RANGERS manager Ally McCoist has responded to criticism of how he has deployed midfield prodigy Lewis Macleod in his team so far this season.
The highly-rated 20-year-old has been the Ibrox club’s stand-out performer in the opening weeks of the campaign, but Rangers supporters have nonetheless expressed unhappiness at his being positioned in wider areas of the team.
McCoist agrees that Macleod’s long-term future lies as a central playmaker but insists his current role in the side, where the more experienced pair of Nicky Law and Ian Black are preferred in the middle, is the correct one at this stage of what he believes can be a long and successful career.
“Central midfield will be Lewis’ position eventually,” said McCoist. “But we’ve not been playing him wide right or left. I would argue we’ve had him as the wider man of a central midfield three, with either Fraser Aird or David Templeton as the winger making up the four.
“Longer term, Lewis will be a fantastic central midfield player, but it’s not doing him any harm at all getting an education to play other positions. He links up well with Lee Wallace on the left and he’s done equally fine for us on the right.”
Rangers striker Kris Boyd heaped praise on Macleod earlier this week, comparing him to former club captain Barry Ferguson. Although keen to temper any hype attaching itself to the youngster, McCoist admits his lengthy absence last season with a viral problem diminished Rangers’ effectiveness.
“We missed him as much as he missed us, which was a lot,” added McCoist. “He’s a great young talent who has got a long, long way to go. He’ll keep developing and progressing and we’ve certainly got high hopes for him.
“But at the same time, we don’t want to get carried away and put any undue pressure on him. There is enough of a level of expectancy on him without me needing to create more.
“Lewis will handle it fine. He won’t get carried away. We’ll keep his feet on the ground, not that we’ll have to because he’s a very level-headed and intelligent boy and he knows he’s got a long way to go. He’s only 20. It was a real blow for him last season to be out for so long and it was a big blow for us too, but in comparison it was a bigger blow for a young boy. So it’s just great to see him back playing with a smile on his face.”
Macleod lit up Rangers’ 8-1 Challenge Cup win over Clyde on Monday night and McCoist is keen to see his players take that momentum into today’s Championship fixture against Dumbarton at Ibrox.
“I thought we played really well on Monday and I hope we can kick on from that,” he said. “I thought our level of finishing was excellent. It’s really not rocket science – we just passed the ball a lot quicker, particularly from middle to front. But it’s about the balance here – we didn’t get too disappointed when we lost to Hearts in our first league game and we don’t get too carried away after a good performance against Clyde.”
McCoist anticipates transfer activity in and out of Ibrox before the window closes next weekend with a deal for the club’s former goalkeeper Lee Robinson first on his agenda as he seeks cover for injured number one Cammy Bell.
Robinson, who has been a free agent since leaving Raith Rovers in the summer, will provide competition for veteran Englishman Steve Simonsen who will continue in goal this afternoon.
The 35-year-old former Everton ‘keeper is keen to make a positive impression at Rangers after his horror mistake gifted Dundee United the goal which sealed their Scottish Cup semi-final victory at Ibrox last season.
“It was a cruel moment for me personally and obviously for the fans,” reflected Simonsen. “But it’s not beneficial to anyone to worry about that – I just play my game.
“I’ve experienced plenty of highs and lows in my career. Hopefully there will be more highs than lows. It is par for the course as a goalkeeper. You live and die by your mistakes. And the less mistakes you make, the better goalkeeper you are. I won’t be thinking about it, I won’t be dwelling on it.
“I had options to leave Rangers in the summer, some in England and some up here in Scotland. But as soon as the manager told me he wanted me to sign on again, it was an easy decision to make. Every footballer wants to be part of a big club with good traditions and a fantastic fan base like this one.
“It would be nice to get an extended run in the team. I’m here to push Cammy and when I get the chance to play, I need to grab it with both hands.”