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FOOTBALL: I'M READY TO BE A NU MAN; Arthur is aiming to show his best form.

IF the enormous pulling power of the Old Firm had somehow passed him by Arthur Numan discovered exactly how far-reaching the influence of Scotland's two giants can be when he tried to escape for a festive break.

The Dutchman thought a short holiday in Israel would take him as far away as possible from the mayhem and pressures of playing for either half of the Old Firm but he was in for a rude awakening.

When he and his girlfriend, Marion, checked into their hotel in the Israeli resort of Eliat he strolled across the room and switched on the television. As the pictures came to life he had to remind himself he wasn't back in Scotland because the first images were of blue and green shirts racing about a football pitch.

The defender, who believes we will see the best of him in the second half of this season, explained: "It was the day after we had drawn with Celtic and the game was on the TV. I couldn't believe it.

"I had just wanted to get away from it all for a while and I was really looking forward to a football-free break with Marion.

"I got into the room, switched on the television and the Old Firm game was on. Marion just looked and said: 'Oh no, not again'.

"Eyal Berkovic is very popular over there and the match was being shown over and over again."

After having recovered from the shock and also the realisation the Old Firm's influence isn't a local phenomenon Numan was able to relax and enjoy his time away from the madness and the crowds by blending in and going with the tourist flow. He took to the Dead Sea and came out with new life and enthusiasm.

He said: "I was floating in the Dead Sea and that was one of the strangest experiences of my life. It was a good holiday which ended when I had to come back for a special occasion."

Numan, like many of Rangers' players and some friends from Celtic, was a guest at Giovanni van Bronckhorst's wedding in Holland last week.

After that it was necessary to regain a much more serious perspective. It was time to think about getting back to work even though Rangers have chosen to return to Florida for a short training stint.

Since Rangers are no strangers to Fort Lauderdale it is clear their manager, Dick Advocaat, who led his squad into America last night, believes in the value of warm-weather sessions. Numan said: "It'll be good to be in Florida again because the facilities and the weather are so much better.

"We are in need of the break because we are all tired after so many matches in the first half of the season."

The time off should also allow Numan to complete his own rehabilitation after a couple of serious leg and ankle problems and he promised Rangers fans they haven't seen anything yet.

Numan, who missed a large part of his first season because of an ankle injury and then was sidelined earlier in the current campaign because of a hamstring problem, said: "From a personal point of view some extra time off to get over the niggly injuries, which have been causing me problems, will be good.

"I've never really been 100 per cent in all my time at Ibrox because of the injuries and even after you get back into the team you think everything is all right.

"You believe you are back to your best, back at full fitness, but a player really needs about two, maybe even three months to get it all back.

"I'm getting stronger all the time and when the season resumes Rangers supporters will see the best of me."

It goes without saying that if Rangers, who are out of the league cup competition, are to defend successfully the two other trophies won last year, the championship and the Tennents Scottish Cup, a fully- restored Numan will be required.

His ability to get up and down the left flank, leaving would-be challengers in his wake, brings an exciting and potent dimension to Rangers' play and Advocaat will be looking closely at the wing-back's movement during his squad's Florida work outs.

Rangers are not the same force without Numan, who is extremely athletic and swift, and if his promise to the fans, that they ain't seen nothing yet, is correct then we are all about to witness the re-emergence of a remarkable player because even though he believes he has never been fully prepared since his arrival at Ibrox he has played some pretty impressive matches.

Apparently there were days when he knew the frustration of performing below par and, of course, he also had to become accustomed to life on the sidelines because of serious injury problems but now that he is back he has taken to talking Michael Mols through the dark times.

The striker suffered a horrendous injury playing in Europe and although the medics say he will make a full recovery no one can say for certain.

Numan said: "I've been talking to Michael because I know a bit of what he is going through. I went through something similar when I had the ankle problem last season and initially I felt Michael was down and depressed.

"He was worried because his injury was a bad one but now I'm noticing he's much more positive about everything.

"He was certainly an enormous loss to Rangers but Dick Advocaat, who got a bargain when he bought Michael for pounds 4million, has done it again. He went out and bought Billy Dodds for pounds 1.2m and he is also a bargain.

"Billy is a similar kind of player to Michael and just by looking at him you know how happy he is to be with Rangers now.

"Billy is a very hard worker who never stops in the 90 minutes. He's a real team player."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Traynor, James
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 11, 2000
Words:998
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