Shane Ferguson finally gets to start work with Rangers
Northern Ireland star Shane Ferguson has at last joined up with his new Rangers team-mates more than TWO months after switching to the Ibrox club on loan from Newcastle United.
Rangers boss Stuart McCall is keen to play Ferguson in the final weeks of the season, but insists the left-sided player will not be rushed after recovering from a serious knee injury.
At the start of February, Ferguson was one of five Newcastle players who transferred on a temporary basis to the Scottish Championship outfit. It took until yesterday, however, for the 23-year-old to have his first training session with the club.
There have been suggestions in Scotland that he won't be fit enough to play again until next season, when his loan period will have ended. McCall hopes that won't be the case as Rangers attempt to win promotion to the Scottish Premiership through the play-offs.
Ferguson, who has been training for a fortnight at Newcastle, was due to start work at Rangers on Friday, but for a sickness bug.
"He's had two weeks of training so I'll sit down with him and see where he is," said McCall.
"It's difficult when you have been out for a long time. Unless he has great fitness levels, I wouldn't expect too much of him too early. But it is an added body and if he is able, then we'll obviously use him."
When Ferguson signed, the Belfast Telegraph told how he was 'looking forward to the experience' and that he was 'happy to have joined Rangers on loan until the end of the season'.
The Rangers boss at the time, Kenny McDowall, revealed to the astonishment of all in football that the board had told him that all five Newcastle loan players HAD to play.
Things have changed at boardroom and managerial level since though to date three of them, Kevin Mbabu, Gael Bigirimana and Ferguson, have yet to feature because of injury. Another, Remie Streete, lasted 44 minutes on his debut while Haris Vuckic has been a success, scoring several goals,
Ferguson is a fine crosser of the ball and useful from set-pieces. He also offers versatility, being able to play at left-back or on the left wing and if fit would be an asset for Rangers in the closing weeks of their eventful campaign.
Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill will be keeping a close eye on the situation.
Ferguson played at left-back in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign victories over the Faroe Islands and Greece last year and is regarded as a key member of the international squad.
Even so, O'Neill will want to see the county Londonderry man play games, rather than just train, before the next Group F match at home to Romania in June.
For Ferguson's part, while being frustrated at his lack of action at club level, he was desperately disappointed not to be involved in Northern Ireland's vital 2-1 victory over Finland at Windsor Park last month.
Rangers are due to play away to Livingston tomorrow night. A draw would take them into second place in the table, one point above Hibs.