IN much the same way as he approaches the act of opening up defences on the field, Steven Naismith is always looking for a different angle off it.

Back in his native Ayrshire to announce his decision to sponsor Stewarton Annick, the football club he started with at the age of six, the Everton forward was always going to be asked for his opinion on how Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller are likely to fare now that they are back together at Rangers.

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He knows fine well they will score goals. Years spent working with Boyd and Miller at club and international level have told Naismith all he needs to know about how his former Ibrox team-mates will perform.

However, no more than a few hours spent blethering behind the cast-iron gates of Murray Park with the third - and least celebrated - of Ally McCoist's summer signings created a similarly positive impression.

Indeed, it is those conversations that have forced Naismith to express the belief that, by the end of what promises to be an exciting season in the SPFL Championship, Darren McGregor's name will merit equal mention beside the returning heroes of old.

Naismith played against McGregor and was always impressed by the way he handled the challenges of stepping up a couple of levels from Cowdenbeath, with whom he won a play-off to earn promotion to the old First Division, to St Mirren.

Yet, it was during the time they spent together inside Rangers' training complex at Auchenhowie that he realised the 28-year-old centre-half has the hint of steel required to cope with the particular pressures of taking Rangers back to the top division at the first time of asking. McGregor sustained two bouts of cruciate ligament damage in the space of a year during his time in Paisley. He was permitted to use the facilities at Murray Park as part of his rehabilitation and that offered Naismith, who returned from the same injury in 2008, the opportunity to share his experiences.

Within McGregor, he saw the same single-minded determination he possessed to get his career back up and moving. Within McGregor, he saw everything to suggest that he can have as big a say in the Ibrox club's season as Boyd and Miller.

"They will go a long way towards helping them [win the title]," conceded Naismith. "However, if it comes to the end of the season and Rangers get promoted with Boydy and Kenny scoring 20 goals each, I think a lot of people will still look at Darren and say that he was a great signing at the back.

"He came into Murray Park a few times when he suffered his first knee injury to use a couple of bits of equipment that St Mirren didn't have. I chatted to him back then and he had a similar attitude to the one I had. He never felt sorry for himself. He just wanted to get back fit and playing. Rangers have made a good signing there."

McGregor, of course, will have lessons to learn at Rangers.

Naismith recalls how much he gleaned from the three years he spent working with Miller, a player he still believes has never received adequate praise for his all-round ability.

"Kenny is definitely up there with the players I learned the most from," he said. "I'd put him in the same bracket as the top-drawer strikers I've played with in the English Premiership.

"He doesn't get the credit he deserves for his all-round play. He was so unselfish, especially when he played the lone striker role for Scotland or Rangers in Europe.

"His knowledge of the game is great, knowing what to do with defenders to drag them out of position. Any young boy at Rangers will learn so much from him."

Boyd, four years younger than Miller at 30, returns to Ibrox a different man as well. Naismith formed a prolific partnership with him at Kilmarnock in their youth and was delighted to see him get his career back on the right track at Rugby Park last season.

"Playing for Kilmarnock is a lot different to playing for Rangers and he's probably had to add more to his game with the way it is going," said Naismith.

"In his younger days, he maybe didn't add things to his game as much because he was concentrating on scoring goals, but he now sees the rewards of doing it for the team.

"Boydy and Kenny are a bit older, but they have that bit more experience and see the game a bit differently. It wasn't a massive gamble for Rangers to sign them."