Gareth McAuley’s Rangers debut date has been widely speculated ever since he joined the club.
We’ve still yet to see what the Northern Irish veteran is all about. Despite joining up with Northern Ireland squad immediately after signing for Rangers, McAuley never made an appearance.
The Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill then refused to pick McAuley for his squad this month. O’Neill stated that McAuley simply isn’t up to match-sharpness yet but sees him as being back in for his November squad.
That was over three weeks ago, and we’ve yet to hear a sniff from McAuley since. Rangers have played three matches since then, and McAuley hasn’t been involved in any capacity.
The news regarding the centre-back has been slow coming out of Ibrox. Is he match-fit to play? Is he injured? Nobody knows other than Steven Gerrard. The fact is, however, that McAuley isn’t contributing.
Even Umar Sadiq is getting on the bench ahead of the veteran international star. That has to be a concern if he’s fit and ready to go. Chances are, however, he still isn’t.
He has been suffering from some minor injuries since arriving at Ibrox, and he may still be recovering from him. Still, however, the silence on his first-team prospects are deafening.
In truth, it’s starting to look like we won’t be seeing him for a good while yet. Too many matches over the next two months are must-win games. McAuley is included in the Europa League squad, but Gerrard isn’t likely to chop and change the defence in Europe.
With the Gers looking to keep in touch with Hearts and Celtic, changing the defence is far too risky domestically too. Everyone saw what happened when Connor Goldson and Nikola Katic partnered each other after several matches with Goldson and Joe Worrall. Katic returned and looked a shadow of the player he was at the start of the season.
If McAuley was to make his Rangers debut before the Winter break, it would be surprising. He won’t be playing against Aberdeen on Sunday. He also won’t be featuring in huge clashes against Hibernian, Hearts, and Celtic over the next couple of months.
At this point, you have to assume the Northern Irishman is just a back-up player. His lack of time in matchday squads are a concern, but it already looks as though he’s fourth-choice until further notice.