McDowall told new loan signings ‘have got to play’

Kenny McDowall sensationally revealed on Thursday that he has been told he must play the five Newcastle loan players added to his squad on transfer deadline day. PA Wire
Kenny McDowall sensationally revealed on Thursday that he has been told he must play the five Newcastle loan players added to his squad on transfer deadline day. PA Wire

Caretaker boss Kenny McDowall revealed the Rangers board have insisted that he must play his five Newcastle loan players.

Toon quintet Burundi-born Gael Bigirimana, English defender Remie Streete, Haris Vuckic from Slovenia, Northern Ireland international winger Shane Ferguson and Swiss defender Kevin Mbabu, joined the beleaguered Ibrox club until the end of the campaign on transfer deadline day, albeit the latter two are carrying injuries which will delay their arrivals for several weeks.

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is a shareholder at Rangers with an 8.92 per cent stake and he and the Championship club, embroiled in an on-going boardroom battle, face hearings before the Scottish FA in March over the Sports Direct owner’s possible breaches of dual interest rules.

Those rules appeared more than pertinent at an extraordinary press conference at Murray Park, ahead of the Scottish Cup fifth-round clash with Raith Rovers at Ibrox on Sunday.

McDowall, who took over from Ally McCoist in December after the Gers boss was put on garden leave, is working a 12-month notice period.

Adding further to the sense of chaos which refuses to leave the club, he confirmed that Gers’ chief executive Derek Llambias, an Ashley associate, and Rangers football board chairman, Sandy Easdale, told him that the new players will start, when fit.

He said: “On Monday night I got a call from Derek saying he had secured five players on loan. Three of them arrived and two of them will be coming the next three or four weeks, they are injured.

“When I was given the job I was told players in-coming and out-going wouldn’t be my responsibility. I take the team and coach the team and I am more than happy to get on with it.”

Asked if he was duty bound to play them, he replied: “Yes”.

Then asked if he had to play every one of them every week, he again, replied; “Yes. I have been told what to do and I have told them I am more than happy to carry out what they have told me, so I don’t have a problem with it at all. (The players are not aware at this moment) but they will know now, obviously.

“They are obviously good players, they play for Newcastle but I will carry on and do what I am told to do.”

Quizzed about how the dressing room might be affected by clear interference in team selection, he said: “That’s the nature of being at a big club. There are always new players arriving at big clubs and it is something the players will have to deal with.

“The boys have come up to play and they will play. That’s just how it is. They are in the squad for Sunday.

“I have handed in my notice and have told the guys I am happy to take the team.”

“So I am not going to complain. I will carry out the instructions that they give me and do my best. I have a job to do and I am happy to do it.

“It is competition and it is up to them (other players) to work hard at training and look after their own standards.

“I would like to think the players would be professional and do their jobs.

“And I would like the fans would give them their support, they are playing with Rangers after all.

“The lads are just here to play football. They are nice lads and look good players. It is not their doing. They are a welcome addition to our squad.”

It was difficult not to feel sorry for Fraser Aird, who came into the media room unaware, like the rest of his team mates at that point, that he would be fighting for only five outfield places for the rest of the season.

However, the winger tried to deal with the situation with a bit of humour.

“I’ve just heard the comments that they have to play, so it’s kind of just hit me in the last five seconds,” he said.

“I don’t know what it’s going to be like. Ask me in a few weeks and I might tell you something different.

“I’ve never been in this position before. I’ve only been in the first team for two or three years, so I guess we just need to wait and see what happens.

“It’s puts him (McDowall) and me in a bit of a position because you know if you’ve done well enough to play the next week, maybe you won’t.

“So I guess you just need to go out and score a hat-trick every game to try to keep yourself in the team.”

Llambias later denied that the board was picking the team.

In a statement given to Sky Sports News HQ, Llambias said: “There’s no way the board is picking the team.

“The basis of any loan deal is that the players who arrive bolster the side and give the squad more depth. That’s exactly what is happening here.”