Georgios Samaras still has nightmares about Alan McGregor. In the final Old Firm game of 2010/11 Celtic were awarded a dubious penalty by Craig Thomson with just eight minutes left to play. Two points clear at the top of the league, if Samaras scores, Celtic go five points clear with just five games left to play. As Samaras waits to take the penalty, McGregor comes forward and lets the referee know the ball isn’t on it’s spot and Samaras has to start again – McGregor has already won. McGregor tips the ball round the post diving to his left and the rest is history.

Although this is the most memorable moment in the run in, what sometimes gets forgotten is that McGregor only lost two goals in the last ten games of the season. Rangers won the league by a solitary point. Three-in-a-row secured and Walter Smith was given the perfect send off. What makes this statistic even more impressive is that he only lost one goal In the first nine domestic games the following season. Three goals in nineteen games. Admittedly he had better defenders in front of him but this is the standard a Rangers goalkeeper should aspire to. On a personal level, McGregor’s form was rewarded by the Scottish Sports Writer’s International Player of the Year for 2010/11 such was his form for Scotland.

I think we are sometimes too quick to forget just how good he was for us because of the nature of his departure at the end of the 2011/12 season to Besiktas following demotion to League 2. There is no doubt, without administration, he would still be Rangers number one having signed a six-year contract in 2011.

McGregor made his real breakthrough in 2006/07 and was an almost accidental highlight of the Paul Le Guen era, short-lived as it was. He was the number three goalkeeper behind Stefan Klos and Lionel Letizi when the season began. The same role he played the previous season having lost his starting place to Ronald Waterreus when Klos was injured. In 2006/07 when Klos suffered a freak pre-season cycling injury and Letizi suffered recurring thigh injuries McGregor stepped up and even managed to end the season as The Player’s Player of the Season. McGregor was actually told he was surplus to requirements in the summer of 2006 despite Klos’ injury but no offers ever materialised. He was only convinced to stay once Letizi and Paul le Guen left and Walter Smith returned, confirming his status as number 1 with the acceptance of a new contract that had been due to expire at the end of the season. Only a few people will truly know how close we came to not having McGregor as our goalkeeper for over 200 games.

He was responsible for one of the more controversial Le Guen moments when, despite winning player of the month he was subsequently dropped for Letizi on his return to fitness. Letizi had a stinker, making a couple of fumbles, with one of them proving costly when Graham Bayne tapped in a rebound for a famous Inverness Caledonian Thistle victory. Letizi left soon after and McGregor remained as undisputed number one only losing his place following the infamous “Boozegate” scandal in 2009 and a two-week club suspension. He was also given a lifetime Scotland suspension (later revoked the following year by Craig Levein).

He has been unlucky several times with injury, missing cup finals. The biggest one being the 2008 UEFA Cup Final following injury in an April Old Firm defeat. McGregor had made match winning penalty saves in the League Cup final already in the season and but for a wonder save against Werder Bremen, the European adventure might not have made it past the last 16. He is responsible for arguably the best and most important saves ever by a Rangers goalkeeper. Neil Alexander played well in his absence but there will always be a case of what might have been.

After his season in Besiktas, McGregor was signed by Hull City to strengthen their bid for survival in the Premier League in 2013/14. Not only did they survive but they managed to reach the FA Cup Final. McGregor was an almost ever present in the Hull City first team over his first three seasons (except periods of injury) only for him to lose his place when Hull made a signing to cover him, ironically to Scotland team mate David Marshall after requiring back surgery in July 2016. He returned to full fitness six months later but found himself back at third choice. A six month loan period at Cardiff City helped him to reach full fitness again and he has begun this season as Hull City’s first choice goalkeeper. He has subsequently been recalled to the Scotland squad since his return to fitness which will hopefully put pressure on Craig Gordon to improve his recent performances.

When there were pre-season rumours of a return for McGregor the only voices of objection were based on the acrimonious way he left the club in 2012. Realistically, we had a top class international goalkeeper at his peak and there was no way we could expect him to stay and play in Scotland’s bottom tier. It was only surprising that he didn’t move to a Premier League club sooner rather than the detour via Turkey especially when he was available on a free transfer. At 35 McGregor isn’t getting any younger but goalkeepers do tend to hang around for longer and would surely have been worth another 2-3 years at Rangers if they had decided to cash in on Foderingham. Perhaps this would have brought the much-needed stability to a newly formed back four. With Liam Kelly and Robbie McCrorie both capped at age group levels, there is every chance their careers could take a similar course as McGregor’s if they have the patience to wait for their chance and seize it as comfortably and dominantly as the big man saves Old Firm penalty kicks.