IT would be fair to say that at the age of 38 Allan McGregor may be reaching the end of his illustrious career.

The former Scotland international has racked up 225 clean sheets during his 565 games as a pro and has recently been a key figure under Rangers manager Steven Gerrard since his return to the Ibrox team for a second spell in 2018.

His form since re-joining the club he supported as a boy has been nothing short of spectacular for a veteran of the game.

And it would be fair to say that the Light Blues faithful will be fearful of the news breaking when McGregor ultimately decides to hang up his gloves for the last time.

One man who is tasked with the needle in a haystack job of finding a replacement goalkeeper that lives up to the bill of the former Besiktas, Hull City and Cardiff shot stopper is head of goalkeeping at the Rangers academy, Graeme Smith.

The 37-year-old was on the books of the Ibrox club under Walter Smith and was an unused substitute in both the 2008 UEFA Cup Final and the Scottish Cup Final that same year.

Smith would leave Rangers having registered just one solitary appearance, but he went on to have a successful career spanning 19 years, playing for clubs such as St Johnstone, Kilmarnock and St Mirren.

And now in the role of sharing his invaluable experience of being between the sticks, the former goalie is adamant that Rangers have a bright future on the goalkeeping front.

Speaking to Herald and Times Sport, he said: “The pathway at the minute looks really strong, whether they will become Rangers’ goalies only time will tell, but they are certainly giving themselves the best opportunity to be successful.

“Obviously Allan has one year left on his contract and I think Wes is out of contract.

“Below that we have Andy Firth, there’s Robbie McCrorie, and Kieran Wright who is currently bridging that gap between the first team and the academy.

“We then have Nicky Hogarth and Brian Kinnear who will remain with us and then Lewis Budinauckas, Jay Hogarth and there will obviously be new recruits at the bottom end.

“The pathway is strong for us, I mean look at the end of last season.

“You have Robbie McCrorie, who is 22, and he is playing in the Scottish Premiership with Livingston.

“We have Kieran Wright, who was 20 at the time, and he was playing in the Championship with Alloa.

“We had Nicky Hogarth, who was 18 years of age and was on-loan to Stirling Albion in League Two.

“And even below that we had strong performances in the reserves and UEFA youth league games where our under 18 goalkeeper played a year above himself and we had our under 17 goalkeeper playing 50 per cent of his games at under 18 level and he was also thrown in to one of the European games, so was two years above himself.

“The challenge is there for them and it is up to them to really grasp it.”

Lockdown due to the coronavirus has introduced a whole new side of coaching for Smith, who is in daily contact with his fellow coaches as well as his young goalkeeping prodigies. 

And with the first team in the same boat in terms of no squad training, the Ibrox coach has revealed that experienced members of the squad are set to share their knowledge and experiences to younger members of the club ahead of the new season.

He explained: “The academy is doing quite a lot at this moment in time.

“In terms of the goalkeeping department we are doing video presentations to the kids, webinars, and we obviously have our weekly calls to the professional guys.

“To the younger kids over the past six weeks we have rolled out skill challenges that we have videoed and put on Twitter and Instagram.

“We have done various themes in terms of coordination, handling and movement, reaction, a little bit of push and power, a little bit of core bodyweight stuff, so every week we’ve just tried to put out seven or eight exercises and the boys send their videos in.

“From a goalkeeping point of view one of the next things we are going to do is get all the goalkeepers who are going to be in the building next year and have a sit down with them.

“This will allow the younger guys to speak to Allan and they can ask him questions. They are all at different ages and stages in the pathway so it is good for them to speak to Allan.

“Ultimately he’s been and is in the position that all these guys want to be in. Allan has been quite open with that in terms of the young guys asking about certain situations.

“He’s always open and honest and this is a good way for some of the younger guys, who maybe only see the end product of the first team, and don’t realise how much commitment and sacrifice is involved.

“They need to hear what it takes on a day to day basis to be on the pitch on a matchday and also to perform at such high levels as the Scottish Premiership and in Europe as well.

“The more experienced guys in the first team like Allan, Jermain Defoe and Steven Davis have been quite open to this kind of thing and it is something we are going to do more of over the next few weeks.”

Smith also laid bare what is expected from the young footballers making their way through the Rangers academy if they ultimately want to land a spot in Steven Gerrard’s first team.

He added: “The gaffer has been quite open since before he came in the building that he gets frustrated with talent because it can be so many more things.

“You can be talented as a footballer yes, but you can also be talented as a person and it is those skills and characteristics that we are trying to instil in the players.

“Talent might get you on the ladder at an academy level but ultimately it is about who you are as a person and how dedicated and obsessed you are that is going to determine whether you have a good and lengthy career.

“It is trying to find that balance, but all the guys have been quite spurred on by the likes of Dapo Mebude, Nathan Young-Coombes and Kai Kennedy getting their debuts last year and obviously we have had Josh McPake and Ross McCrorie who have gone into first team training and done well.

“They see their peers going up into the first team changing room on a regular basis and the manager has set the marker.

“If you are good enough, if you are talented enough and you are showing the right desire you will get an opportunity and it is up to the player to take that opportunity.”