McLaren began his career with Heart of Midlothian in 1987 and played over 180 games for the club. In 1994 he left for the Rangers, who are more than 2 million plus Dave McPherson had about him. He made his debut in the Old Firm against archrival Celtic FC in a 3-1 victory for the Rangers.
In 1999 he was forced to quit because of an injury. At the age of 28 His last game for the Rangers was captain in the 1-0 win against Dundee United .
On 2 March 1999, the Rangers played a farewell match for McLaren at the English club Middlesbrough FC . The match ended in a 4-4 tie and McLaren converted a penalty.