Glasgow Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst may feel like his centre-backs have been hit with a curse at Ibrox this season as that area of the squad has been decimated by injuries.
This has left academy graduate Leon King as van Bronckhorst’s only natural centre-back at times, whilst John Lundstram and James Sands – who are midfielders by trade – have also been required to drop back into that role.
Helander and Sands, who is currently on loan with an option to buy, are out of contract at the end of the season and Ross Wilson could be tempted to dip into the transfer market to bring in another option in that area of the pitch.
The upcoming January transfer window, and the one next summer, provides the sporting director with a chance to add more depth to van Bronckhorst’s roster but the Dutch head coach could save him millions by unearthing a gem from the academy.
One young talent who could have the potential to make the step up in order to save Wilson from needing to splash out on a new signing is 19-year-old Lewis MacKinnon.
“The Lowland League has been more of a physical test, but when we play these top European teams you’re coming across a different challenge, it’s probably more technical playing against these teams. Ultimately, it will help us improve as a player, everyone’s enjoying it.
“If you look at the boys who got a start against Queen of the South, it just shows you that the pathway is there, and you just have to keep striving each day.”
His 14 appearances in the fifth tier of Scottish football appear to have helped his development – judging by these comments – and his form for Rangers has earned him international recognition, as he has been capped three times by Northern Ireland at U19 level.
MacKinnon has plenty of time left ahead of him to grow and improve further as a player and van Bronckhorst could expose the defender to first-team football, whether that is by bringing him into training or putting him on the bench for a game, to help him to take the next step.
If the young defender can make the leap to senior football then he could prevent Wilson from needing to sign a replacement for Helander, whilst giving van Bronckhorst another talented youngster to develop.