The future of Scotland’s most successful football club has been under serious scrutiny over the last year or so after previous chairman and major shareholder Sir David Murray stepped down from his role and admitted he was looking to sell the prestigious club. Over the last week, speculation has intensified with former QPR director and Northampton Town chairman Andrew Ellis strongly linked with taking over at Ibrox. Despite this interest, it will still probably take a good amount of time for Ellis and his consortium to complete the takeover.
On the pitch though, Rangers are still in a fantastic position as they comfortably sit at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League, 13 points ahead of Celtic and 6 games away from being crowned Champions. Walter Smith’s side also have a date booked for the Scottish League Cup Final and will play in the Quarters of the Scottish Cup this weekend. Over the last few years, the Rangers Youth Development system has produced a number of decent players and a few very good ones. Alan Hutton is the main one to note, he made a sharp exit from Ibrox in January 2008 when he joined Tottenham for £9m. Allan McGregor has burst rapidly through the ranks at Ibrox and currently holds the number one jersey. McGregor has had some negative publicity but his consistent performances makes him one of the best goalkeepers in the UK. Others to note are Steven Smith, Charlie Adam, Chris Burke and Ross McCormack.
Wilson is Rangers’ youngest ever player to feature in the Champions League
At the moment, the youngsters set to come through at Ibrox look to be some of the best ever and due to the small squad Smith has at his disposal, a few of them have already made appearances on the bench. The first of the promising kids to come through at Ibrox is central defender Danny Wilson, who made his senior debut against Dundee in the League Cup earlier this season. The 18-year old has been watched by several interested parties with Manchester United and Spurs known admirers. Wilson has been hugely impressive in the Rangers defence whenever called upon and was given his Champions League debut at 17 against Unirea Urziceni in Bucharest. He has strong similarities to Dutch legend Frank De Boer, who had short spell at Ibrox in 2004. Wilson’s passing has been one thing which has caught the eye, the left-footed defender has an excellent range of passing and that is a huge benefit in the modern game having a defender who can pass comfortably. Defensively, he is very strong and has played against some tough physical opponents in his short senior career like Pavel Pogrebnyak, Stuttgart’s £10m Russian striker. He made his Old Firm debut in January and also handled that very well. His development as a player has been boosted by the vastly experienced 39-year old David Weir.
Fleck Scoring Impressive Goal against Dundee United
Another who has burst on to the scene at Ibrox is John Fleck, who is comfortable in midfield or attack. The Scottish media have compared the 18 year-old to Wayne Rooney, unfairly at times to be honest. Fleck is a player that I think can make it at Rangers, he provides a real intelligence to the midfield and he is very effective in the “supporting-striker” role. He made his senior debut in 2008 against East Stirling and made his first start a year later in the SPL against Falkirk at Ibrox. This propelled Fleck to a consistent run in the Rangers first-team which saw him score produce a sublime moment against Dundee United at Ibrox, where he picked the ball up in his own-half and fired down the left-hand side before being hacked down by Kovacevic. Fleck brushed himself off to confidently slot home the penalty which led Rangers to the three points that afternoon. His Old Firm debut ended at half-time which might have been a step too far for young Fleck, but there is absolutely no doubt he has improved technically and physically over the last year. He has been played regularly as a left-midfielder, which isn’t his natural position, but towards the end of the game when players begin to tire, his pace and creativity is deadly.
Wylde in action for Rangers
Making his first-team debut only this season, Gregg Wylde will be delighted to have finally got a taste of first-team football. The 18-year old is naturally a left-back but made his debut at left-midfield under Walter Smith against Hamilton back in August. His only other first-team appearance was against Hearts in February, a game which Rangers drew 1-1. Wylde has incredible pace and a sweet left-foot, he impressed in his short-spell against Hearts where he managed to get the supporters on the edge of their seat with some direct, attacking runs. In the under 19s where he plays left-back, he uses his raw pace and energy to make constant over-lapping runs down the left-wing which provide a potent option for Billy Kirkwood’s kids. With current left-back Sasa Papac naturally a central-defender, Wylde is a stick-on replacement for Sasa, who has provided steady and consistent performances over the last two years. The final youngster of the promising quartet is Jamie Ness, who has yet to play for the Rangers first-team. The 18-year old has been on the bench a few times in the league but has regularly featured for the Under 19s and has been a stand-out for Kirkwood’s side over the last few seasons. Physically quite tall, he has an excellent passing range and has the attributes to comfortably control the midfield. Ness has recieved some rave reviews and manager Walter Smith has admitted he could be the next to make the breakthrough at Ibrox.
The negative publicity over Rangers’ finances is boring and out-dated, the positives might be that promising players like Wilson, Fleck, Wylde and Ness will all be given a good chance of becoming regular first-team players at Ibrox and restore faith in the Murray Park project which cost Rangers £14m in 2003 and has still to supply the conveyer belt with some hot talent.