According to reports last week, Rangers are looking to send out January signing Greg Docherty on loan for the 2018/19 season with the 21-year-old unlikely to feature regularly after the summer’s influx of signings.
Craig Fowler looks around the rest of the Scottish top flight and examines where Docherty could or should be sent to.
The destination that makes the most sense - but which definitely won’t happen - is Neil Lennon’s Hibs. The Easter Road side may lose John McGinn this transfer window. And even if they don’t, with no guarantee Scott Allan will be coming back they’re still short in the midfield area after the departure of both Allan and Dylan McGeouch.
If McGinn goes then Docherty would be the ideal replacement. He doesn’t have the range of passing or vision that McGinn possesses, but he’s an up-and-down, all-action midfielder who can cause problems for the opposition both in attack and defence, on the ball and off it. Looking ahead to the first Edinburgh derby of the season, for instance, Hibs would feel very confident if they went into such a match with Marvin Bartley at the base, Docherty driving play forward from the centre and Stevie Mallan adding a touch of class in the final third.
Of course, we know there’s little chance of this happening. Not only is there the bad blood between Hibs and Rangers over recent seasons, there’s also the Lennon factor. In the eyes of Rangers fans he’s the most Celtic man to have ever Celtic’d. As a generalisation, they wouldn’t be too happy with the club aiding their nemesis’ managerial career, even if it would benefit Rangers by strengthening Hibs when they play every other team in Scotland, while also weakening them in games against the Ibrox side.
Similarly, is there too much of a rivalry between the Dons and Rangers for the Light Blues to send the player to the north-east? Perhaps. One thing is for certain though: Docherty and Graeme Shinnie would make up a terrific central midfield two.
Derek McInnes has preferred a 4-2-3-1 formation throughout his Aberdeen tenure. Having those two would allow them to retain defensively solidity without having to play a sitting defensive midfielder as one of the deeper pair. It would mean those charged with protecting the defence would also be a threat breaking from deep and advancing past the front line. This move would give the engine room better flexibility, solidity, work rate and quality in the final third.
It would also free up new signing Chris Forrester to act as the advanced playmaker, with Niall McGinn and Gary Mackay-Steven on the wings. That’s a tremendous midfield by Ladbrokes Premiership standards.
This seems the obvious answer. He starred for Hamilton before and, unless his confidence has been severely battered by Gerrard wanting to send him out on loan, he’ll do so again. Docherty is familiar with the club, team-mates and manager. He’ll be the first name down on the team sheet every week.
So, what’s the problem? Well, if Rangers do see a long-term future for the player at Ibrox if he continues to develop then they may not wish to put him back into a situation where they already know he’ll thrive. There’s nothing to be learned from this. The easiest option is not always the best.
He’s not Mulumbu, but then nobody is going to be. It was a mixture of his past relationship with manager Steve Clarke and the timing of a long-term injury which saw a player of such quality lying on the scrapheap in October. It’s going to be very difficult to repeat such a transfer feat again this term.
As a kind of diet Mulumbu, Docherty would be an excellent addition. While he doesn’t quite have the ex-West Brom star’s technique and awareness to continually spin out of pressure and advance the play, he does have some of the physical qualities which made Mulumbu such an imposing figure in the midfield area.
A midfield unit of Jordan Jones, Alan Power, Gary Dicker and Docherty, whether in a diamond or flat four, would give Kilmarnock a terrific platform to repeat the heroics of last term.
While they moved away from the formation at times last season, traditionally Tommy Wright has preferred a straight 4-4-2 through his years at St Johnstone. Often viewed as a relic of British football from the “good old days”, they were able to make it work by filling the midfield with tireless workers who would move with vertically with the play, charging up to support the strikeforce as a unit and retreating as one to protect the defence. Docherty would fit this group rather well with his stamina and enthusiasm for getting up and down the pitch.
Whether Rangers would view this as a big enough step up from basically sending him back to Hamilton, as Saints are projected to be in the bottom half again next season, is another matter.
The Jambos have about a million centre midfielders, but Greg Docherty playing to the standard we witnessed in the first half of last season would be better than most, if not all, of Hearts’ engine room stars. Still, with Craig Levein’s team still crying out for a quality wide man with pace (despite 12 signings) they will surely be looking to use what’s left of their budget elsewhere.
The Steelmen already have their own all-action midfielder in youngster Allan Campbell. It wouldn’t make much sense to stunt his development by bringing in a player who still belongs to another club. However, if Stephen Robinson wants to double down on the ‘if-we-can-not-beat-you-we-will-literally-beat-you’ gameplan, as he appears to have done with his other signings so far this summer, then the Fir Park centre circle would become a no-go area for opposing midfielders this term.