Gary McAllister left Rangers six months ago but his emotional investment in the club remains undiminished.
That’s why the former assistant has been swept up in every step of the club’s remarkable journey to Seville, as the team he helped build came a hair closer to Europa League glory this month.
While McAllister, who joined Aston Villa with manager Steven Gerrard in November, felt the agony of losing on penalties to Eintracht Frankfurt, his overwhelming mood was one of immense pride.
Gerrard and McAllister had revived Rangers’ continental fortunes, guiding the club into the last 16 of the Europa League for two consecutive years before Giovanni van Bronckhorst took over the baton and paved the way to the final.
“Seeing the team run to Seville was special,” said McAllister, whose three years with Rangers in the 2020-21 season resulted in the club’s first top-flight title in a decade.
“A lot of those players were ours, Steven brought most of them to the club. Gio then came in and did a great job. They were so close they almost touched the trophy.
“It just wasn’t meant to be. But I look at all these players and I’m very proud to have worked with them. It was such a pleasure to work with them.”
“The Scottish team is so together”
In his playing days, McAllister won the English top flight with Leeds United and celebrated a UEFA Cup triumph as part of a treble Liverpool Cup.
However, nothing can top his vast tournament experience with Scotland, playing at Euro 92 and 96 and being part of the squad for the 1990 World Cup.
The 57-year-old is dying for the current generation – including Villa midfielder John McGinn – to play back-to-back tournaments after ending a 23-year absence in the final at Euro 2020.
And he believes the team spirit fostered by former international team-mate Steve Clarke will be key in Wednesday’s play-off semi-final against Ukraine when Wales await the winners to qualify at this winter’s World Cup.
“I’m confident they can get the right result on Wednesday,” McAllister told BBC Scotland Sportsound.
“Playing in big tournaments, those five or six weeks you’re out with the squad is some of the most rewarding times I’ve had in football. The camaraderie, I see similarities to Steve’s squad versus Craig Brown’s.
“Everyone seems to be together. Most importantly, the players who aren’t in the starting XI are right behind those who are. That alone makes it more of a national team than a national team and they win games. “