Allan McGregor bemused by SPFL decision to bring forward winter break as Rangers goalkeeper takes ‘sporting integrity’ dig

The 39-year-old veteran believes the game must learn to live with Covid

Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor has called into question the “sporting integrity” behind the SPFL’s decision to move the winter break forward in response to the rising spread of the Omicron variant.

The 39-year-old Ibrox veteran slammed Chief Executive Neil Doncaster and the SPFL board over their rescheduling of the January shut down.

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Scottish Premiership clubs were asked to vote from one of three options, with TEN of the 12 teams opting in favour of starting the winter break earlier than planned following the completion of Boxing Day fixtures.

The Light Blues and Ross County are believed to be the two sides’ who preferred to continue playing on as normal.

Neil Doncaster, the CEO of the Scottish Professional Football League. (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images)

Asked if rival clubs were looking to gain an advantage for themselves, McGregor said: “Well, we all know that sporting integrity is one of the biggest things in Scotland, don’t we?

“So I would like to hope not but I don’t see why we didn’t go on the way as planned, from my personal opinion.

“If that is the case... woaaff! Sporting integrity as we know in the last number of years is a massive part of Scottish football.”

Rangers will face Covid-hit St Mirren at Ibrox on Sunday in front of only 500 fans after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlined new restrictions on large gatherings.

McGregor is fearful this is just the start of a series of partial lockdowns set to be enforced on Scottish football unless the game starts to learn to live with the virus.

With the prospect of further postponements, McGregor insists the blame must lie firmly with the SPFL if they are forced to address an already congested fixture programme.

Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor feels the fixtures affected by crowd restrictions could have gone ahead as planned. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

He admitted: “If there’s a new variant in three, four or five months, which there probably will be, are we going to shut up shop again? Are we going to keep doing it when there’s a new variant every few months?

“I don’t know. I think we just need to learn to live with it. We take all the precautions we possible can.

“It’s unfortunate that some clubs have got players who have tested positive for Covid but it’s going to happen. You just need to live that.

“The hierarchy want clubs to do well in Europe, they want the national team to do well and qualify. There’s loads of games throughout the season.

“Covid didn’t go away at the start of the season, it’s still here and it’s still going to be for a while. Why not be allowed five subs as well?”

“They knew (about the threat of fixture congestion) when they made the decision and still made it, so it’s on them really, if the weather is bad.”

Despite all the off-field distractions in recent days, McGregor and his team-mates remain fully focused on stretching their lead at the top of the table this weekend.

Hearts striker Liam Boyce (right) in a tussle with Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor (left) and midfielder Glen Kamara during the Premiership match at Tynecastle on Sunday.(Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

He stated: “We just have to prepare as if it’s a normal week. The game on Boxing Day is on so from the start of the week, we’ve been preparing as if that was always going to be the case.

“I don’t think anything really changes despite what is going on in the background.

“We didn’t know when we were training on Wednesday if the game was going to be on or off, so that was a wee bit disruptive. Apart from that we’ve just been focusing on Sunday.

“We’ve still got injuries to deal with, the same as any other team but obviously the results we’ve picked up over the last couple of months have been more consistent, so hopefully we can keep that going into the St Mirren game.”

McGregor is expecting another difficult test against the Buddies, despite manager Jim Goodwin’s limited squad to select from.

A depleted Saints side, which included three under-20 players, held Celtic to a goalless draw on Wednesday night.

St Mirren's teenage midfielder Jay Henderson (right) challenging Tom Rogic of Celtic during the 0-0 draw in Paisley. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Asked if facing a team with several teenagers and very little first-team experience is easier to play against, McGregor replied: “There’s no easy games, there’s no God-given right for you to win a game of football. You need to earn it and that will be no different at the weekend.

“I never watched their game the other night, but I think in a lot of games we need to overcome a low block and a lot of defending from opposition teams.

“As players and staff we are well used to that, so I don’t think that will change. A fair percentage of the games we play in, that’s what we come up against.

“You need to believe in your style, what you want to do and how you approach the game. We do that quite a lot because you need to be patient, keep possession, and keep working on finding ways to score.”