Lee Wallace may be hoping to complete a return to the Rangers squad before the end of the season, but it is becoming clearer by the game that his time as a starter is coming to a close.
It’s fair to say that Wallace has seen it all during his seven years as a Rangers player.
From becoming Ally McCoist’s second signing in 2011, to the club’s demotion to Division Three in 2012, to their eventual return to the Scottish top-flight in 2016.
And while the 30-year-old veteran has more than repaid his £1.5 million price-tag, namely by sticking with the club through their toughest years, his time as the club’s number one left-back appear to be over.
Here, we take a look at why we expect Wallace to be nothing more than a back-up option next season, if he decides to stay at Rangers.
1. Declan John
Let’s first address the elephant in the room, the outstanding form of Declan John.
There’s no doubt that the Welshman was originally signed on loan from Cardiff as a cheap stop-gap while Wallace struggled through the early stages of what would turn out to be an injury-ravaged season.
However, John has emerged as a stand-out under Murty, offering more pace than Wallace, a more direct route to goal and an unquestionable sell-on value at only 22-years-old.
It would be madness for Graeme Murty to pull John out of the starting XI when Wallace returns to fitness, as it’s difficult to recall a moment where John has let the team down.
2. He Ain’t Getting Any Younger
Wallace spent his peak years battling against part-timers in the lower echelons of Scottish football – a sacrifice that can be viewed as either a badge of honour or a pain-staking call which has taken it’s toll on the left-back’s body.
The ex-Hearts defender has been out of action since September, as he’s struggled to recover from double hernia surgery.
As a result, Wallace has made just seven appearances for Rangers this season: four victories, two draws and a humiliating Europa League defeat to Progres Niedercorn.
As a marauding full-back, a major part of Wallace’s game is his ability to run at the opposition and create holes for his team-mates.
After enduring such an extended lay-off and with Wallace turning 31 in August, there have to be serious concerns about his prospects of ever returning to the same level, especially week-in and week-out as a starter.
3. Freeing Up His Wage Could Help the Team
The Daily Record unveiled that Rangers’ yearly wage spend would hit £329,600 last year.
And while that figure is dwarfed by the £735,040 that Celtic reportedly shell out, the Light Blues need more bang for their buck if they are to close the gap on their Old Firm rivals.
It’s understood that Rangers’ average weekly wage is around £6,000… and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Wallace on more than that given that he is club captain and showed immense loyalty in 2012.
However, should Murty be so willing to pay an ageing star when it’s clear that Celtic are looking to get younger with the acquisitions of players like Jack Hendry and Lewis Morgan?
With John having cemented the left-back position, Rangers may be better advised to free up Wallace’s wage to strengthen another position in the squad.
4. He Deserves to Go Out… Dignity Intact
It’s very rare that a player of Wallace’s age returns from an extended spell on the sidelines and goes on to improve or even maintain their level of performance.
It would be a shame to see Wallace, a player who dominated the lower tiers as he was clearly streets ahead of the opposition, struggle in a final season as a Rangers player – his contract runs out in 2019.
If Murty decides his presence in the dressing room is too important to lose this summer, he should use the full-back as a safety blanket for John in case of injury, or even offer him the chance to move up the ladder into a coaching role.
Wallace will go down in history as one of the greatest Rangers captains in recent memory, as he stayed at the club while plenty of his former team-mates jumped ship during the turbulent Charles Green era.
He deserves to be remembered in that fashion… and not as a player struggling to keep up with the frantic pace needed from a Rangers player.