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I joined Rangers to be part of something special: Gareth McAuley

 

By Paul Ferguson

Gareth McAuley may be in the autumn of his career at the age of 38, but the Northern Ireland defender insists he is ready to play his part in bringing the glory days back to Ibrox after signing a one-year deal with Rangers.

McAuley is realising a lifelong ambition by agreeing a contract to play for Rangers following his release after seven years by West Brom.

Rangers haven't won a major domestic trophy since 2011 and of course a year later they had to build themselves back up from the fourth tier of Scottish football following their well-documented troubles.

But despite the Light Blues languishing in seventh place in the Scottish Premiership after one win out of four games and defeat to bitter rivals Celtic on Sunday, there is a belief in the west end of Glasgow that there is a renaissance at Rangers under new high-profile boss Steven Gerrard.

The Light Blues have qualified for the group stages of the Europa League and Gerrard has made sweeping changes at Ibrox with McAuley being his 15th signing of the summer. Fellow Northern Ireland international Kyle Lafferty rejoined Rangers from Hearts last month.

McAuley was courted by former club Ipswich, Hearts and Aberdeen in recent weeks, however he chose Rangers, not just because it is a club close to his heart but more importantly due to the fact he believes the club can win silverware and give their huge support what they deserve.

The Larne lad, capped 79 times by his country, said: "I feel there is a chance to win things here and a chance to be a part of something special.

"I've played a lot of games in the Premier League, but this club to me is as big as, if not even bigger, than a lot of the clubs in England.

"You see the support - it's there every week. This is a massive club and for me, to be given the chance to be here, I feel really privileged."

Despite missing an entire pre-season and the league and European games in August, McAuley, a fitness fanatic, argues he will be ready to challenge for a place in the Rangers team once he returns from Northern Ireland's international double-header against Bosnia and Israel next week.

Rangers tackle Dundee on Saturday, September 15 in the Scottish Premiership and even though Connor Goldson and Nikola Katic have formed an impressive partnership since signing this summer and highly-rated Nottingham Forest youngster Joe Worrall arrived last week, McAuley is hoping to force his way into Gerrard's team.

McAuley stated: "General fitness-wise, I feel good but in terms of sharpness I have a bit to catch up on and I will have to work hard on that over the next couple of weeks to get up to scratch on that.

"There are two (international) games coming up and hopefully I can get some minutes under my belt as well in those, depending on what the manager thinks.

"I have been watching the games and (Goldson and Katic) are good players who have been doing really well and the manager is really pleased with them as well.

"It is up to me to challenge them and to try and get in the team, but also to help develop them as well as they are the future of the club and the means to moving forward as well.

"They are young boys and anything I can help them with, I will certainly do that."

McAuley made 203 appearances in the Premier League for West Brom and enjoyed his time at The Hawthorns but he concedes playing for Rangers holds a special appeal to him.

"It's massive for me personally. My family support the club and me myself as well," added McAuley. "The street I was born on, the kerbs are painting red, white and blue so to get the opportunity to play for this famous club is amazing.

"I'm delighted to be here. I feel very honoured to be here and privileged as well."

Having signed his deal with Rangers yesterday, McAuley has returned to the Northern Ireland camp today for training with his international team-mates.

McAuley is unlikely to feature in the opening Nations League contest against Bosnia on Saturday at Windsor Park, due to a lack of match fitness and with Premier League stars Craig Cathcart and Jonny Evans available in the centre of defence, but boss Michael O'Neill inferred last week that he may be involved in some capacity in the friendly against Israel next Tuesday.

Belfast Telegraph

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