DEALING with Alloa’s narrow pitch might be an issue for Barrie McKay this afternoon. The fact the Rangers attacker is a player trusted to cope in such situations can be put down to encountering no issues with narrow minds last summer.
Agreement on a new contract for the 21-year-old is, according to his manager Mark Warburton, “almost there”. McKay has become a key figure in the Championship, yet only last year he wasn’t exactly earning rave notices in it while on loan at Raith Rovers.
Warburton’s squad overhaul at Ibrox in June was expected to throw up surprises. None, though, proved as arresting as bringing McKay back into the fold. The winger had shown great promise when the post-liquidation Rangers’ breezed through the part-time fourth tier. However, that gave way to exile, first with Morton, which made it seem his return to Murray Park for the Warburton era would likely be brief.
Yet his new manager had no preconceptions about McKay. That has made for a dramatic impact on his career but Warburton doesn’t claim credit for somehow having shown the way to the forward.
“David and I came here and both thought the same thing: first day of training he was excellent and hasn’t looked back,” he said.
“Players get in if they work hard and show their quality. He responded. There was never any change. He has always been what he is now. He is 21. Just 21. In your line of work you are young apprentices, scholars or whatever. He needs reassurance, awareness of how good he can be. He has to just enjoy being a good player.
“Sometimes they don’t realise they are a good player. Go and entertain, go and enjoy doing what you do. Enjoy your job – his job is to go and play before 50,000 at Ibrox – enjoy it. Don’t crumble under that. At 20, it’s maybe hard to absorb that fact. At 40 you look back and think, ‘I wish I had done that.’ He is still learning, but he has so much ability, so much talent. He can go a long way.”
The Rangers manager says “absolutely” McKay can be a Scotland international. Not slow to bring him inside from a wide area, Warburton says his adaptability is down to his attributes.
“He is the quickest player at the club. He is technically comfortable with both feet. He can drive inside and outside, can play seven, eight, ten or 11 and he has great ability.
“The fact he can play left, right or central – fantastic. If it’s the old-fashioned positions we had when I grew up he’d be an inside left. That position doesn’t exist any more, I guess. But that’s where I see him playing.
“He is in a good place and I think there is loads more to come from Barrie McKay.”