IF ONE player typifies the impact Mark Warburton has made as Rangers manager so far, it is perhaps Barrie McKay.
Before Warburton’s arrival, the winger’s days at Ibrox appeared numbered. McKay had spent the previous two seasons on loan at Morton and Raith Rovers, having lost his first-team status at Rangers under Ally McCoist.
The 20-year-old has enjoyed a remarkable renaissance under Warburton, however, starting every league fixture under him as Rangers have taken maximum points from their opening ten Championship fixtures.
McKay has already done enough to convince Warburton that he has the potential to go on and reach the top of his profession.
“When you go to a new club as manager, it’s a blank canvas,” said Warburton. “You can’t have any pre-conceived ideas about players. I didn’t know much about Barrie, but from the first day at training he caught the eye.
“He is technically outstanding, the quickest thing at the club, he’s only 20 years old, he can play wide left or right, in central midfield, he can play the eight or ten position. What’s not to like about Barrie?
“He could be a real gem. He has the potential to be a real talent at this football club. He’ll get better and better.
“With younger players, the key is consistency. It’s easy when you’re young to have four or five games at a high level, then have a drop off – and sometimes a big drop-off. Barrie’s started most games this season but he had one small drop-off and we had a chat to him and his reaction was great.
“So consistency is important and the quality of his end product is the other one. He’s got the technique, he’s got the awareness, he sees a pass, but many times it’s just that quality of final cross, final pass, final shot. The better that is, the better we’re going to be as a team and the better he’ll be as an individual.
“He’s been out on loan, he’s done the hard bit, I’m sure he’s suffered in terms of people saying he’s peaked too early, but he’s a real talent and I’ve no doubt he could go and play at the highest level.”
Rangers turn their attention away from their promotion quest tonight when they welcome Livingston to Ibrox in the quarter-final of the Petrofac Training Cup.
The tournament has been a source of embarrassment and even humiliation for Rangers since their departure from top-flight football in 2012, with defeats by Queen of the South, Raith Rovers and Alloa in the quarter-finals, final and semi-finals respectively in three failed attempts to win the trophy so far.
Midfielder Andy Halliday attended the final loss to Raith at Easter Road two seasons ago as a supporter and is determined to set the record straight in his first campaign as a Rangers player.
“It was a sore one for the boys to lose that final in extra time,” reflected Halliday. “Every game you play for Rangers, you are expected to win and none more so than a cup final.
“It was a massive disappointment for the players and the fans. I was there with some friends in the stand at Easter Road and it’s always disappointing when Rangers lose. But the most disappointed people would have been the players that day, because they were looking for a winner’s medal that none of them had before. This is another chance to put that right and we are more determined than ever. I don’t think we hope to win the Petrofac Cup and I don’t think we have to win it – I just think we want to win it. When you have the expectations of a club like Rangers, then you are expected to win it.
“I’ve never won the Petrofac Cup, I don’t think anyone in the team has. So it’s a new medal that we can hopefully add to our trophy cabinet, which will hopefully see a lot of medals in it in future years.”