Not when the 21-year-old Rangers winger followed up a Scottish Cup triumph as a St Johnstone lonee with captaining Scotland under-21s in their loss to Northern Ireland the other day. These two honours have made Middleton certain how he wants next season to begin though - being in the frame for Steven Gerrard’s title-winning side.
The attacker hasn’t started a game for the Ibrox club in two-and-a-half years. His only appearance for Rangers before he headed out to McDiarmid Park for what was a third loan spell in two years came from the bench in a League Cup stroll against Falkirk last November. However, the impact he made in helping Callum Davidson’s men land an historic double has given him renewed hope Gerrard will look upon his talents afresh as Rangers bid for a first appearance in the Champions League since 2010-11.
“Rangers have told me to report for pre-season as normal. So I am focusing on that and then we will take it from there,” Middleton said. “Everyone’s aim is to play and I am no different. I just have to go back into the club in the best shape I can be. I have always been grateful to Rangers for everything they have done for me. Even when I was out on loan they were always in contact and helping me out. They were telling me ‘well done’ when I had performed well and it was nice to have that. It gave me that little bit of extra motivation having that contact and that they were looking at what I was doing. If I can keep making progress then we will see.
“I think being part of St Johnstone’s success last season can only help me with Rangers. They have seen I can play a big part of a successful team and I hope it will put me in a good position moving forward. No one can take away what we did at St Johnstone. But going into next season, I hope Rangers know if they need me to play they can trust me to do the job. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a dream loan, especially after how the season before had gone. [Loan spells with Hibs and Bradford] didn’t go as I would have liked. When I went to St Johnstone I was desperate to make things happen and do as well as I could. I would like to think I did that.”
Even in the 2-1 defeat in Dumbarton for Scot Gemmill’s men on Wednesday - to a Northern Irish team they will meet again at the same ground on Saturday - Middleton was able to scratch an itch. That came with a penalty conversion only 11 days after he had missed from the spot at Hampden in the cup final victory over Hibs. “I think I would be lying if I said it wasn’t still niggling away at me and that was the best way to get over it by putting it away this time,” he said. “I wanted to banish the memories as quickly as possible.” And now he wants to create bright new ones.