JOHN Brown has attributed Rangers’ exceptional defensive record this season to the presence of Jack Butland in goals - and claimed a player he believes deserves to be involved in the England set-up should be starting for Manchester United.

The former centre half, who helped the Ibrox club to dominate Scottish football and complete Nine-In-A-Row during the 1990s, has been impressed with how Philippe Clement’s men have performed at the back since the Belgian was appointed manager back in October.

James Tavernier and his team mates, who will move to the top of the cinch Premiership tomorrow evening if they beat struggling Ross County by three goals in Govan, have conceded just seven times in the 17 league matches they have played under Clement.

In total, they have let in just 12 goals in the Premiership, which is five fewer than defending champions and current top flight leaders Celtic.

Brown believes that Butland, who joined on a free transfer from Crystal Palace before the start of the 2023/24 campaign, has been the key to Rangers’ new-found defensive solidity.

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He was surprised that United, whose Cameroonian keeper Andre Onana has been guilty of a series of costly high-profile blunders since being signed for £43.8m from Inter Milan in 2023, did not hold onto the 30-year-old, who they had on loan last season, for longer.

Speaking at a promotional event for the Rangers Youth Development Company and their Union Jackpot half-time draw at Ibrox yesterday, Brown said: “The biggest thing you need is a quality goalkeeper and Rangers have that. That’s half the battle.

The Herald: “You can be an excellent centre back or full back, but if your goalkeeper is not to a level of an Allan McGregor, an Andy Goram or a Stefan Klos, guys I worked with, then it’s not so easy.

“Butland is an international goalkeeper. He’s fresh, he’s not had a great deal of minutes in the previous seasons. But you can see his quality. When you see him coming out, he gives the backline a reassurance that they don’t need to be too deep.

“With some keepers I played with, without mentioning names, we would be going deeper to protect them rather than have faith that if there’s going to be a shot from 25 yards we’re comfortable they can make the save. He has been probably one of Rangers’ best players this season.”

The Rangers ambassador added: “I was always a fan of Butland. I was surprised he never got more minutes down south. When I look at the English Premier League there’s a lot of goalkeepers down there that I’d say Jack Butland is better than.

“He was at Manchester United and for me was their first choice goalkeeper. If I was going for a steady goalkeeper, then Jack Butland would be my choice. The fact we got him is fantastic for the club.”

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No Rangers footballer has represented England since Paul Gascoigne, who Brown played alongside towards the end of his career, way back in 1997.

However, Brown thinks that Gareth Southgate, who named Jordan Pickford of Everton, Sam Johnstone of Palace and Aaron Ramsdale of Arsenal in his last squad back in November, should hand Butland a recall before the Euro 2024 finals in Germany this summer.

He knows the Premier League is of a higher standard than the Premiership – but he feels the nine-times capped internationalist is still performing at a high level at home and abroad on a weekly basis and is convinced he would experience no difficulties adapting to international football again.

“He’s coming into a club with 50,000 at every home game,” he said. “He’s playing in Europe, going for trophies, he’s got a trophy in the bag and he’s a huge part of the backline’s success.”

Rangers rejected a bid from English top flight strugglers Nottingham Forest for Butland during the final days of the January transfer window and Brown is hopeful the Ibrox club can hold onto the on-form goalkeeper, who signed a four year deal when he joined and is under contract until 2027, for some time to come.

“He probably has another 10 years at the top because of the years he’s missed,” he said. “Allan McGregor came back at 36, played until he was 40 and was outstanding for us. So there’s no reason why Rangers can’t, hopefully, retain Jack.”

The Herald: Brown, who formed a renowned central defensive partnership with Richard Gough when Rangers completed a domestic treble in the 1992/93 season, also believes the experience of Leon Balogun, Ben Davies, Connor Goldson and John Souttar has enabled the Glasgow giants to perform at their best domestically and in Europe under Clement. 

“The defenders have done well,” he said. “It’s difficult when you have a number of centre backs changing. Walter (legendary Rangers manager Smith) especially would always look at more experienced centre backs. When Craig Moore was young, he would rather play him at right full-back and get the experience inside. He’d say a younger one at centre back makes more mistakes.

“So with the changing of a Goldson to a Souttar to a Balogun or a Davies. To still have that organisation really says something. The midfield and forwards need to work to stop the ball getting forward too. A good team defend from the front.”

Brown has also been pleased to see midfielder John Lundstram show the same sort of consistency as he did during the 2021/22 season and is optimistic the Englishman, whose current deal expires in the summer, will agree to an extension.

“Look at Lundstram,” he said. “He is hitting the best form he has had since that season we got to the Europa League final. He was outstanding that season and he is showing that form again. But there is competition now. You want to retain your best players and if he is willing to consider that then it is great to the club. He has got great experience.”

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