DARREN McGregor has revealed that being a lifelong Hibernian supporter would not have prevented him from joining Hearts for their assault on the Championship next season.
However, he admits that the prospect of playing in front of 50,000 fans at Ibrox meant that he was always going to sign for Ally McCoist rather than join Craig Levein and Robbie Neilson’s Tynecastle revolution.
The central defender was a free agent once his St Mirren contract expired last month but any thoughts of switching allegiances to the maroon half of Edinburgh were abandoned as soon as Rangers came calling. He said: “I think this eclipses that. You only have to look at the size of the club, the fan base and what they have to offer – there was really only one choice.”
However, the 28-year-old insisted that being an Easter Road regular as a child was not an issue when Hearts expressed an interest in signing him.
“That was fine,” he said. “I was a Hibs fan when I was younger and I still look out for their results but, the older you get, that becomes irrelevant.
“It didn’t have any bearing on decisions and what-not. The size of the club here, what they have to offer, just the whole magnitude of Rangers as a club in the world, was a great opportunity that doesn’t come along often.”
McGregor admitted that twice in the past decade he’d feared he might never be given the opportunity to play for one of the biggest names in the game. When he was only 19, Mixu Paatelainen told him he wasn’t good enough for part-timers Cowdenbeath then, two years ago, he suffered cruciate ligament damage for the second time in 12 months.
“Mixu came in [at Central Park] and didn’t quite fancy me,” McGregor said. “They had Gary Smith, the former Hibs player, and Innes Ritchie, a former Motherwell centre-half, in the team so I was content to learn from them.
“But Mixu didn’t see it like that and released me. I resented it at the time – I was Second
Division and dropping down. But I was lucky enough that Brian McNaughton was a coach at Cowdenbeath. He’d taken me to Arniston [juniors] and I’d had two years there.
“I did well, got my immaturity out the road. I learned the game a bit more.
“Danny Lennon gave me another opportunity at Cowdenbeath and I spent a year there. He moved on to St Mirren and then I got the phone call when I was working in retail.
“But, if you’d said six years ago I’d go from Arniston Rangers to Glasgow Rangers when I was sitting in this wee poky dressing-room in Gorebridge on the outskirts of Edinburgh, I’d have said: ‘No chance’.
“It’s not as if I didn’t have the aspiration but, at that time,you’re thinking about the next step higher, not six or seven steps higher. It’s a dream come true from where I’ve been.”