Glasgow Rangers kept themselves busy during the summer transfer window as Steven Gerrard and Ross Wilson embarked on a summer spending spree, signing Ianis Hagi, Calvin Bassey, Cedric Itten, Kemar Roofe and Leon Balogun in quick succession, before bringing in Bongani Zungu from Amiens on an initial loan deal with the option to buy.
They even brought in a back-up goalkeeper for Allan McGregor in Jon McLaughlin, whilst Jermain Defoe officially joined the club on a permanent basis after signing a pre-contract agreement in January.
Apart from Zungu, there weren’t too many additions to the stacked midfield or indeed any departures of note despite the sale of Greg Docherty to Hull City and the fact that Scott Arfield and Steven Davis aren’t getting any younger.
It means Gerrard has six options to choose from to fill three positions, as he has preferred a 4-3-3 formation in the past, although he has switched to a 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-2-1 on occasion, which means that Zungu, Arfield, Davis, Glen Kamara, Joe Aribo and Ryan Jack are all vying for a place in the starting line-up.
But there will soon come a point when Rangers will have to rejuvenate their aging squad, a fact which won’t have gone unnoticed by Gerrard, as the Ibrox boss currently has the second-oldest team in the Scottish Premiership. So Gerrard may want to take a look at his loan army when the chance arises, although he might be even more inclined to do so after Stephen Kelly’s impressive start to the season at Ross County.
Kelly burst onto the scene following a successful stint on loan with Ayr United, having scored six goals and supplied four assists in 33 appearances for the Championship side, which saw him named the club’s young player of the season.
However, the Scotland U21 international initially struggled to make much of an impression with the Staggies, as he spent the first five fixtures of the season as an unused substitute on the bench, but he has started to feature more regularly in recent weeks.
Rangers sporting director Ross Wilson singled out the 20-year-old for praise during a Q&A with the club’s official website.
“We are pleased that Stephen Kelly is now starting to play – we believe he should have played a lot more, but he’s starting to play at Ross County now,” Wilson said.
“I think he was Man of the Match at the weekend, so we are pleased with that.”
Breaking into the first team is never an easy task no matter how talented you are as a player. However, Rangers are keeping tabs on his progress, which is a big step in the right direction.
Kelly has made nine appearances for Ross County in the Scottish Premiership so far this season, registering his first assist in the 1-1 draw with Livingston before the international break, whilst he is averaging 1.2 clearances per game, via SofaScore.
By comparison, even Steven Davis and Ryan Jack are only managing fewer than one clearance per league game in the top flight, as per SofaScore.
Standing at 176cm tall, the Rangers loanee is only slightly shorter than Jack, who himself is 182cm tall. At this stage in his career, playing every week is far more beneficial than being sat on the bench.
Given his age, Kelly still has plenty of time on his side to continue to impress his parent club. He’s clearly highly-rated by the Ibrox outfit as his performances at Somerset Park saw him rewarded with a contract extension until 2023, whilst Gerrard and co decided to throw him in at the deep end to himself at Premiership level this season.
It may not be too long before he starts to be given opportunities by his boyhood club, that’s for sure.