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From central defender to central figure: Rangers look stronger with McGregor


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http://www.heraldscotland.com/mobile/sport/football/from-central-defender-to-central-figure-rangers-look-stronger-with-mcgregor.25792124

 

THE numbers look good for Darren McGregor and Rangers.

 

Having being pushed into action as an auxiliary right-back in the first part of the campaign, McGregor has returned of late to a more familiar beat in central defence. Coincidentally or otherwise, the team's subsequent results and defensive record have noticeably improved since the 29-year-old's redeployment.

 

McGregor was first called upon at Livingston when a knee injury meant Marius Zaliukas could not continue after half-time. That was on October 4. Rangers won that game 1-0 and have gone on to triumph in the six matches that followed, the latest a 3-0 victory over Cowdenbeath, McGregor's former club, which leaves them just four points adrift of Hearts at the top of the SPFL Championship. Perhaps most significantly, the Ibrox side have shipped only one goal in that seven-match winning run, what turned out to be a consolation by Raith Rovers' Martin Scott in a 6-1 Rangers victory on October 18. They have now gone 486 minutes across four competitions without their goal being breached.

 

Consistency of selection has been key for Ally McCoist. In each of the six matches since Zaliukas sustained his injury, the Rangers manager has named the same back four, with Richard Foster and Lee Wallace in the full-back positions flanking Lee McCulloch and McGregor at the heart of the defence. It is an arrangement that clearly suits Rangers.

 

Earlier in the season, it was the erratic figure of Bilel Mohsni who was partnering McCulloch at the back, with McGregor shunted out to the right with Foster unavailable. In the Tunisian's 10 matches this season, Rangers have kept just three clean sheets. Mohsni was given an effective three-game ban for an incident in the 3-1 loss to Hibernian on September 29 and has not been able to get his place back since. Zaliukas, similarly, may find himself on the bench for quite some time to come.

 

Watching McGregor's progress with a sense of pride has been David van Zanten. Team-mates at St Mirren for four seasons, there were few happier than the Irishman when McGregor earned his move to Ibrox in the summer. It was a victory for perseverance for a defender who did not start playing full-time football until he was 25, and then had to come back twice after suffering cruciate ligament damage in successive seasons. Van Zanten, now with Dumbarton, has played against McGregor three times this season - twice in the past fortnight - and is pleased to note his friend has started to win over a previously sceptical Rangers support.

 

"He's played right-back before but you can tell his natural position is centre-half," said van Zanten. "He was outstanding there during his time at St Mirren from the moment he arrived at Cowdenbeath. I've seen him closely in the last couple of weeks playing against him and he just looked the part. He strolled through both games and just looked really comfortable. I said in the summer that Rangers had made a really good signing and now more people are realising just how good he is.

 

"The Rangers fans probably expect their manager to sign bigger names but he's definitely good enough to play at a big club like that. It was maybe a bit harsh to be judging him when he was playing at right-back, although it seems like he did fine when he was in there. But centre-half is his position. He's probably one of the quickest defenders in Scotland. His pace is frightening for a big lad. He's also so strong, one of the strongest that I've played with. Physically he has everything to be a top centre-half."

 

Having arrived at full-time football relatively late in his career, McGregor has shown a determination to make the most of his opportunity. "When he signed for St Mirren from Cowdenbeath he was desperate to learn," added van Zanten. "Every day he would be talking to John Potter and trying to gain different experience from him about how to play that position. That attitude has helped him."

 

McGregor signed just a one-year contract, with Rangers wary about his previous injuries, but has a clause inserted that will trigger an additional year if he is available to play in half of their games this season. So far he is well on track to meet that requirement.

 

"I can see Darren being there for many years to come, especially if they get promoted to the Premiership," said van Zanten. "He'll have a big say in that team and I think he will become a big player for them. He's had two serious injuries but I don't think they've affected him. It might sound daft but being out in a way has helped him as he had to do a lot of upper body work in the gym when he was out and couldn't do the usual training."

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Time for a positive thread I think.

 

I'm sure I'm not the only who has been impressed by McGregor so far this season. Yes, he's still a bit rough round the edges but he looks to have been a very good signing by the manager.

 

Strong in the tackle, good in the air, versatile and reasonably quick he reminds me a bit of Carlos Cuellar. OK. he's not quite as good (or as tested) as the Spaniard but I thik they're quite similar in style and McGregor is perhaps more reliable in his distribution.

 

Keep it up, son!

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I like a defender who defends. Old fashioned and that.

 

It's a valid point and sometimes in the modern game one easy to forget. There's no doubt McGregor gets stuck in and keeps it simple but as his contribution to our second goal on Tuesday showed he can do more.

 

All in all, so far he's been a very good buy. Sure it's early days but if he can steer clear of injury then he looks more than capable of doing the business for a few years.

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It's a valid point and sometimes in the modern game one easy to forget. There's no doubt McGregor gets stuck in and keeps it simple but as his contribution to our second goal on Tuesday showed he can do more.

 

All in all, so far he's been a very good buy. Sure it's early days but if he can steer clear of injury then he looks more than capable of doing the business for a few years.

 

A very good buy ???? we got him for free on a BOSMAN.

But yes he's done very well. My only concern is jig playing alongside him who has certainly slowed down & McGREGOR will need his pace to compensate for that.

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A very good buy ???? we got him for free on a BOSMAN.

But yes he's done very well. My only concern is jig playing alongside him who has certainly slowed down & McGREGOR will need his pace to compensate for that.

 

Buy was obviously the wrong word but every player costs money....

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Positive stuff from a Ranger on the park that we discuss at last.

 

McGregor some would say would never happen but has. I believe our nature will always produce these 'surprises'

Not those tired 'surprises' muppets like Findlay comes out with. Arseblock.

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