Nathan Patterson opens up on Rangers, Scotland and has say on Giovanni van Bronckhorst
Like Steven Gerrard before him, Giovanni van Bronckhorst is wrestling with the dilemma of how to ensure one of Rangers’ biggest assets gets the amount of game time his talent deserves.
Nathan Patterson made only his second starting appearance under van Bronckhorst in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Dundee United at Ibrox which stretched the Scottish champions’ lead at the top of the Premiership table to seven points.
The 20-year-old’s inclusion was forced by the illness which sidelined Croatian international left-back Borna Barisic.
It initially saw Patterson deployed in his favoured position of right-back with captain James Tavernier moved into central defence, while Calvin Bassey lined up at left-back.
But with United’s approach and formation taking Rangers by surprise, van Bronckhorst shuffled his defensive pack inside the opening 10 minutes with Patterson switched to left-back.
While clearly not as comfortable on his left foot, Patterson performed competently in a hard-fought victory for Rangers.
“Getting on the pitch is a bonus, no matter where you play,” he says. “I used to play there when I was younger so I understand the position and when you have experienced players around you and talking you through the game, it’s easy.
“When I was in the under-18s, I played a good chunk of the season at left-back and I have played in centre midfield as well, so I have been exposed to different positions at youth level.
“It is a good challenge for you and it takes your game on.”
It remains to be seen how van Bronckhorst can fully utilise the abilities of a player who has already attracted strong interest from English Premier League clubs.
But Patterson is enjoying life under the Dutch coach and his backroom staff who remain unbeaten after their first eight games in charge of the Ibrox club.
“They have given us a new burst of life and all the players have really enjoyed working with the new boss,” Patterson told Rangers TV.
“He has brought in some different tactics too and everyone is on board with him.
“Any time you work under a new manager, you get the opportunity to learn new things and with him being a foreign manager too, it is good to learn from that aspect too.”
It was in January 2020 that Patterson made his first team breakthrough under Gerrard in a Scottish Cup tie against Stranraer. He has started just 15 games since then, with another 12 as substitute, with opportunities limited by Tavernier’s status as first choice right-back.
But Patterson has relished his involvement and the manner in which his promotion to the first team squad has helped his development.
“It has gone quickly and a lot has happened since then,” he said. “I feel like a strong part of the first team now and it has been great and I have enjoyed every minute of it.
“The boys in the changing room really helped me to adapt. Coming from the youth side into a first team environment where there is a lot of pressure involved and the demands and standards are a lot higher, the experience in that changing room made it much easier.
“There are high standards at youth level but when you come round to the first team there is a pressure on everything and you need to perform and the standard of training goes up every day.
“I have been here for nearly two years now and you get to become yourself - there are top players and the standards are high but you can demand that from them as well.”
Despite not yet being a regular starter for Rangers, Patterson has firmly established himself in the senior Scotland set-up since winning a place in the squad for the Euro 2020 finals earlier this year.
He scored his first goal for his country in the 2-0 World Cup qualifying win in Moldova in November and is eagerly anticipating the play-offs in March when Ukraine will be Scotland’s semi-final opponents at Hampden.
Patterson sat out Scotland’s memorable 2-0 win over Denmark at Hampden last time out through suspension but hopes to play his part in getting Steve Clarke’s squad to next year’s finals in Qatar.
“While you don’t like to miss any game, it gave me a clean slate for the play-offs so I can go on and focus on that rather than anything else,” he said.
“I am really looking forward to a great game in front of a home crowd as well. Ukraine will be a really tough opponent as they have a really good team.
“I have joined the national team as we have started to play some good football and get some good results.
“To be a part of the Euros was a great experience but to have the opportunity to go and qualify for a World Cup is amazing.
“The staff have been brilliant and have all really encouraged me since I walked through the door. All the lads have been brilliant as well.
“It is a good group of boys and there is a huge amount of talent in the team which is why we have been getting the results we have needed.”
Patterson has a more advanced role with Scotland, playing at right wing-back in Clarke’s 3-5-2 formation, and it is one in which he has thrived.
“You see games a little differently,” he added. “You have more responsibilities as you are isolated more – you don’t have anyone in front of you so you need to be a step ahead in every game. I enjoy playing in that position, though, and I think it has benefitted me.”
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