Back in 2015, Josh Windass scored his first league goal for Accrington against the goalkeeper’s Burton Albion side and it wasn’t the only time their paths crossed on the football pitch.
“I went up against him a couple of times before he moved to Rangers,” said McLaughlin. “He was just a young guy at the time, he had only just broken through. I also know his dad, Deano, a little bit from my time at Bradford too and we’d had some chats about how his son was coming through and how well he was doing.
“Dean was still affiliated with Bradford – he was a massive part of the history there – and I used to see him at events the club held. It was always great to chat to him, everyone knows what a brilliant character he is. He had a great career and is still a big personality there.
“Since making that move to Rangers Josh has done really well. That was a big mantle for him to take on, signing a pre-contract quite early – everyone knew where he was going – and to come from a team in the lower leagues of England to a club the size of Rangers. But he is really showing his quality now and doing fantastically.”
But the Hearts player is out to quash the Rangers attacker’s current goal spree when they reacquaint themselves.
Windass is in a ripe run of form, netting nine times in the last five games, but Hearts have been proving themselves a stubborn defensive proposition, accumulating clean sheets and proving themselves tough to beat. They have suffered just one defeat in 16 games, a run that has included defeats of Celtic, Hibernian and a draw with Aberdeen. It has also included progress, along with Rangers, into the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup.
But the free-scoring Rangers side will provide another test, with Windass proving that they cannot be taken lightly.
A player who has had to prove himself, the fact 24-year-old Windass is delivering is a sign that there is more than one pathway to the top, according to McLaughlin.
“It just goes to show that there are plenty of different routes a player can take,” siad the goalkeeper. “Some fans will look at young players coming in from Manchester City or Arsenal who have never played senior football, and get drawn in by the tag that comes with clubs like that. But, you can start off lower. That is a route I took myself – I was never affiliated with a professional club and came through non-league football. If that is the way you come through, and make it to the same level, then sometimes that can stand you in even better stead, because you have gone through a lot and learned your craft before reaching that level. Now Josh is showing that he has all the tools you need to step up and be a real success.
“The way we’ve been playing and the form we’re in, we’re certainly not worrying about the opposition or scared of going to their patch. Their obvious strengths are going forward and they have a lot of good players. But we know what we’re capable of and as a defensive unit we just need to try to give the lads a platform to go and try to get a really good win away from home.”