Some footballers just seem to defy age towards the latter end of their careers. Gareth McAuley is certainly one of them. The big central defender turned 39 today, ahead of this evening’s big encounter with Aberdeen.

The Northern Irishman is about as experienced as they come, having had to earn a move to the big time through hard work at home in the Irish Premiership, before time in the English lower leagues.

McAuley turning out for Lincoln City in 2005 (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

He was already in his thirties before he got his Premier League move to West Bromwich Albion.

 

At Rangers, there’s a lot of excitement about what a player with such experience can bring. It’s early days yet, but it looks as though he and Connor Goldson may be the stable partnership the team need.

McAuley is a cult hero in Northern Ireland

Not only does he offer a commanding presence at the back, he offers a massive threat from set pieces. The 6 ft 5′ giant scored Northern Ireland’s first ever European Championship goal in 2016 and has an impressive 15 Premier League goals in his 203 appearances.

The Northern Irishman rose high to score one of the most famous goals in his country’s history in 2016. (Photo by JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)

If he starts tonight alongside Goldson, it’ll be his second 90 minutes in four days. Many centre-backs – if still playing -wouldn’t even consider that at his age, especially when coming back from injury.

McAuley, isn’t just anyone, though. It’s a testament to his professionalism that he is still able to perform at this level.

McAuley has gradually worked his way back to full fitness in recent weeks. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

If he gets the nod tonight, don’t be surprised to see him celebrate another birthday with his first Rangers goal.