BEING awarded an MBE for his services to football on December 28 was the icing on the cake for Gareth McAuley after his dream move to Rangers.
The lifelong Bluenose signed a one-year deal to join Steven Gerrard’s squad at the start of September and, speaking to RangersTV at the club’s winter training camp in Tenerife, he admits that being a Ger is everything he imagined it would be and more.
However, 2018 was to get even better for the Norther Ireland legend when it was announced that he had made it onto The New Year’s Honours List 2019.
The news came as a shock to the 39-year-old former Leicester City, Ipswich Town and West Brom stopper who has been capped 80 times in his career and also scored one of the most iconic goals in the history of Northern Irish football at Euro 2016, grabbing their first goal at a tournament in 30 years in their 2-0 defeat of Ukraine in Lyon.
Describing his emotions after being awarded his MBE, McAuley said: “Proud, humbling and little bit strange because you play football and you do it because you love it or whatever.
“You help people out and you do stuff but you do it because you can and you do it because you want to.
“So be rewarded for something like that is a little bit of a strange feeling but it’s a massive, massive honour and something I’m deeply proud of and something my family are really proud of.
“It’s nice and I’ve been getting a little bit of stick off the lads, although there are a few more lads with OBEs and MBEs within the squad. But I’m massively honoured and very proud of it.”
On his time at Rangers so far, Gareth continued: “I think enjoyed is the word. It’s been great and everything I imagined it would be and more being around the club and being able to play a few games and challenging to get into the team.
“That’s what it was all about. Being around the younger players and helping a number of players by giving advice here and there. Yeah, I am really enjoying it, enjoying my role within the group and I feel there is more to come.
“I missed out on a pre-season which was a big thing really, so I’ve been playing catch up and this little block of a few weeks can get me right up to speed.
“The euphoria from the Old Firm game, it’s bubbling along under the surface here and the thing is we have to hit the ground running. We have to re-create that performance.
“Everyone wants to play and it’s a big squad and everyone is pushing everyone which is great. But we have to try and find that same level of performance in the second half of the season.
“It’s been nice to have the break but we all want to play football matches so getting back into it is something we’re all looking forward to.”