The new season may only be in its infancy yet Rangers boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst faces what could prove arguably the most important team selection of the entire campaign, with the Old Firm giants preparing to take on Union Saint-Gilloise in the Champions League this evening.
The Glasgow side head into that second-leg, qualifying tie at Ibrox in need of something of a miracle having fallen to a 2-0 defeat away in Belgium last week, with the former Feyenoord coach admitting his side were “lucky” to have walked away with only a two-goal deficit after what was an abject all-round display.
One figure who stole the headlines for all the wrong reasons in that dismal loss was goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin, with the 34-year-old inexplicably failing to keep out Teddy Teuma’s first-half strike, as the hosts took a deserved lead.
While the former Sunderland stopper did redeem himself with a vital save late on – after a contentious VAR call had resulted in the home side extending their advantage – doubts remain as to whether he should remain the first-choice ‘keeper moving forward.
Those concerns have only been heightened by the man he has usurped to take that starting berth, with veteran ace Allan McGregor having been restricted to the substitutes bench so far this season, after signing a new one-year deal at the club earlier this summer.
Having such a quality asset in reserve appears somewhat futile, particularly with the former Scotland international having shown no signs that he is on the decline despite entering into his 40s, having been vital in the charge to the Europa League final last term.
That run included a stupendous double save against Sparta Prague to help the Scottish Premiership side progress from the group stage, having previously pulled off an “impossible” stop – in the words of Adrian Durham – against fellow Czech side Slavia Prague back in March 2021.
A man for the big occasion, it would seemingly be folly to overlook the £13k-per-week titan once again this evening, with his place on the bench only putting further scrutiny on both Van Bronckhorst and McLaughlin.
Unleashing the one-time Besiktas man – who is currently enjoying his second spell in Glasgow – would help to alleviate that pressure, while his “world-class” quality, as described by former boss Steven Gerrard, will hand the club the best chance of victory.
Dubbed Rangers’ “best ever goalkeeper” by Tam McManus, McGregor offers a wealth of experience having racked up 447 appearances for the club across all competitions, with that leader-like presence seemingly what is needed on what could be a season-defining evening.
The club’s hopes of progression could rest on it…