Rangers’ homeward-bound Spaniard Nacho Novo admits he is going to miss his rapport with the Ibrox club’s fans.
Novo became an instant hit with fans of Glasgow’s Blues when he joined Rangers rather than Celtic in July 2004, despite Dundee United having accepted a bid from the Parkhead club.
“There have been lows and highs over the years but for me the most important thing is the fans,” the 31-year-old said.
“The fans are the main thing that has kept me going.
“I have always been quite close with them in my six years at Rangers and I want to say thanks to all of them for their support.”
In a bid to do that, Novo was in Belfast and Lisburn yesterday for book signings of his autobiography, the title of which — I Said No Thanks — is unlikely to be wasted on supporters of either side of the Rangers-Celtic divide.
In the space of three days in Glasgow, 4,000 Rangers supporters turned out to buy his book and have him sign it. He is not aware of any Celtic fans having done so, but then there is history in that particular relationship. He will miss that, too.
“As a football player you need a bit of banter so I will miss that as well,” he said. “I love to play in derbies. Everyone loves to play in the derbies, Celtic players love to play in them, too.”
His love of those occasions may well owe something to him having scored at Parkhead in February 2005 to help Rangers to a rare win at the rivals’ home.
It was a particularly significant goal for in scoring it he defied a death threat which read: “If you play against Celtic on Sunday, you will get ******g done in. We’ll kill you, you Rangers b******.”
He holds Northern Ireland pair Steve Davis and Kyle Laverty in very high regard and forecasts a bright future for Ballinamallard boy Andrew Little who recently celebrated his 21st birthday.
“Steve is the best player in the team. I know there is talk about him going to England, but that is not what he wants,” Novo said.
“He is a Rangers player. He loves Rangers and he would not move if it was up to him.
“If that happens it will be because the bank says it had to be. Steve is a very good friend — my best friend at Rangers — and I know he would not choose this.
“He just wants to play for Rangers.
“This is what he will choose if it’s up to him.
“Kyle has shown in the last five or six games what he can do when he is played in his real position, striker. To score four goals in six games lets you know what he can do in his best position. He is a striker, not a left winger or a right winger.
“Andy is a young boy who still has a lot to learn. He has made the first team and he is working hard. He loves Rangers, too.” Novo called Rangers’ Northern Ireland fans “fabulous”.
“They spend a lot of money and time travelling over to Scotland to follow the team. I think Rangers should come here more often to say thank you,” he said.
“That is why I have come — to say thank you to these wonderful supporters. They come to watch us, so I have come to see them.”