Danny Wilson has urged his youthful Rangers team-mates Myles Beerman and David Bates to embrace the challenge of their likely Old Firm debuts tomorrow.
Both 18-year-old left-back Beerman and 20-year-old central defender Bates are set to line up against Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final. They have helped Rangers keep three consecutive clean sheets in the Premiership after being drafted into the side by new manager Pedro Caixinha because of defensive injury problems.
Maltese teenager Beerman looks certain to play, as Rangers captain Lee Wallace is still sidelined, while former Raith Rovers stopper Bates may stay in the side ahead of veteran Clint Hill, who only returned to training this week.
It means 25-year-old Wilson could be the senior figure in the Ibrox side’s back four but he recalled his own Old Firm debut seven years ago as evidence that Beerman and Bates can both handle the big occasion.
“I was 18 when I played in my first one and it was a bit of a blur,” said Wilson. “I was fortunate to get the chance to play because Madjid Bougherra had gone away to the Africa Cup of Nations when I don’t think he was supposed to!
“So I got the chance and we managed to get a 1-1 draw at Celtic Park in January 2010. Lee McCulloch scored a late equaliser and it’s a good memory for me.
“Myles and David are similarly quite fortunate to possibly be involved in a game like this at this stage of their careers. If they do play, we have all got a responsibility to look after them and they have got a responsibility to be a part of the team and do what they can. I have got no issues with them if they are selected. In the games they have played so far, they have handled themselves very well. It is going to be a difficult game so we need everyone to step up. I have got no issues with them doing that.
“I think we maybe make too much of a player’s age. It has been proven over the years that you can be 18 or you can be 38, it doesn’t matter how old you are, sometimes you will never be ready for these kind of games. All you can do is go out there and do the best you can, be as prepared as you can be physically and mentally. The rest will take care of itself.”
Wilson agrees his own performances have improved in recent weeks in a more solid set-up under Caixinha which does not appear to leave Rangers’ central defenders as exposed as they often looked under Mark Warburton’s management.
“The team is in a better place and on a better run and I am possibly playing better as a consequence of that,” said Wilson. “We have all stepped up and played well and the 3-0 win at Aberdeen was at a good point for us in the season. We weren’t expected to go up there and win and it was great for us. Maybe from the outside looking in, it looks like I have taken on more responsibility but I always try to be responsible when I play and do as much as I can.
“There has maybe been a change as a team and more of a defensive emphasis. Different managers will come in and ask you to do different things. The previous manager asked the full-backs to be more expansive because that is their strengths at the end of the day and they are very good going forward. Maybe at times we got caught with that and teams played on that. We have been a lot more organised in recent games and the midfield have really helped. I think Jason Holt has been terrific. Maybe that has given us that extra bit of protection. We are working on both sides of the game and it is something that is working for us so far.
“The manager has got his way of working and the training has been split working on defensive aspects and attacking aspects. Maybe it is something that has just clicked into gear recently and hopefully going forward it can stay like that.”