Rangers starlet Nathan Patterson relives Covid mistake, phonecalls, what Steven Gerrard did and his Scotland rise

Every teenager will be able to relate to the unwelcome morning wake-up call. It’s just that in Nathan Patterson’s case, the nagging parent was, in fact, Rangers manager Steven Gerrard.
Nathan Patterson knows he made a mistake earlier in the year in attending a house-party during lockdown.Nathan Patterson knows he made a mistake earlier in the year in attending a house-party during lockdown.
Nathan Patterson knows he made a mistake earlier in the year in attending a house-party during lockdown.

And the intrusion, while disgustingly early – “half nine,” recalled Patterson, “that’s quite early, isn’t it?” – was not exactly unwelcome since it bore news of the Rangers right-back’s inclusion in Scotland’s Euro 2020 squad.

In Patterson’s initial reaction it is possible to trace the lingering effects of the defining moment of his season. The 19-year-old was worried.

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"He [Gerrard] just texted me and said: 'can we have a wee chat?' I was like: 'what have I done now?!'" he recalled.

Patterson during Scotland training at Rockliffe Park.Patterson during Scotland training at Rockliffe Park.
Patterson during Scotland training at Rockliffe Park.

This anxiety stemmed from an incident when he did get something very wrong. But then few teenagers manage to avoid such missteps.

Given Patterson’s line of work, and profile, his mistake was splashed all over the papers. He had to expect it. Rangers had to expect it. At a time of heightened national concern about Covid-19, he and four Ibrox team-mates attended a party in February that broke the restrictions then in place. Police ended up breaking up the gathering.

The decision made by these players, including the 28-year-old Bongani Zungu, was especially mystifying given two of their team-mates had been suspended for two weeks earlier in the season for attending such a party. The guilty two on that occasion, George Edmundson and Jordan Jones, were quickly moved out on loan. Many feared Patterson’s Ibrox career – which began when he was only eight – might also be in jeopardy. What a waste.

“Everyone makes mistakes,” he said yesterday. “That was a clear mistake on my behalf.”

Patterson made his Scotland debut against Luxembourg last Sunday.Patterson made his Scotland debut against Luxembourg last Sunday.
Patterson made his Scotland debut against Luxembourg last Sunday.

He’s got your back

Fortunately, he had someone as supportive as Gerrard on his side. While making no bones about the level of stupidity involved in the group's actions, the manager vowed to help get his young star back on track.

“Because he came through the youth system at Liverpool, he knows what it’s like to be a young player at a big club,” reflected Patterson.

“Obviously when it all came out it wasn’t a great time and I was obviously worried for myself and for everyone else.

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“But the gaffer was great. He just told me straight and said to me: ‘Look, everyone makes mistakes.’ He said he’s made mistakes before in his own life but that it’s all about how you bounce back. You just have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“I totally agree with him. Obviously I had to go out there and make it up to the fans. I felt as if I did that.”

In a public statement, Patterson asked for the opportunity to prove what he could do on the pitch – and boy, did he get it. A six-game SFA ban, with two suspended, was served in April, but not before Patterson had re-established himself at first-team level.

Gerrard proved true to his word about being more forgiving in Patterson’s case due to his age. After the required period of isolation, the youngster came back with bang – scoring 16 seconds after coming on against Royal Antwerp in the second leg of the last-32 Europa League tie.

"No matter what happened you are always going to have pressure when you play for the first team," said Patterson. "Obviously, I had extra pressure... But I enjoy playing under pressure because it makes you want to play better.”

Watching on at home

A glum Patterson experienced very different emotions while watching the first leg on television at home with his parents. Their disapproval was palpable – it must have felt a lot like being grounded. “There wasn’t really much said,” he said. “They had already said what had to be said.”

They knew and he knew he should have been out in Belgium helping his team-mates. Regret turned to extreme agitation when Patterson saw James Tavernier hobble off midway through the first half.

Rangers recovered from the blow of losing Tavernier to win 4-3, with Leon Balogun stepping in at right-back. Patterson replaced Balogun at half-time of the second leg and put Rangers 2-1 ahead on the night moments later. It was just his fifth appearance of the season, seventh in total, and his first goal.

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He has made nine further appearances and now finds himself an internationalist following last weekend’s Scotland debut as substitute against Luxembourg. An impressed Scott McKenna revealed yesterday that he’s already been nutmegged in training by the confident Patterson.

Gerrard has already been in touch to offer congratulations following Patterson’s cameo v Luxembourg and so is clearly keeping tabs on someone he once described as one of Rangers’ “greatest-ever prospects”.

Meteoric rise

Everything is coming so fast for Patterson. As he sat with reporters, he looked around the Rockliffe Park surroundings, where Scotland are based for the duration of their participation in the tournament, and recalled the last time he visited, for a performance schools’ tournament in which Billy Gilmour also took part in.

“I was in second or third year,” Patterson said. “It’s a bit weird to be back, especially with the A squad.”

Patterson and Gilmour are standard bearers for the SFA performance schools' strategy since they are the first to follow the pathway all the way through to the top team. “It is great coming through with one of your mates,” said Patterson. “It is a dream come true and you just want to keep going on, working hard and trying to fight for our spot.”

Asked if he is aware of the clamour for him and Gilmour to start, Patterson replied that he is simply keeping his head down and avoiding social media. He proved he can play at wing-back against Luxembourg although Czech Republic will be another step up, both in terms of occasion and quality. “I think I’ve shown I can do well under pressure in Old Firms and Europa League,” he said. “I have shown the gaffer he can trust me.”

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