RANGERS boss Ally McCoist has admitted he will continue to monitor the progress of Ryan McGowan – despite the Hearts defender moving to China.

Australian international McGowan, below, who the Gers tried to sign back in August, has agreed a lucrative deal with Shandong Luneng.

But McCoist is a huge admirer of the right-back and will keep tabs on how the 23-year-old performs in Asia in the months ahead. He said: "I don't know the exact ins and outs of his contract (with Shandong), but Ryan is a player we certainly would have liked to have brought here. He'd have been a good one for us.

"I can't predict the future. I don't know how Ryan will do or what our situation will be. But you'd have to say he was a player we were interested in so we'll continue to monitor him and wish him all the best."

Rangers have started to speak to players who are free agents in the summer and McCoist revealed he has been "encouraged" by the response. The Ibrox club can, despite a 12-month transfer ban, speak to individuals who are out of contract in the summer and then register them as players on September 1.

He said: "We've been encouraged by the interest that's been shown from one or two players we've been monitoring.

"The great thing is that the support, the stadium and the training ground is still a big pull for some players.

"We've got endless lists of players whose contracts are up at the end of the season. We're definitely looking now.

"If there's an opportunity to do it now or plan for the future then we should be doing it now and we are."

Meanwhile, McCoist has revealed Darren Cole may have to undergo surgery on the ankle injury he sustained against Annan in midweek.

The right-back, who turned 20 on Thursday, was stretchered off in the second half of the 3-1 win at Galabank in what was his second start for the Ibrox club.

McCoist said: "Darren has a bad one. The swelling is way up and I'm not too hopeful. We think he'll need an operation."

There was, however, good news for McCoist ahead of the Irn-Bru Third Division match against Elgin City at Ibrox this afternoon.

Emilson Cribari, Lewis Macleod, Lee McCulloch and Dean Shiels are all available again after injury and should come back into the side.

Elsewhere, Kal Naismith, who had been sidelined with an injury, trained yesterday but will not be in the squad.

McCoist confirmed any new arrivals will not hamper the progress of the kids who have broken into the first team.

He said: "It would be totally wrong of me to spend and bring in players that would be to the detriment of the youngsters.

"You have to get the balance right and it has to be to the benefit of the club and the team, that's an absolute must.

"But at the same time you have to be very careful to help the youngsters as well so they can continue to blossom."