LEWIS MACLEOD has often found himself out of position at Rangers as he has been shunted to the left of the Light Blues midfield.

But former Ibrox star Alex Rae reckons Macleod will be central to the Gers' Championship challenge next term.

The 20-year-old is the brightest star to emerge through the ranks in some time but has not had his problems to seek in his first two seasons in the spotlight.

A knee injury brought a premature end to his first campaign then a viral infection sidelined him for several months last time out.

Having returned to full health and full training, he is once again on the right path.

And Rae reckons that could take the midfield protégé to Rangers stardom.

"It is important that Lewis gets a good pre-season under his belt and then hits the ground running," Rae said.

"He's one of the better players in the squad and the experience he has got will benefit him going forward.

"The Championship is a tough league and it will be a good test for Lewis.

"Any competition for your place is healthy and Lewis will be determined to get himself in the team. There were times last season where he played wide on the left but he played in the middle as well.

"That is his preferred position but the experience of playing is the most important thing for him just now.

"It is a great learning curve playing alongside guys like Ian Black and Nicky Law and Lewis will benefit from every minute he gets on the park.

"Even guys that aren't in his position - like Miller, Boyd, big Jig (Lee McCulloch) - they will all help him and bring him on all the time. It is a fantastic chance for him and it will be a great grounding.

"Technically he is up there with some of the better ones that have come through Murray Park and hopefully he can go on to have a really good career at Rangers."

Having shone in the Third Division and League One, Macleod will have to up his game once again when Rangers begin their bid for the Championship crown next month. It is a challenge all of McCoist's players must rise to as they look to complete The Journey.

Rae said: "There are seven full-time teams next season and that will be a factor, the quality of the opposition will increase once again

"It will be a brilliant league. The last couple of years have been a formality but the competition will be stiffer now.

"There are some good teams in there and you have Hibs and Hearts who will be looking to get back up at the first time of asking.

"Rangers obviously have the aspiration of getting up this season and they will be looking to start well and put a marker down again."