Recent reports have Rangers interested in last season’s Player of the Year nominee, and with good reason, as Craig Cairns writes
Mark Warburton distanced himself from rumours that Rangers were planning to make a swoop for Dundee’s talisman, but if the Rangers boss is being genuine, and not just trying to subdue the story for his club’s own means, then he should think twice.
Stewart is ideal for the type of system manager Warburton likes to play. Other than the match versus Hibernian – in which they lined up with a back three – Rangers have set up in a 4-3-3 formation in each game this season.
Stewart has been fielded in a few different positions by his manager Paul Hartley but has found himself stationed on the right more often than not. Even though he likes to move around in something close to a free role, it is from that side that he is at his most effective. Last season he scored a variety of different goals, this season each one of his five league goals have come from that right-hand side.
In Warburton’s system, Martyn Waghorn is usually deployed as the lone striker with Kenny Miller on the right of the front three. While the third attacking player is a natural winger – more often than not Barrie McKay – Miller is ordered to come inside and form a partnership with Waghorn when his side has the ball.
Warburton also likes his full-backs to push high up the field and Miller moving inside gives right-back James Tavernier the space to drive into. The success of this is evidenced by Tavernier’s 10 goals so far this season and by the fact that five of Miller’s six goals have been finished at the opposite post from his starting position. Miller’s form has dropped off a bit and, despite being handed a new contract recently, his advancing years mean that this is an area that Rangers should be looking to strengthen.
This is where Stewart comes in. There is an element of forcing Miller to play in a position he is not overly familiar with whereas Stewart is a hybrid between a striker and a winger. When on form he is deadly when coming in from the right, so much so that cutting onto his left foot at the corner of the box and curling the ball into the far top corner has become his trademark.
He would offer a more natural option from the right while still being a goal threat, if not more of one than Miller. He would be comfortable coming in off that side to link with Waghorn in the centre and would offer more of a threat from outside the box. His movement would also suit Tavernier, allowing him to continue his rampaging runs.
We are still a long way off this happening. The reports may be wide of the mark. Even if there is truth to them, the clubs would have to agree a fee – Stewart currently has 18 months left on his contract – and the attacker would have to agree to drop down a division, with no guarantee of a return to the top-flight next season. In theory, however, this signing would make sense for both him and Rangers.