As the anticipation around the influence of Newcastle United supremo, Mike Ashley on Rangers seems to heighten day by day, current manager Kenny McDowall has made slightly worrying claims, that he has been told that all five of the new loanees from the North-East giants must play when fit. The Rangers boss, who came into power after previous manager and ex-star striker Ally McCoist was put on "gardening leave", believes that his selection of the starting XI for Rangers in future is to incorporate the Newcastle-owned players, ahead of any other choices he might deem appropriate.

The five players in question, who Newcastle have clearly deemed are currently surplus to their own requirements for the remainder of this season, include two midfielders Gael Bigirimana and Haris Vuckic, in addition to three defenders Kevin Mbabu, Remie Streete and Shane Ferguson. McDowall has stated that he was informed of the edict by chief executive Derek Llambias and the Football board chairman Sandy Easdale.

Although it might sound slightly draconian in nature at first sight, it may have merit with many of the beleaguered fans of the club. They have been disappointed with Rangers' campaign so far this season, as they lie second in the Scottish Championship, but a gulf of 16 points (albeit with two games in hand) separates them from leaders Hearts.

Loyal fans would have expected more of a battle for the top spot with the Edinburgh club, even though they were only relegated from the Scottish Premiership last season and so will have retained a good nucleus of players. Whether the new players (who only joined the Scottish side on Monday) can be successfully integrated into the current side is quite another matter, as they get to grips with a new league and new team mates.

Given that the Newcastle players coming in on loan are on the books at an English Premier League side, the expectation among many would be that they should be better options in the side than the current occupants. Some fans bemoaned the lack of pace and movement in Rangers' derby defeat to bitter rivals Celtic, in the Scottish League Cup semi-final match last Sunday, as the current gulf in apparent class between the two sides became all too clear.

The fans are used to competing with their Glasgow rivals on an equal footing, but that is a distant memory in present times. If the loanees can help to progress the current side to a higher standard, many of the fans will no doubt welcome them and provide them with the necessary support from the stands.

It remains to be seen how Ashley's influence on the former Scottish powerhouse will develop over the coming weeks and months though, as the shareholder seems to involve himself more in the comings and goings at the club with every day that passes, in one form or another.