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Billy Thomson: because the bottom line is that McGregor is regarded as the No.1


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Alison McConnell

Published on 17 Dec 2009

Former Ibrox goalkeeping coach Billy Thomson believes that Allan McGregor will walk straight back into the Rangers first team when fit, regardless of how well Neil Alexander is playing.

McGregor is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury but in his absence Alexander has proved, and not for the first time, to be a sound deputy.

He has kept two clean sheets in successive games and, just as he did at various times in the last two season, has shown he is entitled to be regarded as a first choice in his own right.

However, despite the fact that there seems to be little between the keepers, Thomson believes that there is almost always a degree of favouritism in such situations.

“I think there is a preference on a manger’s part, even if it is just a small part, for one particular keeper,” he said. “In Allan’s case I think his record speaks for itself.

“That is harsh on Neil because there is not much else that he could do when his chance comes. It does look as though whatever he does, the gloves will probably go back to Allan because the bottom line is that McGregor is regarded as the number one.

“That is just how football works and the goalkeeping position in particular is especially ruthless.

“It is not like being an outfield player where you can have a bit of versatility and play in different positions. There is only one keeper who can ever play, which means that someone is going to be disappointed.”

Every club has a number one and at Rangers, it is Allan

Former Ibrox coach Billy Thomson

There was much talk about who would start the season as Walter Smith’s first pick after Alexander finished the season strongly, with McGregor out of favour due to his part in the Boozegate incident in the springtime.

It was with some surprise that the former Scotland internationalist resumed his first-team role while Alexander was benched, and the former Cardfiff keeper’s frustration will surely peak if the same scenario unfolds yet again.

Affable and understanding of the situation, Alexander nonetheless has a career of his own to consider. At 31 he still has a few years ahead of him and by his own admission he doesn’t want to see out his career playing second fiddle to someone else.

“I can totally understand where he is coming from, said Thomson. “It is a difficult situation at any club because you have two players who really could stake a claim for being a regular pick.

“And it can be impossible to keep both of them happy at the same time.

“I have never worked with Neil, but I have seen a lot of him throughout his career and I think he is a good and competent keeper.

“He is also used to playing throughout his playing days and it will be hard for him to come in and then go back out again, especially if he has acquitted himself well.

“But at every club there is a number one and Allan is it at Rangers. That is pretty much how it stands at the minute and it is understandable that it can be frustrating for Neil.”

McGregor himself has been in a similar position when Lionel Letizi was favoured by Paul Le Guen over the Scot and Thomson knows just how much he values the number one position at Rangers.

Having put that place in jeopardy last April with his infamous antics on Scotland duty, he has kept a low profile so far this season.

His performances have been excellent for some time while he has lived the quiet life off the pitch, instead of attracting front-page headlines in the tabloid press.

“I think Allan is a quality goalkeeper and he has been very consistent for Rangers,” said Thomson.

“He had to work very hard to get into the position he is in now, with loan spells away from Ibrox at St Johnstone and at Dunfermline.

“And because of that I think he has an appreciation of what he has got now at Rangers.

“I loved working with him because his attitude was always spot-on and I thought he had a lot of talent.

“He has produced some top-drawer saves for Rangers this season and I think the best is probably yet to come from him in his career.

“He is only 27 and goalkeepers tend to hit their peak later on, when they have a lot of experience under their belts.

“I remember speaking to Paul Le Guen about him and I also remember trying to get Allan to stay on at Rangers when he was on the brink of quitting because he just wanted to play.

“But having got himself into the position he is now I don’t think he will give it up lightly.

“In a way it is a nice problem for Walter to have but at the same time if Neil was to move on in the transfer window it could be a bit of a problem for him because you always want to have a quality back-up.”

Billy could be right, whatever Neil does, does Allan get the gloves back?



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