Rangers keeper Allan McGregor makes up for his absence last year

FOR once, Allan McGregor could be excused for taking celebrations to excess.

Twelve months ago, he was sidelined and shamed when Rangers clinched championship success at Tannadice. As they concluded their defence of the title at Easter Road yesterday, the goalkeeper was understandably determined to savour the moment.

There was even a rare appearance in front of the media for McGregor whose regular appearances on the front pages over the past few years have generally made him reluctant to share his thoughts with reporters.

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Still wearing his muddied white playing kit after playing his part in Rangers' 1-0 defeat of Hibs which finally won them the title with three games to spare, McGregor clutched a bottle of lager in happier circumstances than he experienced last season.

His part in the 'Boozegate' controversy which blighted Scotland's World Cup qualifying campaign under George Burley cost him his place in the Rangers team for last year's dramatic championship run-in.

Indeed, a combination of injuries and his off-the-field problems have also seen McGregor miss out on two Scottish Cup final wins and a Uefa Cup final appearance since Smith's return to the club.

But his undeniable quality between the sticks has allowed him to reclaim his place as Rangers' first choice goalkeeper, a status vindicated by his presence behind the most effective defence in the country this season.

"It is a great feeling to be out there on the park when the title is won this time," said McGregor. "When I missed out last year at Tannadice, it was hard to take. But it was my own fault after what happened. I was still really happy for the boys last season and felt I had played my part throughout the season. But it definitely makes this one feel a lot sweeter.

"It has felt like a bit of a countdown for us over the past five or six weeks. Everyone expected us to win the title but we still had to get over the line. It was certainly much easier to be playing today. Last year, it was brutal to watch it from the bench. I'm always more nervous watching than I am playing."

McGregor is conscious of a fairly widespread perception of the current Rangers side as one of the least talented to be champions of Scotland but he insists it is not something which concerns the Ibrox squad to any great degree.

"Yes, we know people go on about this being a bad Rangers team," he added. "But we are proud of what we have achieved and our record is good. We know what we are about, we have been together for two or three years now, and we don't feel we have to prove anything to anyone else.

"The manager said to us this season that winning a title is one thing, but defending it is another. He was right, it is harder to retain it, but all credit to every single person in our squad for the way we have done it."

The future remains unclear for McGregor and everyone else at Rangers as the club await the outcome of due diligence into a proposed takeover by London businessman Andrew Ellis. But while he is regarded as one of their most saleable assets, the goalkeeper insists he wants to stay.

"I've got another three years on my contract," he said, "so I don't think the ball is in my court on that one. Put it this way, I wouldn't have signed the contract if I didn't want to be here."

McGregor had praise for his captain David Weir who, at the age of 39, has helped form a formidable barrier in front of him.

"He's different gravy, he really is," said McGregor. "You will never meet a nicer guy in football. We've got the best defence in Scotland and he has been a big factor in that."

Kevin Thomson experienced similar emotions to McGregor yesterday, the midfielder having missed out on last season's title win at Tannadice because of a serious injury. The former Hibs captain relished the occasion at the ground where he made his reputation.

"I know it is never nice to be the opponents when a team wins a title at your ground," said Thomson, "but we had to win it somewhere. I never forget my roots and I feel for Hibs, but it is great for me because I couldn't play last year. Also, my mum and dad were here today which makes it extra special.

"I always knew I had the mental strength to come back after the injury and days like this make all the hours in the gym worthwhile. Today is almost an anti-climax in a way, because we didn't get presented with the trophy.

|But we will just have to be twitchy until we get our hands on it at Ibrox after the last game of the season. Then we will all want to come back and try to win it again next season."

Weir hailed Walter Smith as key to the title wins. "He's the man," Weir said. "From where Rangers were three years ago – struggling for second place, now champions in consecutive years – I can't speak highly enough of him."

Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty scored the game's only goal to clinch the league win.

He said: "Today has just been brilliant – the lads worked hard and look what it means to the fans, all the players and the coaching staff."

• Rangers squad men DaMarcus Beasley, Neil Alexander, Stevie Smith and Andy Little are all set to miss out on SPL winners medals as they haven't made a minimum ten league appearances this term.

Left-back Smith can still clinch a medal should he manage to oust Sasa Papac before the end of the campaign, having made nine outings so far. Beasley could also make the cut by playing two more games, but Alexander, with two SPL appearances, and Northern Ireland starlet Little, with five, will both miss out.