Gary McAllister challenges Rangers’ fringe players to stake first-team claim

Gary McAllister has told Rangers’ understudies to grasp their opportunity against Falkirk and they might earn themselves a role in the Light Blues’ push for the Europa League knockout stages.

Gers kick off their Betfred Cup campaign away to Falkirk on Sunday and boss Steven Gerrard is set to ring the changes.

His first-choice starting XI worked themselves into the ground against Benfica on Thursday but ran out of steam in the final stages as they surrendered a two-goal lead.

The Ibrox side are still in the driving seat to reach the knockout rounds despite that 2-2 draw, and a victory against Standard Liege next week will see them through with a game to spare.

But assistant boss McAllister does not want the players called in from the cold to face the Bairns to think this is a one-off chance to start.

“The game on Sunday will be a perfect opportunity for those guys who are just on the edges, just on the periphery of things, to really get in the eyes of the manager and have a strong performance against Falkirk in this cup tie,” said Gerrard’s right-hand man.

“It’s utilising the squad and it’s also an opportunity for players to show the manager that they’re ready, come the moment they’re going to be part of the starting XI in a higher-profile game.

“We know the people that do play at the weekend, they will come in and they’ll hopefully show that intent and that willingness to say, ‘I’m ready, come the moment I’m needed I can play four, five, six games and continue this run of form’.

“It’s getting that balance. Obviously we’ve got a big squad here. We’ve got loads of players who want to play every minute of every game.

“But there is an awareness that is not physically possible, so now is the time to utilise the squad.

“We will field a strong side. We will not disrespect Falkirk by any means at all.

“But we do have the option of making a few changes just to freshen it up, because Thursday night against Benfica took an almighty effort.”

Gerrard has been in the Ibrox hot seat for almost two and a half years but is still waiting to win his first trophy as Rangers boss.

His side came close in last year’s Betfred Cup final – only to come up short at Hampden as Celtic carried on their long run of dominance.

But McAllister believes winning this year’s League Cup could supercharge Gers’ push for honours.

“It would give us loads of momentum,” he said. “It was a disappointment last year on the day. We thought we played ever so well and we were very unlucky not to come away with the trophy.

“So that means the game at the weekend is massively important. It’s a cup tie and the carrot which has been dangled in front of us is a slot in the quarter-finals.

“It also leads us into the Standard Liege game for us next week, so we’ve got two big cup ties which are both very important for the progress of everybody here at the club.”