John Daly could be Rangers’ first Irish Catholic player

THE manner in which John Daly yesterday fielded questions over a possible move to Rangers gave every reason to suspect that the Dundee United captain will become the first man born in the Republic of Ireland to play for the Ibrox club.

The 30-year-old, in Glasgow to publicise ESPN’s Monday night screening of the Tannadice side’s away date with St Johnstone, said all the right things about his current focus being on helping United somehow sneak into the top six, how he hadn’t ruled out staying beyond the summer at a club he has “loved” playing for these past six years, and how there was no agreement in place with Rangers for him to go there as a free agent once the club’s transfer embargo ends on 1 September.

Yet, the striker also happily ruminated on the potential for him to create history by making a switch he has already spoken about to Rangers manager Ally McCoist.

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Daly would be the first Dublin Catholic, but not the first Dubliner, to turn out in the senior side of a club traditionally associated with unionism and Protestantism. Alex Stevenson, despite sharing the religious persuasion of the then vast majority of the club’s support, attracted much grief from those fans when turning out for them as an Irishman in the 1930s. Alex Craig and James Lowry McAuley also hailed from within the five-sixths of Ireland not now under British rule and played for the Rangers senior side. But they were born before the Republic came into being in 1922, following the war of independence. Daly is comfortable with the prospect of not only breaking new ground but blazing a trail.

“I’m well aware that I would be the first Irishman in the modern era to play for Rangers,” said Daly, who was capped for the Republic of Ireland at under-21 level. “I’ve been told that a few times and I’ve spoken to my family. If it was to happen then it isn’t an issue. I think it could be good for Rangers. If they do sign an Irish player it could open the door for a few more to go – and open a whole new market for them. There’s nothing happening yet so we will wait and see. If my agent comes back to me in the next week with an offer from them, we will think about it and see where we go from there.”

Rangers might be set to scale down the generous offers they made to attract SPL players last summer. However, they still seem certain to present to Daly a three-year deal amounting to three times what United have tabled in the form of a mere one-year extension. The player could only but acknowledge that he had to be sensible about how to proceed if the security and terms from Rangers far outstripped those otherwise available. In that scenario, the Ibrox club operating in the third tier wouldn’t be an issue.

“You want to play at as high a level as possible, but even down south there are massive clubs in the lower reaches,” he said. “You have clubs in the Championship and League One like Wolves, Birmingham and Sheffield United. They are all massive clubs – probably Premier League clubs. They are all trying to get back to where they want to be and Rangers are no different.

“They are a massive club trying to get back to the SPL. If everything pans out, they end up there. They are trying to get the club back to where they should be and it’s a massive club with a great fanbase. I’ll wait and see what pops up. I’m just concentrating on the rest of this season at the moment. Is the lower division aspect a deal-breaker? Of course not. If Manchester United were playing in League One, would players turn them down? Probably not. Rangers are one of the biggest clubs in Britain. I’m flattered they are interested in me and we will wait and see what happens.” What has already happened is that he has had a chat with McCoist, which he said went “fine”. “We talked about football in general,” he said. “It was nice to speak to Ally. He’s a manager I’ve always had a lot of time for and I’m flattered that he’s interested in me. I’ve left things with my agent and until I hear back from him I don’t know where we’re at. Meantime I’ll concentrate on United and make sure that we finish top six and keep up standards. If I do the business on the park then it will hopefully give me more options.” Daly could yet enjoy the perfect send-off to a Tannadice career in which he has bagged 70 goals across close on 200 appearances. Jackie McNamara’s side face Aberdeen following their trip to Perth, and thereafter meet Celtic in the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup. “There’s still loads to play for,” Daly added. “Two wins in the league and a semi-final and everything is rosy. We’d be top six and in a cup final. The majority of my time at United we’ve finished top six and done well. It would be an underachievement if we didn’t finish top six.”