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FOOTBALL: I DON'T WANT A CHRISTIAN BURIAL; Nerlinger vows to breathe life into his Rangers career.

Byline: NEIL CAMERON

DANIEL PRODAN, Sebastian Rozental, Staale Stensas and Paul Ritchie - Rangers have sure had their fair share of transfers that have ranged from the bizarre to the downright rotten.

Christian Nerlinger knows he has one more chance to stop his name being added to that list.

The German arrived at Ibrox two years ago and was expected to be the maestro in the midfield. Instead, he has spent most of his time in the physio's room.

Nerlinger, an undoubted talent, scored in the first day of his first season, against Aberdeen, with a rasping left- foot shot which was reminiscent of a certain other German who made his name at Ibrox.

But then he injured his heel in a European game against Maribor, whom he also scored against, after just a handful of games and, well, that was that.

Nerlinger is only ever really remembered when the team photo gets taken and many a punter has been heard to ask: "Is he still here?"

The former Borussia Dortmund player made something of a comeback in pre- season, but was binned as soon as the real stuff began.

And now he is well aware that he has until Christmas, at the very latest, to get back into Alex McLeish's plans.

However, this is the best he's felt for a long time and two years after he scored in consecutive games against Aberdeen and Maribor, it is high time he did something like that again.

Nerlinger said: "It was two years ago this week when I scored in those games and it would be great if I could do something like that again.

"I feel good and I'm delighted to have been involved so much in pre-season games.

"I've also taken part in every training session since we returned last month and that's been a great plus.

"I feel physically strong and it's probably the best I've felt for a long time.

"I just hope I can continue to stay fit because this is an important season for us all.

"There is a huge incentive here. We are out to defend our title as well as progressing in Europe and I want to be a part of that."

Nerlinger would be seen as a new signing if he did manage to force his way into the side, such has been the been the rarity of his first-team appearances.

And any new face will be needed to bolster a squad who have lost an awful lot of good, quality players over the past few weeks.

Although the German admits he has been impressed by the new boys.

Nerlinger said: "We know it's going to be very difficult to retain our trophies, but we have a really good squad and I'm confident we can do that.

"Michael Ball is back while the manager has also brought in other players such as Zurab Khizanishvili.

"On top of that, Nuno Capucho has come in to replace Claudio Caniggia, so the club has done well to get in so much quality.

"You have to compare the players who have left to those who have arrived and they are of equal standard.

"Michael is back and he is just like a new signing.

"He did well in the close season and it's great he can put all his injury problems behind him.

"I know how frustrating it can be sitting on the sidelines, but Michael doesn't have any problems with his knee any more and I think he'll have a good season."

But whether Nerlinger himself will have a good season at Ibrox remains to be seen.

Speaking to the Rangers News, the 30-year-old midfielder is desperate to prove he isn't a dud signing, something he could do when he gets back to Pittodrie on Saturday.

It was up at Aberdeen when the Rangers fans got really excited about him, only for his injury nightmare to begin just a few days laters.

Nerlinger said: "I have good memories of Pittodrie from when I scored that goal and it turned out to be quite an easy win that day.

"But any away match in Scotland is difficult and you have be on top of your game to get a result.

"I've had two disappointing years out with injuries and although I've put them all behind me, I don't want to get too excited yet.

"I'm just taking things day by day and waiting to see if I'm picked for squads. The most important thing is I'm 100 per cent."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 14, 2003
Words:752
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