Aberdeen winger Niall McGinn expects Rangers to ‘hit the ground running’ in Scottish Premiership

Aberdeen and Northern Ireland star Niall McGinn
Aberdeen and Northern Ireland star Niall McGinn

Aberdeen winger Niall McGinn expects Rangers to “hit the ground running” when the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership kicks-off on August 6.

The Ibrox giants are preparing for their return to the top-flight following their demotion to the fourth-tier in 2012 after going into liquidation.

Rangers were forced to rebuild as they crawled back up the divisions, but Mark Warburton’s side flexed its muscle last season with a Scottish Cup semi-final victory over Celtic.

Their return to the Premiership is an exciting prospect for football fans, and for Aberdeen winger McGinn who is relishing some “massive games” against the Light Blues.

“Games between Aberdeen and Rangers are always big occasions, so I can’t wait to be involved in some of those games,” said McGinn.

“You also have Brendan Rodgers taking over at Celtic, so there is a lot to look forward to in Scottish football next season.

“I don’t think Rangers will need any time to settle into the Premiership. I expect them to hit the ground running and be up there challenging all season.”

Warburton has already signalled his intent with the high-profile signings of Joey Barton and Nico Krancjar.

Barton will add plenty of fire into the Rangers midfield, while 31-year-old Croatian Krancjar is another quality addition to the squad.

“I don’t expect Rangers to be battling it out in the bottom half of the table.
They are a big club with big ambition,” added McGinn.

“They will have a strong squad that will be ready to compete for major honours.”

Aberdeen finished runners-up behind Celtic in last season’s title race – 15 points behind the Hoops.

McGinn hopes the Dons can continue on an upward curve next season.

“We are looking forward to it. We did well last season but our season fizzled out a little bit at the end,” he added.

“Hopefully we can get a decent European campaign under our belts and then push on when the league campaign starts.

“It is going to be tough next season. You have Celtic, Rangers and Hearts who will all be challenging at the top end of the table.”

McGinn returned to a heroes’ welcome in Belfast on Monday night following Northern Ireland’s success at Euro 2016.

The 28-year-old scored in a 2-0 win over Ukraine which helped Michael O’Neill’s side reach the knockout stages.

McGinn admits it was a magical journey for Northern Ireland in France.

“It was totally surreal, and I think Monday’s homecoming party at Titanic really brought it home to the lads,” he added.

“You are in your own wee bubble at the Euros. You train, go back to the hotel and then play the games.

“We obviously saw the fantastic support we had out in France, but we didn’t know the reaction we were getting back home.

“Monday night was unbelievable, and it will probably take some more time for it all to sink in.

“It is an experience I will never forget. To score a goal at the Euros was fantastic, especially when it helped us qualify from the group.”

McGinn was in Belfast on Tuesday to launch the new menu of his West Belfast restaurant 26 West Bar and Grill Restaurant. He then returned to Scotland in preparation for Aberdeen’s Europa League qualifier against Fola Esch tomorrow night.

“I’m looking forward to meeting up with the Aberdeen boys again,” he added.

“After Thursday I will have a few days rest.”