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If Marvin Andrews' unimaginable success at Rangers is attributed to divine intervention, Gavin Rae is perfectly entitled to a crisis of faith.

Their respective fortunes at Ibrox bookend taking the good with the bad. While Andrews celebrates the automatic activation of a new one-year deal and prepares to make history as part of Trinidad and Tobago's first World Cup squad, Rae is thankful for small mercies. A half against Gretna, without an audience, at Murray Park, was an equally important milestone to the luckless midfielder as Andrews' participation in Germany next summer.

After almost two years of rehabilitation from, initially, cruciate ligament damage to one knee and subsequent tendonitis to the overburdened other, the scene for Rae's emergence from a long, dark tunnel was irrelevant. Another behind-closed-doors bounce match is scheduled for later this week but given that Rae's very future has been jeopardised by his lay-off, McLeish yesterday refused to estimate a return to first-team action for player who has featured in less than two games since his signing.

"He has spent so much time with the medical people that he wants to be a doctor when he grows up," said McLeish, displaying the kind of humour that has been essential in making the player feel part of life at Murray Park despite the obvious pangs of helplessness.

"Let's take our time with Gavin and not rush him back. I don't believe he had any problems after the game on Thursday but he has come a long way and still has a long way to go. We don't want to put any pressure on him. We will all see how things unfold in the next few weeks. He will get plenty of action and we have arranged another game for him."

The manager recalled his own personal nadir, an eight-month spell out after breaking down and relapsing, as Rae did, when close to a full recovery. Yet he can only imagine the personal anguish endured by the midfielder during the lonely road to recovery.

"I broke down twice in the one season and missed three or four months on each occasion," said McLeish. "When it comes to long-term injuries, you are resigned to them.

"The most difficult aspect for Gavin was coming back to the brink of recovery and breaking down again. That must have been torture. He has worked hard with the physios and they have been very complimentary about his professionalism."

Andrews, in contrast, continues to defy the odds. Stricken by cruciate ligament damage in his knee, medically at any rate, the defender has confounded doctors' opinions and cynics' predictions to retain his place in the Rangers first team and realise the ambition of representing his country in a World Cup finals.

Few predicted that Andrews could overcome his defensive eccentricity amid the relentless pressures of Old Firm life but the 30-year-old will be around for some time yet. "Marvin will be okay in contract terms, he has a clause that kicks in and might already have done so," said McLeish, with Andrews well on course to surpassing the minimum 25-game appearance rate before activating an automatic one-year extension.

"When we signed Marvin, we needed a presence. We acted prudently in the market at that time. People did raise eyebrows. I wondered myself if the big fellow could make an impact at the club but his own self-belief helped him as much as anything. He has been a good acquisition for Rangers in troubled financial times."

With the financial gloom lifted, Andrews remains a cherished piece of Rangers furniture rather than an anachronistic relic of hard times.

"You have to take your hat off to Marvin," said McLeish, an unashamed cheerleader despite rejecting him after a trial at Motherwell. "You love to see people succeeding for the hard work they show in their lives. It's a great example to anybody. If you graft, you have a chance. Some people are blessed with natural talent and don't work at it, while other people make themselves better. Marvin has to be really proud of what he has done."

His participation in the World Cup Finals, while many supposedly more illustrious names within the Rangers dressing room will content themselves with a summer holiday, is the ultimate reward for a career spent confounding expectations.

"We probably took the World Cup Finals for granted when I was a player," recalled McLeish of a bygone era of international expectancy. "We felt we should be there. For Trinidad and Tobago, it's the first time in their history that they have reached the finals and that is something special. It's like winning a major trophy, and Marvin should be proud his development."
The signing of Kris Boyd, unavailable until after the New Year, is offset by the revolving door to the Murray Park medical centre. "We are really stretched," said McLeish, in anticipation of today's meeting with a desperate Dunfermline at East End Park.