A lifetime’s ambition will be fulfilled by Graham Dorrans this lunchtime when he pulls on a Rangers strip and steps on to the Fir Park pitch to makes his competitive debut for his boyhood club in their Premiership opener at Motherwell.
It now transpires that Lee Wallace and some of his Ibrox team-mates did their utmost last summer to convince Dorrans – whose £750,000 move from Norwich last month made him the club’s ninth signing of the window – that the time to make his dream come true had then arrived.
“After the disappointment of the Scottish Cup final defeat to Hibs, a few of the families were in Florida on holiday,” said Wallace. “Myself, Kenny Miller and Andy Halliday were there – and so was Graham. It was great that we just happened to be on the same holiday that year. Because Kenny and I could get the conversations going with him. Believe me, we did all we could to get him here even sooner.
“He stayed at Norwich for another year but it’s brilliant to have a player who really wanted to be at Rangers. Even at that point, he would have walked to sign for us. It couldn’t quite happen then but thankfully it’s happened.
“That sums the boy up, he was just desperate to come back and play for his boyhood club. He wanted to represent Rangers, the side he’s loved for so many years. He wants to feel like he’s contributed to making the club successful and closing the gap on Celtic. It speaks volumes for Graham that he’s here now and he’s going to be a fantastic addition.”
The 30-year-old Dorrans has been presented as a game-changing player. So too has pedigree Portuguese centre-back Bruno Alves with Ryan Jack thrown into the mix because he is the third man of Rangers’ new nine that most in Scotland have a notion of his capabilities.
Wallace has been well versed in the capabilities of the diffident Dorrans – who has spent the past nine years in England courtesy of spells with West Bromwich Albion and Norwich – since the pair featured for the Scotland under-19s side that lost 2-1 to Spain in the 2006 European Championship final. Of the players who played in that final, then Livingston fulcrum Dorrans – who scored from the bench for Archie Gemmill’s side – has accumulated most caps, with 12 to the 10 gained by Wallace.
Yet the Rangers captain doesn’t reject the notion that Dorrans might have been expected to achieve more, for all that he played in the English Premier League with two different clubs. Injuries haven’t helped his case. One of which cost him three months of last season and undermined Norwich’s push to haul themselves straight back up to the English top flight they had dropped out from the year before. But Wallace looks at that situation in a different light.
“When he got through his injury problems, the feedback was that he was one of Norwich’s better players. It’s outstanding that we’ve got that deal over the line, it was a long time coming. Once he’s up to speed he’s going to add real quality to that area of the pitch. It’ll be a great signing for us.
“Graham might feel like he could have achieved more in his career in England. But the fact that he’s played at that level for so many years makes me think he’ll be quite content with what he’s achieved. I’m not sure whether rumours linking him with Arsenal at one point were true. But I’m sure he’ll feel like he should have won more Scotland caps. But he’s in the right place now, he’s at the club he loves and we’re all delighted that he’s on board.”
Perhaps Dorrans’ case was never pushed as much as it could have been because it was not in his personality for him to do the pushing. A player who exudes quiet assurance on the pitch appears to be simply quiet off it, as he has always been. Just as he has proved quietly effective as the result of game awareness and adroitness.
“He’s still the same boy he was in Poland in 2006,” said Wallace. “He’s a bit more vocal but he just gets his head down and works hard. He’s always been that way. I remember that character trait, he was such a quiet lad. But he gives 100 per cent, which is what we require. He speaks at the right time with relevance and he has a lot of experience.
“He leads by example and it’s great to have him on board. He’s always had excellent technical ability in terms of the spaces he picks up. He’s always got a picture in his head so he’s already on the half-turn and knows his next pass. He played a couple of brilliant slide passes at Hillsborough [in the 2-1 friendly win over Sheffield Wednesday a week ago] and produced a quick free-kick which led to our second goal. He’s a clever player, the kind we need. His quality will help us moving forward.
“I’ve always known Graham to be calm and composed on the ball. The example I remember was at Hampden when we beat Czech Republic 1-0 [in a friendly in March 2010]. He got the man of the match award that night. He was so calm during a tough period in the game for us. The crowd were on us but he’d stay composed, use his touch, pick a pass and use his body well.
“That was a great insight into his quality for me. I knew how good he was domestically but not at that level, in a full international game. He’s got that in abundance and it’ll be great for how we want to play.
“We still want to dominate the ball even though we’ve looked harder to beat in the last couple of weeks. We need players who are comfortable on the ball and can make forward passes.”
Moving Rangers forward in all respects will be the directive for Dorrans in his ultimate posting.