LEE WALLACE joined Rangers in 2011 as one of the most promising Scottish defenders of his generation. He has now departed following an eight-year stint in which he showcased admirable qualities as an individual but to the serious detriment of his football career. Was it really worth it?

Long before Andy Robertson or Kieran Tierney burst on to the scene, Wallace was the best left-back around. His consistently impressive form with Hearts earned him that move to Rangers where he was expected to take his career to another level. He did. The Scottish Third Division.

Wallace – like many others – could not have imagined Rangers imploding in such spectacular fashion in his first season at the club as they stumbled first into administration and then liquidation. But as his team-mates raced for the lifeboats and sought safer ground, the Edinburgh-born defender chose to stay put and promised to see out his contract.

Perhaps he felt he owed Rangers and manager Ally McCoist a degree of loyalty for signing him. Maybe the fact his partner was pregnant with the couple’s first child was another reason to avoid unnecessary upheaval. Regardless, Wallace remained for the duration of Rangers’ four-year slog through the lower leagues and would go on to become one of only two players to start both of the 2-2 draws with first Peterhead and then St Mirren that bookended that era. The other was Barry McKay who also had two loan spells away from Ibrox.

But Wallace stayed throughout. There were offers from English clubs during that period but none turned the head either of the player or whoever was nominally running Rangers at that time. The Scotland appearances dried up too, either through injury or simply because he wasn’t selected. His last competitive cap came at Wembley in 2016 when Robertson and Tierney were both unavailable. Had circumstances been different that would have been Wallace’s jersey automatically.

Promotion in 2016 ought to have been the reward for his unstinting loyalty to Rangers and the chance to finally get his career back on track. Instead another serious injury saw him sidelined for months before the infamous, alleged altercation with former head coach Graeme Murty following the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Celtic last year. He and former team-mate Kenny Miller were fined before taking their case to an SPFL tribunal that they won.

The arrival of Steven Gerrard as manager last summer ought to have provided another clean slate for Wallace but bad feeling evidently still lingered. James Tavernier was made club captain at his expense and the Scot was frozen out, making only three substitute appearances in the final year of his contract.

The Rangers supporters greeted him warmly each time but it was such an inglorious end to a stint that dragged on far longer than it ought to have done.

Wallace would have had the pick of a raft of clubs in England had he chosen not to TUPE over his contract to the Rangers newco in 2012. And even in the lower leagues his stock remained sufficiently high to warrant a move away at some point during those four years.

At no time did it seem to cross his mind to seek a fresh challenge. Perhaps that devotion ought to be considered a commendable trait in the post-Bosman era when players usually disappear at the first sight of a lucrative deal being waved under their noses.

His football CV, however, tells a different story; only 10 Scotland caps and no major honours having been on the losing side in the 2016 Scottish Cup final defeat to Hibernian.

At 31, there may be life in the full-back yet. Reunited with former manager Mark Warburton at Queens Park Rangers, he could yet go on to play for several more years in the English Championship and be well reimbursed for the privilege. Wallace certainly possesses the requisite temperament and maturity to make a decent fist of it.

It is hard, though, not to shake the feeling that when he finally decides to hang up his boots his abiding legacy will be of a player who chose loyalty and home comforts rather than major trophies and international caps. And for him that must surely be a source of quiet regret.

THE plight of another former Rangers full-back continues to generate a well of sadness. Life was never dull working alongside Fernando Ricksen during his time at Ibrox, his head bursting every day with playful mischief and matched by his seemingly endless energy reserves like a toddler on a sugar rush. When he put his serious face on he would also prove to be a thoughtful and insightful interview subject, emboldened by the no-nonsense candour that seems to be a part of every Dutchman’s DNA.

It borders on the tragic then to see him in his current state, ravaged by the dreadful condition Motor Neuron Disease that has robbed him of his vitality and spark. Even despite his ailing health, however, he has chosen not to hide away from the world as he calls for more research into MND that will hopefully save future generations from a similar fate. Keep fighting, Fernando.