MIND games are nothing new in football. The great Sir Alex Ferguson was a master in the art of mental gamesmanship – just ask Kevin Keegan and has poor Fergie voodoo doll - while coaches from Madrid to Montrose have been known to dabble in trying to either dish out a psychological blow or gain a mental margin ahead of a big game.

Earlier this week, Scott Brown joined in. The Celtic captain is not known for being a shrinking violet, and indeed when asked about the meeting between the two last month – when 10-man Celtic triumphed 3-2 at Ibrox – Brown volunteered that they had got into the heads of the side they will go up against tomorrow.

It is a notion which Rangers will of course dismiss – as Graeme Murty pretty much did while speaking at Auchenhowie yesterday – but the subject of mentality is a curious one that the Rangers manager, who appeared relaxed ahead of this weekend’s Scottish Cup semi-final, seemed comfortable to explore.

When the pair met at this stage last season with Pedro Caixinha still in charge, there was little contest in front of a packed Hampden crowd as Celtic cantered to a 2-0 lead. The 5-1 and 2-0 defeats which followed failed to offer much evidence that the chasm between the two was shortening.

However, since the Portuguese’s departure, Murty has brought a competitive element back to this famous Old Fixture, even if a win still alludes him. A 0-0 draw at Celtic Park was gained on December 30, and last month’s loss, while far from a perfect performance, at least gave life to the belief that this Rangers team can cause Celtic problems.

Plaudits are one thing and the manager himself has acknowledged that, but Murty admits claiming victory tomorrow could just break down the mental barrier that will elevate Rangers to the next level of their development.

“Scott says lots of things that he believes are true,” said Murty of Brown’s comments. “I believe that my team have more than enough, and showed more than enough, to cause Celtic a problem.

“We obviously have to understand where they are dangerous and we understand they have good players.

“But I believe the gap has closed, demonstrably. And we have to make sure that the next step we take is going and winning a game. Because I think that when we do win a game it will kick our belief into another level.

“I believe it would do wonders for our psyche as a team. That’s all I’m looking at. I’m making sure the players believe in themselves as a team and what we are doing.

“I believe we are making progress and getting closer to them. But the next step is obviously to go and beat them.

“Let’s make sure we take care of that. And the rest of the stuff, all the stuff extraneous to the game and outside our control, will quiet down and take care of itself. We have to make sure we take care of business on the pitch.”

He added: “I believe the league has become closer this year. Not just through ourselves but other teams too.

“But I think for this team and club, we are ready and we need to take the next step of winning, first, that game and then going and winning a trophy.

“Because we need to demonstrate that it is getting closer. Whether it is this game or whether it’s the next game, we need to take that next step.”

Murty will hope he and his players will learn the lessons needed from that defeat at Ibrox. Twice Rangers led through Josh Windass and Daniel Candeias only to be pegged back, while Jozo Simunovic’s sending off was not ceased upon by the home team who were stung by Odsonne Edouard’s winner. The fact Alfredo Morelos missed virtually an open goal to salvage a draw at the end didn’t help either.

Still, there were successes on the day. A vibrant start was the catalyst for catching Celtic on the back foot and not allowing Brendan Rodgers’ team to settle into their natural rhythm, something which will be key tomorrow.. Jamie Murphy looked lively and continues to impress, while Morelos at least can be given credit for being in the right place at the right time. If given the nod tomorrow – which he surely will be – Murty hopes he and his team-mates will grasp the opportunity to avenge that frustrating afternoon in Govan.

“It would be nice, wouldn’t it? It would be nice for us to go and nick one,” he said.

“The margins are close. Closer than they have been. But it would be nice for us to come out on the side of a close call or decision. Or an opportunity that we manage to take and they don’t.

“It would be great for the team and the supporters and the club to take that next step.

“I think he has already said he has a point to prove. I understand the assets and attributes he brings. It is up to us to try and get the most out of him and put him in the situation to go and make the difference for us. I believe he can be a difference-maker for us. If he gets an opportunity, I hope he can go and take it and put a smile on his face, because I think missing the last one hurt him a bit.

“Rather than getting it out of their system, I think they should use it as motivation to remember how hurt they were and how disappointed they were to let them off the hook. Use that as motivation so make sure that when they walk off the football pitch they have got a smile on their face.”

Many have billed this as a must-win game for Murty if he has aspirations of keeping the Rangers manager’s job beyond the summer, much like comments of a Scottish Cup win and finishing second. Comments from Dave King during the week calling for immediate success have only encouraged such chat, but no man’s fate surely can come down to just one game.

However, the words from club’s chairman haven’t daunted the man who will stand in the dug out from his task.

“I haven’t had a conversation with the chairman.

“As far as I read it my situation hasn’t changed. It was just a re-iteration of the current situation — a manager will be appointed at the end of the season.

“Regardless of whether that’s me or someone else that’s what has to happen because my own contract is only until the end of the season.

“You have to deal with it. It was just a clarification to the season ticket holders who have come out and backed us fantastically well that someone will be appointed in the summer.”