ARCHIE Knox must have thought that when he turned on Sky Sports to watch his old Rangers club take on Celtic on Saturday, he had inadvertently put on a replay of an Old Firm game from the Nine-In-A-Row years.
From kick-off until the half-time whistle, the Ibrox side were stomped into the dirt by their Parkhead rivals, and only a magnificent effort from their goalkeeper stopped them from falling behind.
But they managed to concede a goal and win narrowly after resisting the onslaught from the visitors to extend their lead at the top of the table.
In the Glasgow Derbies of the 1990s, when Knox was Walter Smith’s assistant at Govan, it was much the same story.
Smith was lucky to have at his disposal one of the greatest Scottish goalkeepers of all time, maybe even the best of all time, the incomparable Andy Goram.
Knox, however, thinks that Allan McGregor, who put in an excellent performance in the 1-0 victory of Steven Gerrard’s side that moved them 19 points away from their Premier League city rivals, is every bit the same as his legendary predecessor.
In the second half of the 2020/21 season, he thinks McGregor will be the main player for Glasgow, both on and off the pitch, as they aim to escape the bankruptcies that have ended their Scottish title charge in the last two seasons.
“Things are going well for Rangers this season, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. Now it’s a matter of how they handle the next step. For the rest of the season, they need to make sure they don’t lose another game.
We certainly have the ability to do that – but now it’s the attitude that’s important that will determine what’s going to happen.
“They have a lot of players to fall back on. Both (Scott) Arfield and (Ryan) Jack were out over the weekend, and they’ve managed without them. They’re not desperate for another forward or midfielder in this window. Their mindset is what’s important right now.
When the Rangers team with whom I was involved had to deliver, they always delivered. Yet we really had the best talent. This is a team that is really different. They don’t have in their ranks Brian Laudrup or Paul Gascoigne or even Ally McCost. We had players at a different level who produced.
“Do I see the same mentality in these players? Not in all of them. But I see it in McGregor. He’s the most dominant personality of all of them. He’s been through it all. He’s going to be the one to push them in the second half of the season and make sure they don’t make mistakes.”
Goram credited Alan Hodgkinson, a renowned English goalkeeping coach with whom he worked at both Rangers and Scotland in his heyday, with bringing his game to a higher level.
Knox revealed that McGregor also has to thank the Ibrox club for the late Sheffield United great, whom he first encountered in the 1980s when he was assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
“Allan was just a schoolboy when Walter and I were at Rangers,” he said. We were watching the games of the youth team and the schoolboy games to see the young players coming up.
But the one who really turned us on to McGregor was Alan Hodgkinson. He was the one who kept telling us,’ We have to hang on to this boy.’ He was persuaded, even when he was a kid, that he had what it took to be a top goalkeeper.
When I was at Manchester United before that, he did exactly the same thing. He was the one that took our attention to Peter Schmeichel. He went over to see him play in Denmark and told Alex to go and get him.
Alan assisted in making Andy Goram the goalkeeper he had become. With Alan, there were no half steps. If he ever missed a target in practice, Goram would get furious. If he felt they hadn’t blocked a shot or hadn’t done their job, he would give the defenders a telling off. He also made sure Allan McGregor was signed by the Rangers.
Knox sees a lot of parallels between Goram and McGregor, who, if he’s dissatisfied with their play, isn’t averse to giving his defense a beating, and he’s sure the latter will help the Rangers end an agonizing 10-year wait in the coming months for a league win.
Allan is now 38,” he said. “You really have to do anything to play at the level he’s at at this age. To play for a team like the Rangers, you really have to keep yourself in top shape and make the kind of saves he made on S at this point of his career.