Rangers boss McCoist has giant squad to tackle contenders from the Capital

IF there really is safety in numbers, Rangers should have little to fear this season.

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Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller celebrate the equaliser in the Brora Rangers warm-up game
Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller celebrate the equaliser in the Brora Rangers warm-up game

Having ended the League One campaign with a squad that was already capable of winning the division above, they will kick-off in the Championship next month with one that is the envy of almost every other club in the country.

For the third summer in a row, the blue-crested gates of Murray Park have not stayed closed for long as a string of squad players have left and a series of stars have arrived.

Not all of the faces are new but they will go some way to helping Ally McCoist's side towards a third straight title and a place in the Premiership.

In Kenny Miller and Kris Boyd, the Gers boss has the most potent strike partnership in the division at his disposal.

And, at the other end, he has recruited Marius Zaliukas and Darren McGregor, two tried and trusted defenders of top-flight standard.

While Boyd and Miller are likely to be first picks, the defensive reinforcements may have more of a challenge on their hands to get a jersey.

Skipper Lee McCulloch and Bilel Mohsni formed a solid partnership last season while Sebastien Faure, Luca Gasparotto and Craig Halkett will all harbour ambitions of a first-team run.

It is a squad rich in quality and plentiful in number.

And former Gers star Craig Paterson believes it is one that will be hard to beat to the silverware this season.

"As soon as they realised Hibs and Hearts were going to be in the same league, it meant Rangers had to raise the bar this summer," he said.

"They could have gone with fewer players of that quality but it is a really difficult division and Rangers, like the other two, want to get out of it at the first time of asking.

"You don't want to be in the Championship for more than a season. It is the sensible way to go so that if you have injuries or suspensions you have got cover, and quality cover.

"Getting Kenny Miller and Kris Boyd ensured Rangers would have quality up front. They will guarantee you goals at this level, and Jon Daly and Nicky Clark can come in, too.

"In the two most important areas, at the front and back, Ally has taken no chances at all.

"He has used his budget and made sure Rangers have the kind of strength in depth that even Hibs and Hearts can only dream of."

It is not just at the back, where McCoist has seven central defenders to pick from, that the Ibrox pool is packed.

The Gers boss will certainly not be short of options as he looks to guide his side to the Championship crown.

But Paterson knows that presents its own problems as players jostle for places each week.

He said: "If the man in ­possession of the jersey is performing, the manager is not going to change the team.

"At the back, you want a partnership and you want the keeper and two centre-backs playing every week to generate an understanding."

HE added: "It is always unfortunate for the guys that need to wait for that injury, suspension or loss in form to get in the team.

"The good thing for the manager is that if players aren't performing, he has real quality in reserve to change things.

"He doesn't need to let players play through bad patches.

"He can say 'I can give these guys a go'. And once they are in, that jersey is theirs to lose.

"Last season, Rangers would win games without being at their best but every time they go up a league it gets more and more difficult for them.

"It will be a cracking league and you can see how seriously Rangers are taking the challenge when you see the kind of players they are bringing in, and the numbers."

With a 30-strong group to choose from, the chances of those on the fringes forcing their way into the first team in the coming months appear slim.

While Lewis Macleod and Fraser Aird will once again lead the way for the Light Blue young guns, the likes of Gasparotto and Halkett, defensive peer Kyle McAusland, and midfielders Andy Murdoch and Robbie Crawford, could find it tough going this term.

Their futures, for the short-term at least, could well lie away from Ibrox if they can't get into McCoist's plans.

Paterson said: "Blooding young players is great, but only if they are ready.

"It is important to have ­experienced players all over the park that can get the job done.

"You could see some of the youngsters, like Gasparotto and Halkett, go out on loan.

"Allan McGregor did it, Charlie Adam did it and they were better for the experience. If you are too good for the Under-20s but not playing in the first team, how do you progress?

"The best way is to go somewhere else and play competitive first-team football. It's good for them and good for Rangers if they come back nearer the finished article. It's always hard for young players at Rangers.

"You sit on your summer holidays and think 'this might be my year' and then pick up the paper and see who Rangers have signed and you are down the pecking order.

"It is important for young players to develop their careers and going out on loan benefits them and the club."

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