Rangers yesterday swooped to sign goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin on a two year contract. The Scotland International joins from Sunderland after his contract had run out, becoming Rangers third signing of the summer so far. With over 400 senior appearances he certainly has the experience and our manager has already commented he is here to provide competition for the number one position. The manager also made it clear that he is not here to hinder the progress or block our young keeper Robby McCrorie, with Robby set to sign a new long term deal before heading out on loan. So it certainly seems to me a safe sensible move and one which will provide adequate competition for the number one position.
I will admit to not knowing a lot about Jon other than from his time at Hearts for a season and then Sunderland, so I was lucky enough to speak with Graham Falk who is a long time Sunderland fan. Graham is a sports journalist and host of the ‘What the Falk’ podcast (http://whatthefalkpod.podbean.com/).
So I asked Graham exactly what we can expect from Jon?
Jon McLaughlin was one of Jack Ross’ first signings at the club and, while many of us didn’t know much about him, we found out pretty quick how good he was. The year before, our relegation to League One was largely down to having potentially the worst three goalkeepers in our history, so McLaughlin had pressure on his shoulders to perform but was probably our player of the season. He’s a really good all round goalkeeper really. He’s very good at coming for crosses, he’s a spectacular shot stopper, good on penalties and the organisation of his defence is vocal and exactly what you want from your goalkeeper. I’d recommend anyone to watch the highlights of our second leg play-off against Portsmouth. He made 3-4 point blank saves that got us to Wembley.
What does he bring to the position?
Character, calmness and experience. His first season at the club, as stated before, was almost perfect. In fact I don’t recall one bad game. He’s a really brave goalkeeper. He’s not frightened to come and claim the ball and wipe out 3 of the attackers and his own centre half if that means he gets there first, but he’s certainly not a hot head, he’s cool, calm and collected and should help nullify any brainfarts your defence may have. He did have a really shaky middle of last season, but to be fair, this was around the time when contract talks were stalling only months after Stewart Donald claimed he’d only sell him for £5m and wanted him to sign a new deal – maybe that effected him? He came back into the side around Christmas time though and kept 8 clean sheets in 9, showing a real strength of character to prove wrong those who doubted him after his dip in form. Most of us are gutted to lose him, to be completely honest.
Can he handle the pressure at Rangers?
Yeah. I think so. Look, I’m Sunderland through and through, but there’s no doubting Rangers are a bigger club with much higher expectations, but having had the privilege to live in both Sunderland and Glasgow, I can tell you there’s not a huge deal of difference in pressure. McLaughlin was consistent always, but really turned up in the big games, like Pompey away as I mentioned before. While he went to Wembley with us twice, and lost twice, he never let us down in the big games and I honestly think he’ll challenge an ageing Greegsy far from more than Foderingham did. He’s an excellent ‘keeper and someone I’d have as Scotland’s number one, in my honest opinion.
Finally, does he have any weaknesses as a goalkeeper?
Yes, he does. No ‘keeper spends most of his time in the Championship and League One without any weaknesses and his kicking is fairly poor. It’s okay across the floor, but anything at length seems to go out of play for some reason. But if you’re calmly playing it out from the back, then it’s no huge problem. He did make some big mistakes between September and October, but I think it happens to any goalkeeper, and he showed class is permanent with 8 clean sheets in 9.
So a lot of positives in that from Graham and I believe we can look forward to him being a very able and adequate Rangers player throughout his time with the club. I likened his signing to that of Neil Alexander back in the day and I do believe this is a similar one. In my opinion it is a good move from the club.
Yesterday was a huge day for fan media and a huge step in our coverage working with the club. Many will know that Club1872 have been working with the club to ensure that the club embrace this ‘New’ world in that fan media is now a huge part of modern day football. I am extremely humbled that club1872 pushed my name forward as one of the fan choices. I am also thankful that the club Media team have embraced that and yesterday gave me the opportunity to attend a ‘virtual’ press conference with our manager and Ianis Hagi.
I asked Ianis if he thought his shortened loan spell was a great learning curve for when we do restart to help him be ready immediately. Ianis said
It will obviously help me a lot the couple of months I spent here before. By introducing me to the league I now know what to expect and will definitely be an advantage to me. But it doesn’t mean it will be much easier so I have to do my job as a number ten and the type of player I am will be more than enough.
Ianis spoke well throughout but what struck me was he didn’t seem content to just sit and be happy at Rangers, he’s delighted to be here but he has a determination and steely resolve to succeed, that is extremely evident. For someone so young he speaks really well and I am delighted that he has committed himself to the club. I think if we can harness his potential we may have a player capable of doing things we have not seen in an individual since the late Nineties and those of legendary status.
Next up I got to speak with the manager and I was keen to ask him about training and what was involved for the first team.
Steven, can you tell us a bit more about the training and what we have been doing, how you will build that up and eventually restart at a full capacity for a normal pre season?
We are training in small groups, obviously taking current rules into consideration, it’s not ideal I will be honest with you but we have been in lockdown for a long time so it is important players get moving and important to support that procedure from a mental point of view getting out the house and spending time with each other.
The manager continued
It is better than it was but the sooner we can get back to normality the better. With the season just being over a month away from restart we need a certain amount of time to prepare the players for the game situations and full contact which hopefully we can get back to where we need to be. We have to spend a lot of time on the training pitch in small groups doing three to four sessions a day, which isn’t ideal but we totally understand the situation and we have to adapt.
We hope in the coming days we will get some good news then we can get close to where we need to get to.
I have always been intrigued by training and what goes on behind the scenes so even just a small insight is welcomed. The manager spoke really well and is now becoming highly experienced in dealing with leading questions from the media, brushing off those questions about our ‘rivals’ and merely stating his concentration is on Rangers. He seems to have his focus and determination exactly where it needs to be. On signings he was keen to stress that the club are in a very good place and in a ‘position to strike’ if needed but also warned we may have to be patient depending on the situation of other sides. He also mentioned that his focus is now on making signings that strengthen the ‘Eleven’ which I took as an indication it may be quality over quantity in terms of what comes in.
But overall a hugely positive experience and one I am delighted to be a part of even if just in a small way. Also joining me and experiencing ‘fan media’ was David Edgar of the brilliant Heart and Hand podcast, David and I recorded a reaction pod which is available on the Heart and hand site free of charge for everyone to listen. David and I speak about the press conference in detail, I am biased but it is brilliant and you can find that here https://www.patreon.com/posts/press-conference-38538400?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=postshare .
What is clear from the press conference and the manager said it himself, we are in a good place as a club and as a team. We have sold 35,000 season tickets, confirmed by Steven Gerrard yesterday, we are active in the transfer market and everyone is determined to hit the ground running when the season does restart. We can’t do anything about what went on before but we can certainly make sure we are ready and better placed to stop it happening again.
Rangers are moving forward, commercial deals are promising, the team is taking shape and the club are even embracing fan media for supporters to enjoy a unique insight into the club.
Let’s hope the club hit the heights on the pitch when we do return. If we do that with even half the determination that Ianis Hagi and Steven Gerrard spoke with yesterday then we won’t be far away.
Ignore the nonsense, the irrelevant and the noise 🔴⚪️🔵