LEWIS Macleod last night insisted he was happy at Rangers and only left for Brentford when it became clear the club wouldn’t try to keep him.
The midfielder completed a cut-price £850,000 move to the Bees when the transfer window opened last weekend as crisis-hit Rangers cashed in on their prize asset.
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Macleod, 20, has committed to the London side until 2018 but still had two and a half years left on his deal at Ibrox and had been valued at more than double the fee he was sold for.
With Rangers short of money and getting by on loans, they accepted the first bid that came in – and that told the Scotland squad member it was time to move on.
Macleod said: “When you’re a Rangers fan, it’s hard to let go and I’ve never experienced anything else in football up to now.
“I definitely wasn’t eager to get out the door but when the opportunity came, with everything that was happening outside football at the club, I leant towards moving away.
“Things happen that make you change your mind and go elsewhere and it all happened very quickly.
“If things had maybe happened differently off the pitch with regards to the club trying to keep me when someone came in for me, I might have stayed.
“There are a lot of different ways it could have went. I didn’t have much time to process it in a sense but it’s done now and I’m looking forward to a different challenge.”
Macleod is adamant on-field results didn’t influence his decision, despite Rangers lagging 13 points behind Championship leaders Hearts and struggling in the fight to win promotion.
He maintains staying at Ibrox and taking part in a likely play-offs appearance would still have been an option he would have been happy with.
Macleod added: “After we got a couple of defeats, it was maybe the case that realistically we were starting to look more at the play-offs.
“Obviously you go out to win every game but we knew a couple of months ago it was going to be hard to win the league.
“Hopefully Rangers get to the play-offs at least. If I’d still been there, they would have been good games for me to play in so none of that was a factor in me trying to get out.
“Nothing on the playing side made me want to move from Rangers but a different opportunity came up and I’m looking forward to it.”
Macleod – currently out with a hamstring injury picked up at Ibrox – will watch Brentford’s home game against Rotherham today with excitement as he builds up to his debut.
But as soon as the final whistle goes he’ll be on his phone looking for Rangers’ result at Alloa, just as he was last week when the Bees’ FA Cup tie with Brighton concluded.
He said: “It’s very exciting to be starting out with a new team but the surroundings here are nothing compared to Ibrox. You realise how massive a club Rangers are when you go elsewhere but there’s still a good atmosphere at Griffin Park and I’m looking forward to playing there soon.
“I’ll be thinking about Rangers this weekend and hopefully they can get a win at Alloa but it will be a tough game.
“I’ll be looking out for their score for sure. I did that last week as well when our match finished and I was pleased to see they had won against Dumbarton. I’m not really thinking about what I’ve walked away from. If I had done that at the start I wouldn’t have moved.
“I’m just trying to look forward instead and it will be good to get started with Brentford when I’m fit again.
“Without a doubt, I’d love to go back to Rangers later in my career. The most disappointing thing about leaving is the way I went. I’ve been injured so I wasn’t able to play my last game knowing that would be the case and I wasn’t able to say goodbye to the fans.
“I’d obviously like to be welcomed back by people at some point but I understand why some supporters might not appreciate my reasons for going.
“But I’d love to return to play for the club at some point and that’s something I would like to do, however many years down the line that is.”
Eyebrows were raised when news of Macleod’s switch to Brentford broke, not just because of how cheaply he was transferring for but also because of where he was going.
English Premier League sides Everton and Burnley were among those also understood to be keen on him and each would likely have paid more money for the Scotland under-21 cap. But the Bees moved first and while Macleod couldn’t control what Rangers received for him, he was keen to join them because of how quickly opportunities to play might come there.
Under manager Mark Warburton and his assistant, ex-Rangers captain David Weir, Brentford won automatic promotion from League One last season. They currently sit sixth in the Championship table and pushing for a place in the top flight is a realistic aim in the next few months.
Macleod added: “The one thing I’ve always said is that if I was ever to leave Rangers, I wouldn’t want to go somewhere where I wouldn’t really play.
“I wanted to give myself the best chance of getting games and Brentford seemed like the right option for me.
“Looking at the club, it has come really far just this season alone and they’ve won a lot of games. That hasn’t been by luck.
“They’ve got a new stadium to move into in two years as well and everything is going in the right direction.
“I’m hoping to improve as a player with playing at a higher level. That’s one of the main reasons I left Rangers.”
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