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Marius Zaliuka: Returning to Scotland feels like I am coming home

Rangers boss Ally McCoist

Rangers boss Ally McCoist

  • by Gavin McCafferty
 

Marius Zaliukas revealed his return to Scotland felt like coming home after the former Hearts captain signed a two-year contract with Rangers.

The Lithuania central defender will jet out to North America with his new team-mates at the weekend after a successful trial period.

Zaliukas will face his former club and their Edinburgh rivals Hibernian in an exciting Scottish Championship and he is looking forward to the challenge of winning promotion.

“I think the league is going to be very interesting and I’m happy to be back in Scotland,” the 30-year-old said as he was introduced to the media at Ibrox.

“The lifestyle and mentality suits me best. I spent seven years in Scotland and I’m used to this country. To be honest it feels like home.”

The 30-year-old also trained with the club last summer but ended up with Leeds, however he was delighted to get a second chance to sign for McCoist after leaving a club undergoing change under new owner Massimo Cellino.

“Over there it was very different,” Zaliukas said. “When I came here on the first day it felt much better, and I spent six months there. On the first day it just felt right.

“I’m delighted the gaffer showed a lot of interest. I have a good relationship with the gaffer and I think everything is going to go well.”

Zaliukas could make his competitive debut for Rangers against Hearts, who visit Ibrox on the opening weekend of the Championship season.

“One or another way it’s going to be hard, and it’s going to mean a lot, but I have to do my job and do my best,” he said.

First Zaliukas will have to force his way past last season’s regular centre-back pairing, Lee McCulloch and Bilel Mohsni, with fellow summer arrival Darren McGregor as added competition.

But he is relishing the challenge.

“As many as possible you can get in one position, the better the challenge is in the training ground,” he said.

Zaliukas and McGregor join strikers Kenny Miller and Kris Boyd in signing this summer and Zaliukas is glad to have them on his side for a change.

“I always hated to being play against them,” he said. “Now we are playing on the one side. They are the most experienced players in the side and I think it’s going to go well.”

It was a busy day for the club off the park as goalkeeper Steve Simonsen also signed a new contract.

Simonsen made three appearances as back-up to Cammy Bell last season but he said he turned down the chance to be first-choice goalkeeper elsewhere to sign a one-year deal, just ahead of their pre-season tour of North America.

The 35-year-old told the club’s official website said: “I had a lot of other teams getting in contact and it was a little bit like buses this summer.

“A few in England and Scotland got in touch but as soon as the manager expressed his interest in bringing me back here again it was a non-competition.

“This was the only place I wanted to come to and there’s massive appeal here because I thoroughly enjoyed it at Rangers last season.

“It’s a fantastic football club as everybody knows. When I got the call, I just told the manager I’d be here whenever he needed me. I couldn’t wait to get back.

“I could maybe have gone somewhere else as the number one but I’m just delighted to be back and I’m looking forward to working alongside Cammy again.”

 

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