When Rangers signed Gareth McAuley at the start of September, it looked like an excellent move for all concerned.
The Gers were picking up an extremely experienced Premier League and international defender. What’s more, it was on a free.
For McAuley, it offered a potentially final big challenge in club football. At 39, he’s actually older than the manager, but he was still first choice centre-back for Northern Ireland.
However, things simply haven’t worked out.
For the first real time in his career, injuries have proved a significant stumbling block. It took the ex-West Brom star some time to overcome a calf problem at the start of the season before a further muscle injury struck him down before the winter break.
In November and December, he enjoyed a brief run as Connor Goldson’s partner. Yet, even then, he struggled to reach full sharpness.
In 2019, it’s been bleaker still. He was shaky in the first game back against Killie, was retained against minnows Cowdenbeath in the Scottish Cup, but hasn’t been seen since.
End in sight for veteran
He’s now closing in on three months without first-team football, while the end of his one-year deal looms large.
Unlike Jon Flanagan, who has recently experienced an unlikely renaissance, McAuley hasn’t even been making matchday squads.
Katic and Goldson are now the preferred combination at the heart of defence. However, even though Joe Worrall is set to return to Nottingham Forest at the end of the season, he’s still taking a spot on the bench ahead of the Ulsterman.
With just four games remaining, it’s tough to see what’s going to change.
Unfortunately, it looks as though McAuley has played his last game for the Gers, in what must have been an immensely frustrating season.