Ross McCrorie’s introduction into the Rangers first team was undoubtedly a trial by fire. Making his first start for the club was always going to be a momentous occasion but to do it against Celtic at Ibrox is stuff of dreams for boyhood Rangers fans.
By half-time in that match-up, he had proved he can hold his own against the Scottish Champions, something more established stars had failed to do for an entire season. It was a breath of fresh air for supporters and they were quick to shower praise on the young defender.
His manager too was not hesitant was his praised, stating that the teenager could in fact go on to be one of the defensive greats for club and country. That’s the kind of media spotlight that could go to a young player’s head, but McCrorie has dealt with it all superbly and in a manner that suggests he would benefit from further exposure to first-team football.
The 19-year-old made a promise to ‘stay humble and work hard’ when interviewed during the international break despite all the praise coming his way.
That hard work is needed, he is far from the finished article. His performances so far have shown that as much as they’ve shown he doesn’t look out of place in the Rangers first team. With hard work and dedication though, he could become a regular.
What the young defender needs now is for the Rangers manager to put his words into action and give him the first-team football that can bring his game to the next level.
McCrorie has not yet played alongside Bruno Alves, the youngster was the player who came on as a substitute when he picked up an injury in a Scottish League Cup match against Partick Thistle.
Striking a partnership with the trophy-laden Portuguese legend would be a fantastic step in his development and the time is right to make it happen. Caixinha must not delay, with the young defender high on confidence and eager to impress. Alves’ time at the club may be limited and making use of his experience in this manner could be huge for the young defenders at the club.
The manager’s case is helped given the fact that Fabio Cardoso hasn’t exactly looked irreplaceable in the centre of defence and the likes of Danny Wilson not match-fit after his own injury issues.
The upcoming fixture schedule may be a difficult one with trips to Perth and a national semi-final on the horizon, but McCrorie showed that he can thrive in a big game environment. It’s been in quieter moments that his concentration has dipped and he’s looked less confident.
The argument against introducing him as a firm fixture of the Rangers starting eleven would of course be that he isn’t quite as ready as many think. We saw last season that after initial bright performances, the form of Myles Beerman dipped. It’s the old enemy of youth in football, inconsistency.
Pedro Caixinha can’t afford passengers in his Rangers side right now and playing McCrorie regularly could be seen as something of a risk. However, if he was honest in his assertion that he can go on to become a Light Blues and Scotland great, then he must have the bravery and the boldness to make the decision and persist with the talent he sees in the youngster.
When managers are under pressure, every decision takes on an even greater importance than it would usually. The decision to rely on Cardoso to turn around his faltering performances when McCrorie is waiting in the wings, ready to be adored by an under fire and increasingly impatient Rangers support, could be a costly one for him personally.