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cinch Premiership - Hearts FC v Rangers FC

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Fan Focus: Rangers writer Jack thinks ex-Sunderland keeper Jon McLaughlin will be their new #1

Ahead of Sunderland’s first pre-season friendly in Portugal, Matty spoke to Rangers writer Joshua Barrie of The Rangers Review to find out more about the recent Europa League finalists.

Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group via Getty Images

Matthew Crichton: Rangers narrowly lost last season’s Europa League final on penalties, but it must have been an unbelievable journey and experience for the fans all the way, what were the factors behind the club going so far?

Joshua Barrie: Steven Gerrard re-established Rangers’ reputation as a European force and achieved a remarkably consistent upward trajectory on the continent during his time at the club. Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s tactical variance and ability to change in-game allowed the side to go up a level, aided of course by the unique home atmosphere.

MC: Although Rangers did lose out on the league, it was overshadowed by your success in Europe - do you think this season will be all about winning that title back from Celtic?

JB: Definitely, the run overshadowed what was a hugely disappointing domestic season. The club will hope that with greater continuity and no managerial changes, they can regain the title.

MC: Giovanni van Bronckhorst came in to replace Steven Gerrard as Rangers manager, what has he changed so far and do you think he is destined for long-term success with the club?

JB: He’s introduced a more direct style, employing a more traditional 4-3-3 and varying his game plan with greater regularity. The positives of that approach have been highlighted in Europe, the challenge he has is to demonstrate that he can build a successful possession-dominant team in Scotland.

Dundee FC v Rangers FC - Cinch Scottish Premiership
Giovanni Van Bronkhorst won two Scottish Premier League titles with Rangers as a player.
Photo by Alan Harvey/SNS Group via Getty Images

MC: Alex Neil has faced Rangers in management before during his spell in charge of Hamilton, what do you remember from his time there that earned the Scot a move to manage in England?

JB: He did a pretty impressive job with Hamilton and justified his move down South, it’s always good to see Scottish representation in the English leagues.

MC: Jon McLaughlin joined Rangers from Sunderland back in 2020, how would you describe his tenure in Glasgow so far?

JB: Many expect him to assume the No.1 position this summer from veteran Allan McGregor, who surprised everyone by extending his stay at the club. McLaughlin is a more modern goalkeeper, demonstrated in the Old Firm, Scottish Cup semi-final last season when he played an integral part in playing through the Celtic press.

MC: One of the clubs Ross Stewart has been linked with this summer is Rangers, is he someone that you would like the club to look into signing?

JB: He’s clearly improved down south but wouldn’t usurp Alfredo Morelos so for the fee, I can’t see it happening.

25/10/08 CLYDESDALE BANK PREMIER LEAGUE .HAMILTON v RANGERS .NEW DOUGLAS PARK - HAMILTON .Hamilton’s Alex Neil and Rangers’ Pedro Mendes (Photo by Bill Murray\SNS Group via Getty Images)
Alex Neil came up against Rangers for Hamilton as both a player and a manager.
Photo by Bill Murray\SNS Group via Getty Images

MC: Rangers announced the signing of Tom Lawrence from Derby, do you think he will be an excellent replacement for Joe Aribo?

JB: Not necessarily, it’s not like for like although I do expect Lawrence to play centrally. Initially, I think he is being brought in to provide depth although given his direct style, I can see him becoming an effective player domestically.

MC: Aside from the above-mentioned transfer, are you pleased with the other business the club has done so far in the transfer window?

JB: It’s starting to pick up but a right-winger remains a priority. Additionally, Morelos and Ryan Kent have just 12 months left on their contracts which remains a concern for the support.

Rangers FC v Crvena Zvezda: Round of 16 Leg One - UEFA Europa League
Alfredo Morelos has scored 112 goals for Rangers since joining the club back in 2017.
Photo by Mark Runnacles - UEFA/Getty Images

MC: It’s always difficult to guess in pre-season, but which eleven players do you think will start and what style of play can Alex Neil’s team expect to face?

JB: McLaughlin, Tavernier, Goldson, King, Bassey, Lundstram, Lowry, Lawrence, Wright, Colak, Kent.

MC: There is always an argument as to whether pre-season is more about fitness or results, where do you think Van Bronkhorst is on this?

JB: This pre-season is very much about the new manager fully embedding his style of play without any interruptions. Arriving in mid-season last year, that was a difficult thing to do.

MC: Lastly, what is your prediction for the final score?

JB: 3-1 Rangers.


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