ALLAN McGregor’s retirement from international duty, given he is now 37, shouldn’t really have come as a surprise. That it did even to the manager of the national team, Alex McLeish, hinted that there might be more to the Rangers goalkeeper’s apparently sudden U-turn than the aching bones he put it down to.

Whether he chose to end his Scotland career eight caps shy of a place in the Hall of Fame because of an SFA rap over his kick at Aberdeen youngster Lewis Ferguson, only he could tell you. Even if he has, it doesn’t explain just why there has been such a collective shrug of the shoulders at the news, or even pleasure taken in some quarters, given he is the best Scottish goalkeeper in the game at this moment in time by a distance.

So, if the withdrawal of a player at the level of McGregor is clearly to the detriment of the Scotland team, then why are some Scotland fans happy to see the back of him? After all, without his wonderful last-gasp save against Israel at Hampden back in November, we wouldn’t have won our UEFA Nations League Group, a moment that underlined his quality.

HeraldScotland:

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Well, as the afore-mentioned incident with young Ferguson outlined, McGregor has never come across as someone who is out to win popularity contests. He is a character who will only be grudgingly admired by fans of other teams at best, and there is no doubt that antipathy is shaping the reaction to his international retirement.

He has also had his fair share of run-ins with the SFA over the years, receiving a lifetime ban from playing for Scotland that lasted, erm, a year, over the whole Boozegate fiasco. Some fans were quick to point to that whole sorry affair - fully 10 years ago now - as the reason they are happy to no longer have him tending goal for Scotland.

On the other side of the coin, you have Rangers supporters who are understandably pleased that their keeper’s fitness will not now be risked on the plastic pitch of Astana in Kazakhstan and subsequently on several occasions throughout the next two years. But the avoidance of injury to McGregor is not the only reason why many of them are pleased their keeper will no longer be donning the Lion Rampant on his chest.

It is important to stress that there will be exceptions to the following rule, but I don’t think it is outlandish to suggest there has been a disenfranchisement of the Rangers support when it comes to the national team.

HeraldScotland:

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There are various explanations for this. There is of course a certain apathy across the board given the lack of success in the last two decades, but the lack of their own players in the line-up is perhaps why Rangers fans have turned off in greater numbers than most.

Outwith McGregor, only Ryan Jack really had a shot at making the latest squad, but he was far from a shoo-in. That makes it harder for Rangers fans to identify with the team, and as childish as it is, many will baulk at the thought of cheering on a side that has heavily relied on a strong Celtic presence, particularly in recent times.

Identifying with the team goes further than just the players though, and the polarisation of politics in the country, with much of that wrapped up in identity, certainly plays a part. Though there are many exceptions to the rule, the general sympathy towards unionism from Rangers supporters and the broad and vocal support for Scottish independence from the Tartan Army has turned Rangers supporters away from the national side. Unfortunately, there are too many on the Rangers side who will readily dismiss all Scotland supporters as kilt-wearing drunken buffoons who sport Glengarry hats and support the SNP, while many fans of other clubs will see Rangers supporters as a homogenous group of England-supporting unionists.

HeraldScotland:

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Rangers fans have been upset too by the targeting of their players for abuse by members of the Scotland support even when they are turning out in the dark blue. Jack was booed on his international debut against the Netherlands, though that had more to do with the match being played at Pittodrie, given he had left Aberdeen a few months before. It was a similar scenario in 2012 when former Hearts player Ian Black took his international bow at Easter Road.

There will also be those who find it difficult to separate the team itself from the game’s governing body. At grounds up and down the country, you will hear the refrain of ‘F*** the SFA’, and for some, the team itself doesn’t represent the nation but the association they despise.

The upshot of all of this is that in the one place where supporters of all clubs should be able to come together and unify behind a shared cause, our national team, all the petty rivalries and differences remain.

It seems there are many who cannot leave their club and political views at the steps outside of Hampden, and just as it is the case with McGregor’s absence, Scotland are all the poorer for it.

AND ANOTHER THING...

THE unique selling point of the Scottish game is its unvarnished appeal as 'real fitba', and we should be holding this up against the sterile and often vacuous world of the major leagues whenever possible.

That is why the glorious tweet from the official Berwick Rangers account last Saturday, in which Cowdenbeath manager Gary Bollan's suggestion to their manager Johnny Harvey that he - and I quote - "take his face for a s***e", should have resulted in a bonus for volunteer Dom rather than the dismissal from his post he did receive.

Perhaps what goes on in the dugout should stay there, but when was the last time 60,000 people took notice of the Wee Rangers?