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Doubts over McKay's Gers future after Caixinha snub

By Andy Newport

Barrie McKay's Rangers future has been plunged into fresh doubt after boss Pedro Caixinha dumped the winger from his team to face Progres Niederkorn.

Gers will stage their first European clash in six years when they host the minnows from Luxembourg in tonight's Europa League qualifier.

But Scotland international McKay will not feature after Caixinha confirmed he had been sent to train with the club's Under-20s.

The Portuguese coach admitted last season he was concerned by the 22-year-old's attitude after a number of lethargic displays.

And his latest action will raise suspicions the talismanic playmaker could be about to follow Andy Halliday - who has now clinched a 12-month loan switch to Azerbaijani outfit Qabala -out of the club having already knocked back Gers' offer of a new contract.

McKay is free to talk to clubs come January but Caixinha shrugged off the fall-out as he held his first pre-match press conference of the new campaign.

The Gers boss - who also refused to directly address questions on why he had left Rob Kiernan, Michael O'Halloran, Joe Dodoo, Harry Forrester and Matt Crooks out of his Europa League squad - said: "The list is already out so I think (McKay) is not in the squad for tomorrow."

The Rangers manager was pushed for an explanation on why the Scotland international had been banished from his first team but he merely said: "Nothing, he is not in the squad. The Under-20s were off so he is not training today.

"I'm not focusing on that. I'm focusing on tomorrow's match. We're really happy all the players, regarding to the plan we have for this season, are working hard.

"They are really anxious in a good way to start the match with a sold-out stadium and enjoy it with our fans. I don't care about those problems (the situation with McKay). Those problems are part of our lives, our work and our decisions but I don't want to talk about it now."

The enigmatic wideman's absence will concern a number of Gers fans who worry their club do not do enough to make the most of the talent produced at their Auchenhowie academy.

But even that will not burst the feel-good factor that has washed through the club since last week's news that Mike Ashley had significantly released his grip on the club.

Memories of last season's league campaign - which saw the Light Blues finish a massive 39 points behind Celtic - have been quickly forgotten about, with the recruitment of eight summer signings adding to that wave of optimism.

All 50,000 tickets for the match have already been snapped up and Caixinha knows it is now down to his side to keep that positive vibe marching along.

The manager admits just four of his new arrivals will start as Gers return to continental action for the first time since their 2011 Europa League exit at the hands of Maribor - but he is confident they can make the difference.

"It's not only me who is looking forward to the game," he said. "The stadium is already sold out so all the club is enthusiastic about this return to Europe after six years.

"We hope to give to the fans a fantastic match. It has been too much time waiting for this moment and we want to deliver a good team to our fans.

"We have made some changes to the team but some of the players didn't start our pre-season with us on June 5 so we cannot count on all of them.

"We may have four new players starting in the first XI, maybe two or three more on the bench. But what is really important is that we are starting a new cycle. We are very positive about the new players."

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