First-team selection headache for Rangers boss McCoist

IN the last two seasons just about everybody in the Rangers squad was guaranteed a game at some stage.

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Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller will be first-choice strikers for Ally McCoist
Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller will be first-choice strikers for Ally McCoist

The lack of strength in depth at the disposal of manager Ally McCoist meant that everybody was called upon.

And if a player's form dipped during the course of a campaign or if they were carrying a niggling injury, they would still find themselves getting a nod.

But that could all be set to change in the SPFL Championship with the new signings who have come in to the Ibrox club in the summer.

McCoist has landed experienced players in Kris Boyd, Darren McGregor, Kenny Miller and Marius Zaliukas in recent weeks.

The Light Blues gaffer has been able to change his entire side during pre-season matches in the Highlands and in Canada and the United States.

So who is certain to start, who will get a regular game and who has a point to prove?

CERTAIN STARTERS

CAMMY BELL is the first choice No.1 at Rangers. He very quickly proved his ability to cope with the demands of playing for the Glasgow giants in his debut season. Indeed, at times the former Kilmarnock and Scotland keeper single-handedly ensured his side maintained their unbeaten run in League One.

RICKY FOSTER and LEE WALLACE will be preferred at right-back and left-back respectively when fit. The former enjoyed a fine spell of form in the second half of last season, is lightning-quick and poses a serious threat down his flank.

The latter is, quite simply, the most consistent player in the side. The Scotland international excels in attack and defence on a weekly basis.

LEE McCULLOCH and MARIUS ZALIUKAS will form a new central defensive pairing in the months ahead. McCulloch is still, despite his advancing years, a fine player. He is also a huge presence in the side.

The captain drives on and inspires those around - especially when the side is facing a battle.

Zaliukas reads the game brilliantly and should shore up a rearguard that, on occasions in the past, has ­conceded goals ­needlessly and softly.

IAN BLACK and NICKY LAW both have the experience needed to deal with matches against full-time opposition in the second tier, not least against Hearts and Hibs.

They have played extensively in the top flight in the past and complement each other well, but the pair have not always convinced. If their play drops below its usual standard they may find themselves out of the side.

LEWIS MACLEOD and FRASER AIRD are flat-mates off the park and team-mates on it. Macleod is one of Scottish football's brightest prospects and has hopefully overcome the injury and illness problems which have blighted his embryonic playing career.

Aird is direct, pacy and enthusiastic and established himself in the side last term.

KRIS BOYD and KENNY MILLER will be the first names down on the team sheet this season. In their previous spell at Rangers the pair formed probably the most lethal strike partnership at Ibrox since Ally McCoist and Mark Hateley in the 1990s.

They are fit and hungry for success. It is inconceivable they will not plunder a plethora of goals.

REGULAR GAME

STEVE SIMONSEN produced the Save of the Season in Scottish football in the 2013/14 campaign with his wonder block against Forfar.

Yes, he had a shocker in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Dundee United, but he is a reliable back-up for Cammy Bell.

BILEL MOHSNI and STEVIE SMITH have both shown their worth in the Rangers team on numerous occasions in the past and will only be omitted from the starting line-up due to the high quality of those above them in the pecking order.

They could find themselves utilised outwith their preferred positions.

DARREN McGREGOR has shown up well in pre-season and already looks a decent acquisition. The Rangers defence will need to perform well or he will be in.

DEAN SHIELS and DAVID TEMPLETON struggled with injuries last season, but at times they showed just what they are capable of.

They have the ability to hold down first-team places if they can discover some consistency.

JON DALY finished last season as the top scorer and often made himself available for selection when he was not fully fit. Will be given his far share of game-time in the months ahead. The burly striker is a good outball for his team-mates.

CALUM GALLAGHER looks like a real star in the making, a powerful lad with an eye for goal who always makes an impact. He should just get better and better.

BARRIE McKAY really looks to have benefited from his loan spell at Morton last season.

POINT TO PROVE

ROBBIE CRAWFORD and SEB FAURE has played a fair bit in the last couple of seasons due, in a large part, to their versatility.

Faure is dependable enough if not ­especially dynamic. Needs to show more to ensure his future at the club.

Crawford, too, has to make his presence felt more.

KYLE HUTTON has to avoid injury and step up a level if he is to fulfil his undoubted potential.

NICKY CLARK is facing a big season.

He must score far more regularly than he did in his debut term and show that he has what it takes to lead the line for Rangers.

Elsewhere, will Honduran ARNOLD PERALTA be back?

Football

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