YOUNGSTER Chris Hegarty fulfilled a boyhood dream on Tuesday evening when he wore the Light Blue of Rangers in a Scottish Challenge Cup-tie at Falkirk.
“It was one of the proudest moments of my life and hopefully there will be many more to come. I’m a Rangers fan and I want to stay at the club,” he said.
“I only found out just after the pre-match meal that I was playing so it was about two and a half hours before kick-off. I had no clue that I was starting before that so that was probably a good thing as I didn’t really have time to feel nervous.”
It was of course compatriot Andy Little who secured the 1-0 win with a goal just before half-time – his sixth goal in five games this season – as Chris underlined.
“It was another great goal from Andy that won the game for us and I’m really pleased for him. I hope he scores plenty for us this season.”
The Northern Ireland Under-21 International took time out to praise the more experienced team-mates around him.
“It was great to play with guys like Boca (Carlos Bocanegra). He talks you through the game. He is always on your case and you need that. Big Emilson (Cribari) came in too and he is a solid player. You can tell he is an experienced player.”
Even for one so young Chris recognised that Tuesday was as tough as it gets as far as this competition is concerned.
“It was brilliant to get through. We always expected a tough game – Falkirk won this competition last season. I felt my performance was solid. The main thing was keeping a clean sheet and we did that. It was hard but that was the main thing for me.”
The win may have been in the Challenge Cup (or Ramsdens) – but as far as Hegarty is concerned it is one more tournament to be won.
“The lads want it more than ever. We are positive - we want to win every competition we enter. It would be a statement to everybody else.”
As players arrive and depart at Ibrox Chris Hegarty is only too aware that more experienced defenders (for example Frenchman Sebastien Frau) will make it more difficult to secure a regular place.
“I’m hoping the manager saw a few good things in my play and that I can fill a space if he needs me. We have a really strong squad – a good basis for the season ahead. A bit of competition is a good thing.”
Meanwhile Andy Little tweeted his praise for the twenty-year-old:
“Chuffed for Chris Hegarty making his competitive debut tonight! Strolled it at right-back even though he’s a centre-back. Another Norn Ireland man becomes a Ranger.”
Meanwhile Rangers have been drawn at home to Queen of the South, managed by former Ibrox man Allan Johnston, in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup.
Ibrox legend Sandy Jardine was at pains to emphasise just how seriously Rangers are taking this competition.
“We’ll give Queen of the South every respect, as indeed we will every team we play this season.
“It doesn’t matter who you play – every team will be out to beat us.
“Our fans have been fantastic – there has been a carnival atmosphere at every game.” Our supporters just want to see a winning team. The biggest thing with us now being in the Third Division and having the players we’ve got is that we show the right attitude.
“I’m quite sure Ally realises that and if our players do what they are capable of, their skill will see them through.
It was 1965 when a young Sandy Jardine first signed for Rangers – and over the past six difficult months he has represented the club with dignity and composure.
“I’ve always been proud to be a Rangers man. We’ve sold 35,000 season tickets so far – and that number’s still rising.”