Five Newcastle loanees ‘guarantee - Rangers will finish in the top two’

Former Rangers and Newcastle defender Olivier Bernard claims Mike Ashley has ‘guaranteed’ Rangers’ promotion

Former Rangers and Newcastle defender Olivier Bernard claims Mike Ashley has just "guaranteed" the Light Blues' return to Scotland's top flight after sending five of his Magpies recruits north on loan.

Gael Bigirimana, Shane Ferguson, Kevin Mbabu, Remie Streete and Haris Vuckic are all due to report for duty at Murray Park on Wednesday after agreeing temporary switches until the end of the season.

Rangers remain 16 points adrift of Scottish Championship leaders Hearts, with two games in hand.

But Bernard, who spent five years at St James’ Park before sealing his 2005 move to Ibrox, claims the Newcastle quintet will see them secure safe passage through the play-offs at least.


The 35-year-old, who still lives in the North East, said: "Rangers are desperate for points to ensure they get promotion. These players are good enough to see them back to the Premiership. Three of them have already played at Premier League level in England, so know what will be expected of them.

“Rangers will finish in the top two now and will be good enough to go through the play-offs, that’s a guarantee.

“I believe with these five players Rangers will only go from strength to strength.”

Slovenian forward Vuckic, 22, signed for Newcastle in 2009 and has already featured for the Geordies in the Barclay's Premier League and Europa League.

Left winger Ferguson, 23, meanwhile, has been capped 18 times for Northern Ireland, while 21-year-old Burundi-born central midfielder Bigirimana signed for Newcastle for a reported £1million fee in 2012.

Centre-half Streete, 20, has yet to play for Newcastle’s first-team but has spent time on loan at Port Vale, while 19-year-old Swiss youth international Mbabu can operate in the centre of defence or at right-back.

None of them have convinced the Newcastle coaching staff they are ready for the full rigours of the top-flight game down south, but Bernard expects to see them all make an impact at some stage for Rangers.

“I’ve followed the Newcastle young lads for the past two years and I can tell the Rangers fans they’ve got their hands on some great players,” he said.

“Two out of the five will go straight into the team — Vuckic and Streete. The others will probably be in and around the side at some point this season but they are all fantastic lads.

“Vuckic is a fantastic player. Rangers are quite lucky to get their hands on a raw talent like him. He’s not developed fully but he has already played in the Premier League and showed some exciting things, so I think he’ll settle fairly quickly.

“Streete is a centre-back who has been on loan at Port Vale and is good enough to go straight into this Rangers team.

“I’d guarantee that those two will feature fairly quickly — the rest are young but exciting players who might need more time.”

Sunday's 2-0 defeat to bitter rivals Celtic in the QTS Scottish League Cup semi-final proved just how far the Ibrox men will need to go if they are to climb their way back to the top of Scottish football.

But the arrival of Ashley’s Newcastle youngsters a day after that defeat has irked some fans.


Chris Graham, spokesman for the Rangers Supporters Trust, said: "It does seem a bit odd that these guys were not signed in time for the Old Firm match. It's pretty obvious these players have been lined up for loan moves for quite a while.

“Why were they not here last week to allow Kenny McDowall to judge them ahead of the Celtic match? If they’re good enough to play, then we could have done with them.

“The other issue is whether these guys are actually any better than the youngsters we already have, because effectively we are now developing another club’s players.

“I don’t think we are at the stage where we should be thinking that just because Mike Ashley has sent some players up everything is now rosy. The timing of it is irrelevant — Mike Ashley simply does not give a toss about this club.

“The wider strategy is what concerns me. During the transfer window just gone, we have sold our best young players for buttons. Then we sat through the whole of January and done nothing and then on the last day we have brought in five loan players from Ashley.

“It will be interesting to see if we are paying for these guys because if we are, we are just taking money from Ashley and giving him it straight back.”