot of that kind of work.

“You had the boys at the back who were out-and-out defenders, and international defenders at that, like big Tam Forsyth and Colin Jackson. Then you had the class of Sandy Jardine, and in my first season, guys like John Greig and Alex Miller, who all knew how to defend.

“They covered for my limitations. My strengths were going forward and being attack-minded and being positive. When I broke into the team, they helped to cover all of these weaknesses. Alex MacDonald was magnificent. He was a moany git, but he kept me on my toes.

“When I look at the current Rangers team, the boy Candeias is doing very well. He’s got a good understanding with Tavernier, and on the other side you have Jamie Murphy and Declan John, who likes to get forward.

“Certainly, on the right-hand side, there’s a lot of chances and goals coming from good early balls into the box.

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“If Murphy is playing wide left, I would quite like to see Declan John rationing his runs a little. He tends to go past the winger quite a lot, and he does a lot of eye-catching stuff, but I think that defensively he gets caught out a wee bit. Right now, Declan is good going forward, and perhaps you would take away from that if you get him to concentrate too much on the defensive side.

“On the other hand, Tavernier has always been great going forward, while there were questions about him on the defensive side. I think now he has worked on that, and Candeias helps him by going back the way and doubling up.

“They have a good understanding going forward, and they have certainly been working on the defensive part of their game as well.

“The supporters over the years have always liked attack-minded teams that score lots of goals, and that will never change, but it’s up to the manager to get that balance.

“Right now, they are not far away from it. They are scoring goals, but they are conceding a few, and some soft goals as well.

“There’s definitely a weakness there defensively, but that can be worked on, and I’m sure they are doing that.”

Russell attended the recent defeat against Hibs at Ibrox, and he was struck by how much time Murphy in particular spent in defensive areas of the field as he covered for the runs of full-back John.

Read more: Celtic staying in Europe will help Rangers' title chances, says Ibrox legend Bobby Russell

He says that while the attacker’s team ethic is commendable, he would rather see him in the areas where he is most effective and where he can hurt the opposition.

“Davie Cooper did his fair share of work going back the way, but we didn’t want him back there,” he said. “We wanted him in the opposition half because that’s where he did all the damage.

“Teams feared that. If they had Coop away back playing left-back, then they were more than happy with that.

“If you look at the way Hibs set their stall out, they knew that a lot of the danger was going to come from Tavernier and Candeias, so they played John McGinn there. Tavernier then couldn’t get forward as much as he likes to.

“Opposition teams recognise where Rangers’ strengths are, so if they are bring nullified down the right side then they have to provide a threat down the left.

“For me, Murphy was the most consistent player in the 90 minutes against Hibs. Declan John was getting forward and doing some nice stuff, but he was isolating Jamie Murphy back into the left-back position because he was going forward so much.

“It’s ok to be positive and to get forward, but I’d like to see him give the ball to Murphy, allow him to create the space, and then try to get forward.

“If you look at the Brian Laudrups and the Coops of the world, left-backs used to feed off of these guys. Wait until these guys get the ball, commit a couple of defenders, and that was the cue for the left-back to forward and go beyond the ball. I don’t think they have that kind of balance yet.

“They aren’t far away though.”