RANGERS defender Gareth McAuley has been awarded an MBE in The New Year Honours List 2019.

McAuley, who has captained his national team and been capped 80 times in his career, has been awarded the honour for his services to football in Northern Ireland.

The Lifelong Gers fan joined the club in September after leaving West Bromwich Albion in the summer, and he has played eight times for the Light Blues this season.

McAuley 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.

He is also the highest ever scoring defender for his country, with nine goals to his name so far.

Rangers managing director Stewart Robertson said: “Everyone at Rangers Football Club is delighted for Gareth and his family at this news, this honour is well deserved.

“He is an outstanding professional who has had an excellent career at both club and national level and we look forward to him building upon that this season whilst he is here at Rangers.”

Gers boss Steven Gerrard said, “I think it is certainly deserved for Gareth for the services he has given to football. Congratulations to him and his family, I am sure it will be a proud day.

“He is a top human being, he is a good man and he puts a lot into his job so he deserves to be rewarded.”

He began his career with in his homeland with Linfield and went on to have spells in his native Ulster with Ballyclare Comrades, Crusaders and Coleraine, before earning a move to England, and Lincoln City in 2004.

He spent two years with the League Two outfit before his form earned him a move to then-Championship outfit Leicester City, spending two seasons there before moving to Ipswich Town and having three seasons with them.

In May 2011, he moved to Premier League West Brom, and he would go on to spend seven seasons with the Midlands club, and make 203 appearances in England’s top flight before joining Rangers this season.

A Message From Gareth

Larne in Northern Ireland is a long way from Ibrox Park, but that’s the thing about football.

You never know when you start out how or when it’s going to end or where you are going to visit along the way.

The fact that I’ve received this amazing honour before my playing career has ended and that I am going to visit Buckingham Palace is something that I would never have anticipated during my early years in the game.

Lisburn Youth, Linfield, Ballyclare Comrades, Crusaders, Coleraine; who knew that via Lincoln City, Leicester City, Ipswich Town and West Bromwich Albion I would arrive at the club I have supported since I was a kid.

My roots are in Northern Ireland and the fact that I’ve been able to represent my country 80 times and played in the European Championships is something of which I am so proud.

I’ve done my best throughout my career to put something back into the community and I hope that the honour I’ve just been awarded inspires youngsters in Northern Ireland and encourages them always to believe that nothing is beyond them.

Even having just turned 39, I always dreamed the best was ahead, and this indeed is the best.

There are so many people who have helped me along the way, helped me to continue to believe in myself both as a person and as a professional footballer.

I simply cannot name them all, but they know who they are and how much I owe to them.

And then there’s my family, and in particular my wife Fran and my children Bobby and Lexi who, along with all footballers’ families, put up with so much for the sake of their husbands and dads’ careers.

My parents Mildred and Billy always demonstrated belief in me and I fully intend to share this honour with them and all my family, friends, team-mates, managers, coaches and supporters who have made it possible and travelled with me this far down the road and for the rest of the journey.

Gareth

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