McGregor hopes for end to bit-part title roles

Rangers' goalkeeper wants to play a full part in winning the SPL for Smith
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The Independent Online

The Rangers goalkeeper, Allan McGregor, is hoping this season ends with him at last having a starring role in a Scottish Premier League title win. When the Light Blues beat Dunfermline 6-1 at Ibrox in 2003 to capture their 50th championship, the Scotland international was a substitute, as he was two years later when an arguably more dramatic last-day win at Hibernian saw the title wrested back from arch-rivals Celtic.

McGregor, 26, also sat on the sidelines in the 2002 Scottish Cup final win over the Hoops when Peter Lovenkrands scored a last-minute winner at Hampden.

After loan spells at St Johnstone and Dunfermline, McGregor eventually claimed the No 1 spot at Ibrox, but his only medal from actually playing came from last season's Co-Operative Insurance Cup final win over Dundee United. The Rangers keeper is looking to eclipse that by helping Walter Smith's side to the title this season.

"I had the same feelings as everyone else at the club on those days we won the title but I hadn't played much so it was slightly different", he told the Rangers News. "When Peter scored in the last minute of the Scottish Cup final to beat Celtic 3-2 six years ago, I thought it was as good as it would get.

"Then we won the league on goal difference with our victory against Dunfermline. That was brilliant too and I thought to myself the feeling then would never be be beaten. After that, we won the title at Easter Road when we thought we'd lost it to Celtic and those three occasions have been really special. They all rank really highly. At the same time, I never really played any part in them. Each time, I was just sitting on the bench.

"To play my part in winning the league title would be something else. You spend a whole season trying to do that and so much hard work goes in to it. If it actually comes off, it will be so rewarding," McGregor said. "It's the same with any trophy you win. It's like when we won the League Cup last season. People maybe look down on that competition but it was really special to me to be part of that win against United. Now I'm looking to better that and I'd love it if I was part of a Rangers side that wins the league."

McGregor's team-mate Steven Naismith enjoyed an ideal return to action for Rangers on Tuesday when he netted in the reserves' 3-1 win over St Mirren. The striker, making his first appearance since suffering cruciate ligament damage in April, scored in first-half stoppage-time during the game at Murray Park.

Watched by manager Smith and his assistant Ally McCoist, 22-year-old Naismith lined up on the left wing and completed 73 minutes before being substituted. He took his goal well, controlling the ball with his chest and holding off the Saints defender Marc McAusland before beating the goalkeeper Chris Smith with a composed finish.

Naismith was delighted with the run-out, telling his club's official website, www.rangers.co.uk: "It's great to be back involved again. I have played a few bounce games in training but today's match was competitive and I enjoyed it. I have been in the gym for so long now that being out on the pitch with the boys is great.

"Getting the goal was obviously a big bonus but I have to remember it was only my first game back. We will wait and see how my knee has reacted in the morning and we will take it from there," said Naismith.

"That was the last reserve game of the year so hopefully a couple of bounce games can be organised and that I can be involved in them also."

A strong Rangers line-up – including the likes of Chris Burke, Charlie Adam, Lee McCulloch and Andrius Velicka – took the lead after 10 minutes through Rory Loy. Saints levelled 10 minutes before the break through Tom Brighton before Naismith pounced. Velicka wrapped up the win from close range 15 minutes from time.

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