GEDION Zelalem believes playing his part in Mark Warburton’s transformation of Rangers can realise his dream of becoming a mainstay in the Arsenal first team.
The 18-year-old midfielder has made his name as a box-to-box player and moving to Rangers on loan until January ticked so many boxes that he was never going to go anywhere else despite interest from Championship clubs in England.
The fact that Arsene Wenger told him playing in a good football side under pressure every week in front of huge crowds would benefit his development was probably enough to seal the deal.
However, Zelalem had also noticed how Tottenham youngster Alex Pritchard and fellow young Gunner Jon Toral had benefited playing under Warburton at Brentford.
He had also heard some old war stories from former Rangers midfielder Claudio Reyna, who coached him in the USA youth development programme.
He was an instant success last Wednesday night, setting up two goals on his debut in the 5-0 League Cup win over Airdrieonians, and Queen of the South will learn about his skills tomorrow at Palmerston Park.
He said: “I spoke to Arsene Wenger and Steve Bould and they thought it was a great opportunity for me, especially for my first loan. I’ll get on the ball here at lot because we’ll have a lot of the possession.
“They left the final decision to me but they had nothing but great things to say about the club and the manager. They said he believes in young players and the style of football was a major factor in me joining Rangers.
“Jon Toral went on loan from Arsenal to Brentford and he had nothing but great things to say about the manager here. I was convinced this was the place to be.
“It will be good for my confidence playing for Rangers and that will benefit me when I go back to Arsenal. They will see that. Any young player who does well on loan will have a great chance – you see that with Alex Pritchard who was at Brentford and now at Spurs.
“I’ve settled in well and it’s been a good week. The facilities are great, the training is good and it was a great performance against Airdrie on Wednesday.
“The first reason I wanted to join Rangers is because they are a massive club. Everyone knows about Glasgow Rangers and you wouldn’t play in front of 50,000 fans by joining any other club on loan.
“The type of attendances at Ibrox will replicate what it’s like at Arsenal and there is also the fact you have to win every week here which is the same as at Arsenal, as is the style of football.
“I know about Scottish football. Everyone knows about the Old Firm rivalry, so it would be great to play Celtic this season. Claudio Reyna coached me at Under-14s with the USA national team and Maurice Edu sent me a tweet wishing me good luck which was nice.”
Warburton will equal Bill Struth’s record set in 1920 of winning his first eight matches in charge of Rangers if Queens are beaten tomorrow but he is not really a man for records.
However, he does appreciate what it means to the supporters and the staff at Rangers to see a successful team on the field after the trials and tribulations of the last four years.
Warburton, who says Rangers will not do any more business in or out before the transfer window shuts, said: “I’ve learned every day. You speak to the tea ladies, you speak to the ground staff.
“One week into the job I was well aware of how the people behind the scenes here felt about things. You speak to everyone here at Ibrox and you become very aware of the pain there’s been at this club over the last three or four years. So they are primed and ready to go again. They are desperate to see the club back to where it needs to be.
“For players coming here that responsibility is really evident. But that drives them on. You either relish it or you crumble under it. These players relish it, they embrace it. So that has to be the way forward for us.”
l Marius Zaliukas has left Rangers by mutual consent after being told that he does not feature in the club’s plans.
Warburton admitted after his side’s 5-0 League Cup victory at Airdrie that the Lithuanian defender does not fit into his new side.