Jake Hastie will reportedly sign a pre-contract with Rangers this week and join the Ibrox side this summer when his deal at Motherwell expires. Craig Fowler analyses the move and whether Hastie can break into the Rangers side straight away
Glenn Middleton, Daniel Candeias, Jordan Jones to arrive, Jamie Murphy to return from injury, and the club are holding out hope of convincing Liverpool to let Ryan Kent stay for at least another season. Rangers are fairly well stocked with regards to wingers. Therefore, do they need to sign Jake Hastie?
Firstly, this can viewed as a signing for the future. He’s expected to pen a four-year contract this week, a deal which will take him up to his 24th birthday and give his new club plenty of time to discover whether he can reach his full and undoubted potential, or if he’s just another Scottish flash in the pan; a youngster who gets people excited, but whose ultimate career achievement is playing consistently for a team in the English Championship.
He could easily go out on loan next season. Who knows? He could even return to Motherwell for another campaign. He’s only played 16 top flight games in his career to this point. It would be beneficial for his development if he continued to play every week rather than sitting on the bench or in the stands. Manager Steven Gerrard hasn’t hesitated in sending fringe players out on loan since walking through the door, with Greg Docherty, Jason Holt, Ryan Hardie and Jordan Rossiter all finding themselves temporary homes this term. The same could occur with Hastie if he doesn’t force his way into the regular rotation by the end of August.
So what are his chances of earning a starting spot next season? Though it would be quite the culture shock for a 20-year-old who’s only played for Motherwell, Airdrie and Alloa to suddenly start in front of 50,000 fans every second week, he has been one of the better players in the Ladbrokes Premiership since getting his chance in April. It also helps his cause that, of the five wide players mentioned earlier, only Candeias prefers the right side of midfield. Hastie is actually left footed but has featured on the right almost exclusively since breaking into the Motherwell team.
His strengths lend themselves to being an inverted winger in a 4-3-3. He attempts more shots than crosses on average and can fair thwack the ball from distance, as evidenced by the thunderous strikes that nearly ripped the net in the 2-1 victories over St Mirren and Hearts earlier this year. And while he tends to move inside rather than darting down the flank, it hasn’t curtailed his enthusiasm for running with the football, ranking fourth of all players for dribbles attempted in the Ladbrokes Premiership per 90 minutes.
Candeias likes to run with the ball also, but the veteran Portuguese attack prefers to get down the line and cross into the penalty area. Hastie would give Gerrard a different option, especially now that he’s altered his preferred 4-3-3 formation in recent weeks, playing more narrowly in a bid to have the wide players offering greater support to the lone attacker. Scott Arfield has starred in the role despite being an industrious No.8 by trade, imagine what someone of Hastie’s talents could do if he continues to progress and rises to the challenge?
Now here’s the line that’s going to get my name on a Celtic fan blog - Hastie reminds me a little of Gareth Bale. Obviously, he’s nowhere near that good and never will be, but the similarities are there in terms of running style - combining power and pace - and the ability to shoot from outside the area. He certainly has the potential to move up another level if he can make a success of himself at Ibrox and be the pacy X-factor Scotland fans have been dying for Oliver Burke to become these past three years.
This writer would rather Hastie had stayed at Motherwell to continue playing regular first-team football for at least another season. However, with the chance to earn £5,000 a week and play for one of the two biggest clubs in the country, you can’t criticise him for backing himself and jumping at the opportunity.