Rangers’ five Newcastle loanees ‘must play’

Rangers boss Kenny McDowall says he is under instruction to play all five Newcastle loanees when they are fit.

Haris Vuckic, Remie Streete, Gael Bigirimana, Kevin Mbabu and Shane Ferguson, all fringe and youth players at St James’ Park, joined Rangers until the end of the season on deadline day.

Newcastle’s owner Mike Ashley is a shareholder in the Ibrox club, and both Ashley and his Sports Direct company have lent them significant funds in recent months.

Rangers and Ashley must attend Scottish Football Association hearings in March to answer charges relating to his dual interest.

Asked if he was under orders to pick the players McDowall, who is working his notice after resigning last month, said: “Yes. They are obviously good players – they play for Newcastle – but I will carry on and do what I am told to do.

“When I was given the job I was told players incoming and outgoing wouldn’t be my responsibility. I take the team and coach the team and I am more than happy to get on with it.”

McDowall revealed the instruction came from the club’s chief executive Derek Llambias and football board chairman Sandy Easdale, but Llambias later told Sky Sports News HQ: “There’s no way the board is picking the team.

“The basis of any loan deal is that the players who arrive bolster the side and give the squad more depth. That’s exactly what is happening here.”

McDowall, meanwhile, does not expect a negative response from the rest of the squad.

“That’s the nature of being at a big club,” he said. “There are always new players arriving at big clubs and it is something the players will have to deal with. It is competition and it is up to them and work hard at training and look after their own standards.

“I would like to think the players would be professional and do their jobs. We will take it from there.

“I have been told what to do and I have told them I am more than happy to carry out what they have told me, so I don’t have a problem with it at all.”

Streete insisted this week the players were left to make their own decisions on whether to move.

“We found out a couple of days before the window shut and then Newcastle left it with us,” he said. “Rangers wanted to sign us on loan and Newcastle wanted us to sign on loan but they left it down to us.”

And McDowall has called on Rangers supporters to back the newcomers, three of whom – Vuckic, Bigirimana and Streete – are fit for this weekend’s Scottish Cup tie with Raith Rovers.

“I would like the fans to give them their support,” he said. “They are playing with Rangers after all. The lads are just here to play football. They are nice lads and look good players. It is not their doing. They are a welcome addition to our squad.”