Allan McGregor: Foolish to bet against him – Rangers transfer has ripple effect

Jon McLaughlin will be bidding to establish himself as Rangers’ first choice goalkeeper in the 2022-23 season. (Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images)

While the views of any online community are never truly representative of the overall weight of opinion among a fanbase, McGregor is certainly not short of critics who believe last season should have been his last in a Rangers jersey.

But that won’t have the slightest impact on a man who has never paid even cursory notice to what many football players and managers now fashionably describe as ‘outside noise’. It’s safe to say the singular character that is McGregor would have an even blunter phrase for it all.

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He possesses a mentality which has served him well over the course of a remarkable professional career which will now stretch into a 22nd season and is deserving of far greater respect than has been on display from some of those who populate the social media platforms and online supporter forums.

Allan McGregor makes a trademark reaction save during a Europa League match between Rangers and Porto at Ibrox. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

The man whose opinion matters most of all, Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst, remains fully appreciative of the qualities McGregor brings to the Ibrox club, both on the pitch and at the heart of the training ground environment.

It was telling that van Bronckhorst should welcome McGregor’s decision to sign on for another year by hailing the ‘positive influence’ he has on the rest of the Rangers players, while stressing the importance of his dressing room having individuals ‘who really understand the club’.

It is an indication that McGregor’s ongoing role is about much more than simply trying to keep the ball out of Rangers’ net on matchdays. While he is not yet ready to step into a formal coaching role, McGregor’s voice is as influential and valuable as any of van Bronckhorst’s backroom staff.

But while he is more than happy to pass on his vast experience to others, McGregor’s priority remains the pursuit of further silverware as he prepares to add to the 469 first team appearances he has made over his two spells as a Rangers player.

Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor salutes the crowd at the end of the Scottish Cup final against Hearts at Hampden in May. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

While there can be no guarantee of first choice status, it can be assumed that he would not have penned his new deal if he did not believe he retained every possibility to continue as van Bronckhorst’s number one when the new campaign kicks off next month.

Among those who feel this summer was the time for McGregor to hang up his gloves, their criticism focuses on his domestic form last season – most notably in the unsuccessful defence of the Premiership title.

There is no doubt he made some mistakes which proved costly in the careless dropping of points which allowed Celtic to turn the tide after the winter break and reclaim the crown. Yet McGregor was just one part of a defence which, as was always likely, could simply not replicate the remarkable solidity which saw them break all manner of clean sheet records in lifting the title in invincible fashion under Steven Gerrard the previous season.

McGregor’s age becomes just an easy stick to verbally beat him with whenever an error leads to an opposition goal. The reality is that there was no shortage of powerful evidence last season that his brilliance as one of the best goalkeepers Scotland has produced remains undimmed.

During Rangers’ epic run to the Europa League final, McGregor put together a showreel of saves that were as impressive and important as any he has ever produced. Like his great friend, rival and contemporary Craig Gordon, he is still capable of defying the odds with breathtaking, instinctive interventions in situations where the opposition appear certain to score.

No-one is seriously questioning whether Gordon, just 11 months younger than McGregor, is good enough to carry on as number one for both Hearts and Scotland next season, a campaign which will also see the third member of the country’s exceptional generation of international goalkeepers – 37-year-old David Marshall – back in the Premiership with Hibs.

It remains to be seen whether Rangers will add a fresh face to their goalkeeping ranks or whether the number one position will continue to be jousted for by McGregor and Jon McLaughlin.

With his 35th birthday approaching in September, McLaughlin will clearly be hoping for an extended opportunity to establish himself as first pick for Rangers and subsequently force his way back into the Scotland squad.

Since his move from Sunderland two years ago, McLaughlin has scarcely put a foot wrong whenever called upon by Rangers. In the 30 first team appearances he has made so far, the former Hearts man has kept 21 clean sheets. He has also shown he is capable of handling the pressure which comes with the bigger occasions, such as the Scottish Cup semi-final win over Celtic at Hampden in April.

When McLaughlin left the pitch a minute from the end of the Scottish Cup final win over Hearts the following month to be replaced by McGregor, it looked for all the world a sentimental substitution to mark the end of a truly legendary Rangers career.

But after a period of reflection, McGregor has decided his story isn’t over just yet as his competitive fires burn as fiercely as ever. It would be foolish to bet against him adding yet another glorious chapter and putting those who had written him off firmly back in their box.