GREG DOCHERTY has branded his loan spell with Shrewsbury Town as “invaluable” as he gets set for a Rangers return in pre-season.
Docherty, who joined Gers in January 2018 on a four-and-a-half year deal, spent the season with League One Shrews and performed superbly to help them secure their status in the division for next season.
He netted 10 times in 50 appearances, with one of those goals coming against outstanding Premier League outfit Wolves in the FA Cup back January.
Docherty, who this week spoke exclusively with the Official Rangers Podcast, said: “It has been invaluable. I was humming and hawing at the start of this season over what would be best for me this year.
“I’ve gone and racked up a big number of games and have been fortunate enough to stay fit to do that. I just feel I have matured so much and am ready for the challenge next year.”
Brought up as a die-hard Rangers fan, he admits keeping up to date with what was happening back at Ibrox wasn’t always easy, especially with many of Shrews’ games overlapping with those of the Light Blues.
He did, however, find some novel ways to keep in touch, including for when Gers defeated Celtic 1-0 back on December 29.
He continued: “When we won the Old Firm back in December, it was obviously a crucial game and an early kick-off. I was out in the warm-up and our sports scientist was secretly telling me what was happening.
“Every now and then I’d be looking at him and he’d be telling me ‘it’s still 1-0’ and things like that.
“I’d obviously still followed the club massively and watched the European games, but it was difficult watching them as it gives you that fire inside that you really want to be a part of it.
“Watching the Old Firm on Sunday too, you can see the buzz back in the place and you can see we are maybe on the brink of something that is going to be special and the fans are on-board.
“It’s a good time to be at the club and I knew this season, if I had stagnated, it wouldn’t have benefited me as much as going out and getting the games has.”
This season has seen Rangers take the unique step of employing Billy Kirkwood as ‘Loans Manager’ to monitor all of the club’s players playing their football away from Ibrox.
Docherty has lauded the support of Kirkwood, and also the club for creating such a post.
“That was crucial and credit to the club for doing that,” he added. “It sets them apart from a lot of clubs, and it really makes you feel as if you are still a Rangers player.
“Billy was phoning me every week, and I’d say maybe one in every five games, Billy was there and that is credit to him as it’s quite a journey.
“He has a lot of boys to go and see as well but his texts were frequent and he would take time to speak to my parents and family to reassure them.
“He was in constant contact too with the coaches and built a good relationship with them down there.
“So it was great for me coming into training and hearing Billy had been on the phone to them as you knew Rangers were still on top of you and still watching and the end goal was to come back here a better player.”