Why reaching the Scottish Cup final means so much to one Rangers player

In the 14 appearances he has made for Rangers this season, Nathan Patterson has already delivered compelling evidence of why manager Steven Gerrard regards him as Scottish football’s brightest prospect.

Nathan Patterson, capped four times for Scotland at under-21 level, has emerged as a serious contender for Steve Clarke's senior squad ahead of the Euro 2020 finals this summer. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

Whether or not Patterson will play again for the new Scottish champions in the current campaign now depends on them beating St Johnstone at Ibrox on Sunday evening.

If Rangers lose the Scottish Cup quarter-final, the 19-year-old’s season will be over as a consequence of the four-match Scottish FA suspension he begins this weekend for a breach of coronavirus protocols.

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Elimination from the cup would leave Rangers with only their three remaining Premiership fixtures to fulfil and Patterson would be denied further opportunities to press home his claim for a place in the Scotland squad for this summer’s European Championship finals.

Nathan Patterson challenges Celtic striker Odsonne Edouard during Rangers' 2-0 fourth round Scottish Cup victory at Ibrox last Sunday. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

So while winning the domestic double is of huge importance to everyone connected with Rangers, going all the way in the Scottish Cup could have added significance for Patterson.

It would allow him to return to Gerrard’s squad for the last two games of the season which would be the final league outing against Aberdeen at Ibrox on May 15 and the Scottish Cup Final at Hampden seven days later.

Gerrard has already made it clear he believes there is currently no better Scottish right-back than Patterson who produced a string of eye-catching displays in the position while Rangers captain James Tavernier was sidelined for eight weeks by a knee injury.

Such has been the quality of Patterson’s play, he has even sparked debate among some observers over whether he could dislodge Tavernier as Rangers’ first choice right-back next season.

Gerrard’s assistant Gary McAllister has already suggested that the coaching staff could look at ways to accommodate both players in the starting line-up. That could perhaps entail a move into midfield for Patterson who looks to possess the running power, composure in possession and game intelligence which could accommodate a switch in position.

As the teenager develops physically, something Gerrard says will be a focus of his personalised programme in pre-season for the 2021-22 campaign, he could ultimately emerge as a dynamic midfield component of Rangers’ preferred 4-3-3 system.

But in the shorter term, it’s as right-back where Patterson is surely providing so much food for thought in the mind of Scotland manager Steve Clarke as he counts down to naming his squad for the Euro 2020 jamboree at Hampden and Wembley in June.

Stephen O’Donnell, a player Clarke knows and trusts from his time as Kilmarnock manager, is the man in possession and has served Scotland well in his 18 appearances since breaking into the squad.

The 28-year-old Motherwell right-back will feel he has earned the right to be on the pitch when Scotland make their long-awaited return to major tournament finals action against Czech Republic on June 14.

Sheffield Wednesday’s Liam Palmer has also been a generally solid performer whenever he has filled the right-back slot for the Scots and the 29-year-old’s experience could see him also get the nod from Clarke this summer.

But there is a strong case to be made for the rapid promotion of Patterson as he emerges as a potentially elite level full-back. It remains to be seen if his season is over - or will extend all the way to Wembley.

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