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GO EASY ON THE AMO; Gough spares a thought for Lorenzo's toil.

LORENZO AMORUSO may not yet have taken to hiding under the stairs, but the Italian defender is learning very quickly that Rangers' vast army of supporters can be a cruel and unforgiving lot.

He is also discovering the hard way that it isn't easy to wear the captain's band at Ibrox and that it can be especially difficult to take over from someone as successful as Richard Gough.

Football has been hijacked by creatures from the corporate world and the rewards on offer are more lucrative than at any time in the game's history, but some things might never alter. For instance, Rangers' hordes still expect their captains to be inspirational figures hewn from an ancient block.

They relish gritty leaders, tough, larger than life heroes such as John Greig, Terry Butcher, and Gough, the most successful captain in Rangers' history.

Following immediately on from such a decorated captain was always likely to present its own difficulties, but while the former skipper has just finished his first Major League Soccer season with San Jose Clash, Amoruso has contributed greatly to his own problems.

Of course Rangers' fans have been harsh in their condemnation, but there is something about the Amoruso style which makes the crowd feel uneasy. Perhaps if he showed them something to justify the arrogance when he struts his stuff they might be more understanding, but so far there has been mostly statuesque posing, although he would have you believe he is being stylish and cultured.

While the 27-year-old might still be hearing the echoes of the derision showered down upon him on Saturday, he found an ally in Gough.

Speaking from his California home yesterday Gough said: "I think Lorenzo is strong enough mentally to cope and it might help him to know that Ally McCoist suffered scathing criticism in his early days at Ibrox.

"Then, if I remember correctly, the fans were calling for Ally to get out of Ibrox, but he became a legend.

"I've always said Rangers' fans are the best in the world, but they can also be among the worst if they are not too keen on a player."

Gough, who doesn't have to start back pre-season training with San Jose until early February, has been watching most of Rangers' matches on satellite television in America's west coast. He saw Saturday's struggle against Dundee United and he winced as he watched Amoruso gift Billy Dodds the opening goal.

Gough said: "Amoruso tried to let the ball run on and if it had worked he would have been applauded.

"However, it is the sort of thing a player must get right 10 times out of 10. If he makes a mess of it one time he will suffer, but Amoruso is a defender who takes an awful lot of chances."

While many of the fans have already decided Amoruso is less than qualified to play in Rangers' defence Gough insists it is still too early to judge and pointed out: "He missed a whole year through injury and there are those who say most players need six months to come to terms with playing for Rangers.

"There are some, of course, who take to it right away, but most need that time and I think Amoruso, because of the length of time he was sidelined, deserves to be allowed to prove himself.

"It isn't the easiest thing in the world to be a Rangers captain, but I was fortunate because I had a lot of great players around me.

"There were days when I was extremely grateful for their presence and I used to look across the road at my good friend Paul McStay and be very thankful I wasn't him.

"Paul didn't have so many great players around him and while I was always convinced he was a great player himself he had to carry his Celtic team for a while.

"He had to shoulder the kind of weight which can kill a player. I remember thinking I was glad Celtic were a bit short, but I could still feel for Paul."

Gough, who answered an SOS from Rangers in October last year, is preparing to take his family on their first proper holiday in 28 months, but he intends keeping up to speed with Rangers' quest for the title. He will also be tracking Lorenzo's toil.

The Italian didn't play too often in Rangers' defence with Gough, but the former captain saw enough of his successor to believe circumstances will change for the better, provided he can handle the verbal abuse.

Gough said: "I suffered a bit myself when I had to play on even though I had a couple of injuries.

"At that time I wasn't playing too well and I was also having to partner Basile Boli. I could hear the fans saying `Gough's not as good as he was' and `Gough should go'.

"It isn't nice listening to stuff like that, but that's when you buckle down and try to play your way through it. You must have confidence in yourself and do the simple things in a game, although I don't think Amoruso's problem is a lack of confidence.

"If anything he is over-confident at times, but he's a good player who has to understand he must start playing well without allowing his game to be punctuated by errors.

"I see him do some great things, but then he makes errors which suggests an immaturity you would normally expect from a younger player."

Gough reckons Rangers coach Dick Advocaat has to try to talk his captain through this troubled spell but as you would expect from one of the most single-minded footballers the Scottish game has ever produced the key is held by Amoruso.

Gough explained: "Lorenzo will need to be strong-minded if he wants to be successful as captain because he is with a club where a strong mind and character are necessary.

"Advocaat should have quiet words with him, but it will come down to Amoruso's mentality. We are talking about a player who has big broad shoulders and who should know only he can win the supporters back by playing well consistently.

"I don't like to hear of players being booed by their own fans, but it happens. It needn't mean the end for the player who is the target and I'll be keeping an eye Lorenzo's progress from afar.

"I really do hope he makes it through because there is nothing quite like leading Rangers to glory."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Traynor, James
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 3, 1998
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