Gio van Bronckhorst guided Rangers through to the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup with a 3-0 win away from Ibrox on Sunday.
The Gers sealed an Old Firm meeting in the last four by beating Dundee at their own ground, thanks to goals from Connor Goldson, James Tavernier and Fashion Sakala.
This match offered Van Bronckhorst the chance to hand some minutes to academy players and he did just that as Alex Lowry and Charlie McCann both came off the bench on the day.
The latter was making his second senior appearance for the first team and he is a player who could save the club millions in the summer.
He came on for Juventus loanee Aaron Ramsey and that substitution could also be made in the summer as McCann replaces the Wales international in the Rangers squad for the 2022/23 campaign. Instead of splashing out millions to sign the ex-Arsenal man on a permanent deal or going into the market to sign a replacement, Van Bronckhorst can unleash the 19-year-old academy gem.
Rangers signed him for £750k from Manchester United last summer and his record for the Red Devils was impressive. He managed 17 goals and six assists in 62 appearances for the club’s under-18 and under-23 sides, which suggests that he is capable of being a difference-maker in the final third from midfield – much like Ramsey has been throughout his career, with 142 goal contributions for Arsenal and Juventus combined.
McCann recently confirmed that he will be representing Northern Ireland at international level, having played with the Republic of Ireland’s youth teams, and their manager Ian Baraclough hailed the young midfielder, saying: “I’ve had good conversations with Charlie’s family and Charlie himself. He could be at no better place than at Rangers working with Davo [Steven Davis] and they are in constant dialogue.
“We’re very strong in the midfield area and he’s aware of that but he’ll be hooking up with the Under-21s to start with where he will be desperate to get some game time and then go back to his club and do well. If he does the right things, which he will because he is that type of boy, he’ll have a really good career both at club and country level.”
Reacting to the news, reporter Mark McDougall tweeted: “Disappointed to see Charlie McCann decide to play for Northern Ireland. A terrific footballer who would have slotted right into a Stephen Kenny team over the next couple of years.”
These comments and his form south of the border suggest that the 19-year-old has a high ceiling as a player, and that is why Van Bronckhorst could benefit from offering him game-time in the Premiership between now and the end of the season to see if he can make the step up. Alternatively, the manager can continue to give him minutes in the cup before using him throughout pre-season in the summer with a view to him playing a larger role in the team.
If McCann can step up and make an impact – and his statistics at youth level suggest that he can – the teenager would duly save Ross Wilson millions in the transfer window…