Tackling the treatment meted out to Nathan Oduwa is a tough challenge in itself. The 19-year-old Rangers winger knows all about tough challenges. Across two months in Scotland, the loanee from Tottenham Hotspur has been subjected to plenty of them. None, though, has proved as wince-inducing as the studs-up lunge from Livingston’s Kieran Gibbons inside the opening seconds of the Ibrox side’s Petrofac Training Cup quarter-final win on Tuesday. A transgression that went unpunished by referee Andrew Dallas.
That Gibbons clatter, and a number that followed, brought a measured call from Rangers manager Mark Warburton for more protection for Oduwa. It has subsequently sparked a furious debate over the perceived brutality of Scottish football in dealing with an ebullient teenager. A ball-playing trickster who seems to put his limbs under threat by making no bones about his desire to entertain with a full array of flicks that can leave opponents looking foolish.
The inevitable Twitter fury was provided by Berwick Rangers player Andy Russell posting that if Oduwa “came up here playing the big man and acting the clown he would be treated” like he was against Livingston. On his debut, the player was accused of “taking the p***” by Alloa’s Colin Hamilton after dazzling with a rainbow flick.
Oduwa’s team-mates are in no rush to condemn their domestic opponents over their, often, unreconstructed attempts to blunt his threat.
Nicky Clark, who appeared for the winger at half-time and went on to net the winner on Tuesday night, said there was “nothing drastic” in the tackles put in on the English youngster. He played down suggestions it might intimidate him, and mused that there was no vendetta against him.
“He has got a lot of tricks in his locker and I am sure he won’t go into his shell. He will want to keep going out there and going by defenders like he does,” Clark said.
“The way he plays, he is always going to, not wind up defenders, but you would get annoyed with the way he goes by players. His tricks are brilliant and he does it every day in training. I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t get annoyed if he went by me that easily. He probably does need a bit of protection for the kind of player he is. He is a strong boy and I am sure he will come out again and take more defenders on.
“He has come up from down south, where there is a lot of pressure on you given the club he is at. He has taken it into his stride. The way he plays, he is a great talent to watch.
“He has definitely got that character about him. He is mentally strong as well. He knows that the defenders he is up against are going to try and have a kick at him if they have a chance to get near him. He has got the ability to not let them get near him. I am sure he will keep going on and going by defenders.”