Mark Warburton recently caused controversy by suggesting that his young players were gaining nothing out of playing in the Scottish development leagues. He believes that the system focuses too much on meaningless results at the respective level and called for a Rangers Colts team to be introduced into the lower tiers.
It’s easy to see why the manager is so protective about his youth team. For the first time in a long while, we have a genuine excitement about a number of prospects coming through at Auchenhowie. The youth academy has been rejuvenated by the introduction of Warburton’s attacking philosophy which has now been implemented throughout the club at every level.
Willy a.k.a @SpatestonBear2, a proud member of the Johnstone RSC, has a keen interest in the development squads and has chosen to focus on four highly-rated players and give his thoughts on where they are in their development and what the future could hold for each of the starlets.
His four players include:
First up is young winger Ross Lyon. Lyon is only 17 years old and he has already played for Scotland at both under-15 and 16 level. Having already featured in the first-team squad this season, it would seem that he has a big future ahead of him.
He is very technically gifted, but the one thing that has let him down this season is his consistency and with him being 17, that’s no real surprise. Unfortunately, that inconsistency has led to him being on the bench recently for the 20s.
Ross can play in all advanced positions in the midfield, but I feel his best position is the No.10 role. If he keeps improving in the next few years, I see no reason why he cannot become a first-team regular over a longer period of time.
Central defender Luca Gasparotto is 21 – he’s been on loan during the past few seasons at Stirling Albion before moving on to Airdrie – where he won their Young Player of the Year award, impressing management and fans alike. He is on loan at Morton and he had performed excellently well before he found himself ruled out for months because of injury.
He made his comeback in the recent cup tie at Parkhead. He has six months left on his deal and I feel like he will be moved on come the summer. On the other hand, he is carving out quite the name for himself at international level. He’s played through all the Canadian age groups and now he is looking to cement a place in Canada’s backline for many years to come.
Jordan Thompson is the one that has got everyone talking. He signed in the summer after spending four years in the academy at Manchester United. He made his debut coming of the bench against Alloa, but he has impressed everyone at the club, especially with how technically proficient he is. He is now on loan at Airdrie and that technique was displayed as he scored a howitzer against Cowdenbeath recently.
I feel there is no reason why he cannot be pushing to be a regular in the squad, and potentially starting some game next season.
Finally, we move on to Liam Burt. Liam has been capped at 17s and 19s for Scotland, which has led him to become one of the most promising players in the country. He started his career at Celtic before moving to Rangers in 2014. He’s improved his game at Auchenhowie and has become a mainstay for the u-17s and 20s.
He recently made his first-team debut, coming on as a sub in the victory over Raith Rovers at Ibrox, and, in my opinion, that is a clear indication that Mark Warburton rates him quite highly. I would imagine that we will see much more of the diminutive midfielder before the season is out.
Another exciting player is Mekhi Leacock-McLeod who is a new arrival of the Warburton era. Mekhi started his career at Fulham before moving onto Wolves & Rangers. Good technically & has a short burst of speed that takes him by players, one thing that he needs to work on is his decision making as he seems to hold onto the ball for to long.
Liam Watson is another fan who regularly attends the Under 20’s matches and has selected 3 players who he thinks have a promising future:
Having joined in the summer coming up from England, young 18 year old Jordan once previously of West Brom would have been keen to had a more encouraging start to his Rangers career. Sustaining a leg injury in his first game it delayed the young striker’s progress but he seems to be now coming back in to contention.
Comfortable running with the ball towards defences Gibson seems most at ease on the left side driving in, having scored against Dunfermline and come unlucky against recent opposition the future is bright for the young Englishman. Jordan’s main strengths come from his pace and drive, weaknesses include physicality but that will all come with time.
Making the move from 17’s to 20’s has come with no difficulty to the young recent Scotland 17’s international. Impressing in the middle of the park, Barjonas has all the skill needed to become an engine of the midfield in years to come.
For his tender age young Jamie doesn’t look one bit out of place in amongst his senior counterparts, an intelligent reader of the game. However, there could be a slight lack of final quality when it comes to range of passing, this should not however let down the young talent who continues to perform consistently.
Comfortable at both left back and centre back, the youngster is one of the most exciting talents in the youth academy. Making the step up from 17’s saw McRorie named captain of the development side which in itself shows the level that he is though of by all the coaching staff at Auchenhowie.
Comfortable with the ball at his feet and a threat in the air it’s a matter of time before Warburton gives the youngster a look in (Previously being on the bench versus Dumbarton) a loan spell out to Ayr has seen him score and get MOTM in his first game.
A testament to the skill of the young full back turn centre back. A lack of leadership may be his only weakness but that would be me being extremely harsh, the captain’s armband has definitely seen him improve in this area.
The loan system has had mixed results for the club in the past. Some players go out and immediately make an impression whilst others struggle to cement a first team place.
Warburton has placed great faith in the system, with up to 8 players currently out on loan around Scotland (and Canada in the case of Fraser Aird). Barrie McKay proved how valuable it is gaining regular first team experience is, although many will argue he was good enough to play regular with us. McKay is the embodiment of Rangers rise to the top. He scored our first league goal on the way back and has been outstanding this campaign. Others in the academy must also now look to do the same. Two Players who will be looking to step up next season are:
If Hibs third defeat in a row to Queen of the South wasn’t bad enough, the fact they lost to a goal from a Rangers loan player was even worse. A player who’s been put out on loan for first team experience has effectively put the nail in the coffin of Hibs title chances.
The case of Murdoch is a difficult one. He came in to the first team last season and put in some great displays but it must be highlighted what was around him. His tenacious performances in the middle earned many plaudits from the fans and he scored the goal of the season away to Raith Rovers. The midfielder must feel slightly hard done by, being put out on loan so quickly, but I’m sure will be desperate to prove his worth.
Auchenhowie has produced many good players over the years – Alan Hutton, Chris Burke, and Charlie Adam, however it has fallen shot of producing a top drawer striker. Ross McCormack has obviously had a lucrative career away from Rangers but didn’t play regularly enough for us. Andy Little scored many goals in the lower leagues but didn’t win many fans over.
The striker we’ve all been waiting for might just be Ryan Hardie. Still only 18-years-old, Hardie has been described as one of the most natural finisher’s to come through the system. Stuart McCall has compared him to a young Ally McCoist and handed him his first start for the club against Dumbarton where he scored 2 goals.
Mark Warburton said a whole host of clubs were battling it out for Hardie’s signature before signing with Raith Rovers on loan. Hardie has made a quite incredible start for Rovers, scoring the winner on his debut against Morton before netting a hatrick against on form St Mirren at the weekend. He has also assisted 2 goals. It will be interesting to see how many goals he ends up with.