Who is Scottish football’s next big thing? Who could be the next James McFadden or Andy Robertson? Here at Youth Football Scotland we’re casting our eye over the main SPFL teams to find just who’s on the cusp of breaking out, as the kick off to the 2017-18 league season edges ever closer.
Here, we take a look at the young men on the brink of stardom at Rangers.
Rangers’ Auchenhowie training facility – known to many as Murray Park – cost the club £14m in construction fees. Most Rangers fans would tell you the club haven’t made their money back from it. To this day, Alan Hutton remains the lone product to fetch a significant sum, reportedly in the region of £9m. Chris Burke, Charlie Adam and Ross McCormack came through the system but had to move elsewhere to seek regular first team football and have since made their mark down south. Danny Wilson was bought by Liverpool for £2m but has since returned, via Hearts. Barrie McKay, once valued by the club at £6m, went for barely a tenth of that this summer when he joined Nottingham Forest.
But it isn’t all about money. If you asked, the fans don’t care about transfer fees. What they care about is seeing local talent flourish. The problem with Rangers, as with every other club in Europe with a decent amount of relative spending power, is that the local talent ends up going elsewhere because of limited opportunities.
Liam Burt could be the man to change that. The former pupil of St Ambrose High School in Coatbridge, who was on the books at Celtic before being released, recently captained the Scotland side at the 2016 Under 17 European Championships and is fast gaining a reputation as an enticing prospect.
A technically gifted attacking midfielder, Burt stands 5ft8in high, half an inch taller than Andres Iniesta of Barcelona, who’s running style Burt bears a startling resemblance to. Burt is also gifted dribbler and quick with his feet and always looks composed on the ball, whether spraying a pass or squaring up to a goalkeeper.
After making his debut against Raith Rovers in the season Rangers won the Championship, Burt was a star for the Rangers Under 20s last season. Coach Graeme Murty told Rangers.co.uk in December 2016, after a week in which Burt scored three goals: “I don’t like to label people’s prospects but we had a sit down with Liam a month and a half ago, me, Craig Mulholland and Liam’s parents at Ibrox to talk through Liam and his future.
“What we talked about will remain private but since then we have seen a marked upturn in Liam’s output, in his training, in his games, in his mentality and he appears much more focussed.
“We talked about his ability to go past people and he is utilising that in a much more positive way and he is using that to be disruptive and get into real good goal scoring and creative opportunities.”
Another youngster looking to impress Pedro Caixinha is Aidan Wilson. The 6ft2in defender, who played for Ardencaple Boys Club before signing at Ibrox, was named on the bench by the Portuguese boss four times after his arrival before being thrust into action against Aberdeen in the final home game on the season, combining his first start and professional debut as part of a youthful centre back pairing, next to David Bates.
Rangers toiled to a 2-1 home defeat as The Dons win at Ibrox for first time in 26 years, but despite a couple of mistakes Wilson emerged out of that back four with the most credit, showing signs of being able to read the game intelligently. The powers that be at the club had seen enough and realised the powerful defender’s potential and eight days after that match he signed a contract extension. He told Rangers.co.uk: “It has been great getting on the bench and being involved in the first-team environment, I was really pleased to sign the deal and get involved with the first team a lot more.
“I think I have improved a lot over the time I’ve been training with the first-team, I have been learning new things from the gaffer and if I keep coming round and training with them I can only improve more.”