RICHARD Foster spent just nine months as a Rangers player first time around but it was a period which left an indelible mark on both his personal and professional life.
On the pitch, it was as fulfilling a spell as the versatile defender has experienced as he tasted Champions League action and earned an SPL winners’ medal during a season-long loan from Aberdeen in 2010-11. Off the pitch, he and his wife celebrated the birth of son Oliver – making Foster’s return to Ibrox yesterday on a two-year contract a homecoming of sorts.
“Oliver was born here, so he will always be a Glaswegian,” smiled Foster as he became Rangers’ seventh summer signing. It was clear the 27-year-old is thrilled to be back in an environment which made a big impression on him during his temporary service at the club.
“There were so many highlights,” added Foster. “From a footballing perspective, winning the SPL was fantastic for me. But the Champions League nights out here are unbelievable. The Valencia game, which was my home debut, was probably the biggest highlight for me. The way the crowd were that night will live with me forever.”
Circumstances dictated that Foster’s hopes of his move to Rangers becoming permanent at the end of that season were dashed as the financial uncertainty which eventually led to the club’s dramatic collapse took hold. He returned to Aberdeen and was named captain by Craig Brown, before being sold to Bristol City in January 2012. “It was a little bit disappointing that my first spell here didn’t get extended but it’s not something I dwelt on,” says Foster. “I realised how fortunate I was to actually get the move here in the first place. It was a crazy kind of situation and I loved every minute of it. I went back to Aberdeen and ended up as captain, which was a huge thing for me at the time. I’m just delighted I’ve got the chance to come back.”
Following Bristol City’s relegation to League One, Foster was informed by manager Sean O’Driscoll that he would not be featuring in the first team next season and termination of his contract was agreed. He says he has no qualms about returning to play in the third tier of Scottish football. “The fans still demand you win every game here, probably more than ever,” he said. “It is the Second Division, but they are still games we need to win. You have to treat it the same as you would the SPL.
“It was something I definitely considered, but when you just look at the size of the club, still getting 50,000 fans at home in the Third Division is insane. To be part of this massive club, to train every day at Murray Park – I never had facilities that good down at Bristol – is incredible. So being in the Second Division was just a small consideration for me. It was tough watching what happened to Rangers from the outside. I don’t fully understand the ins and outs of what happened and why they were put down to the Third Division. But it wasn’t nice to watch.
“I made friends here. Most of those guys have now left but, for the fans who have stayed loyal,
it must have been even harder to see their club, with all the honours they have won down the years, being demoted.”
Foster further bolsters a Rangers squad to which manager Ally McCoist has already added Cammy Bell, Nicky Law, Jon Daly, Arnold Peralta, Nicky Clark and Stevie Smith as they prepare for the end of their player registration embargo on 1 September.
“Ally has brought in good players, most of them with SPL experience,” added Foster. “There is going to be a lot of competition for places in a squad where winning the Second Division and getting a step closer to being back in the top flight is obviously the priority. But looking at the squad the manager is putting together, I would like to think we can make an impact in the cup competitions as well.
“I’m 28 next month and I’m here for the next two years. So I don’t know if I’ll get the chance to play for Rangers in Europe again. But it would be nice, even if it’s after my time, to see Rangers back in the Champions League. A club of Rangers size, not just in Scottish terms but in world terms, should be playing at that level.”