After an impressive season on loan with Ross County, Stephen Kelly could prove to be the heir to Glen Kamara in Steven Gerrard’s Rangers side next season, with the Finland international continuing to be linked with a move away from Ibrox this summer.
The 21-year-old Rangers academy graduate has spent the season on loan at Victoria Park and has established himself as a regular in John Hughes’ side, making 23 appearances in the Premiership and averaging a solid 6.55 WhoScored rating for his performances, with two assists to his name.
Last year saw Kelly commit to a new deal at Ibrox which sees him contracted until 2023, so Rangers clearly believe in his ability and his potential to become a regular with the Bears in the future.
After his new contract was announced, sporting director Ross Wilson had this to say about the young midfielder: “It was part of our development plan for him to now test himself at Premiership level and Steven Gerrard has made clear to Stevie that we expect him to make a strong impact in the league at Ross County.”
It seems as if Kelly’s loan move to Ross County has had the desired effect, and with Premiership experience under his belt, there seems no reason why he can’t challenge for a spot in Gerrard’s side next season, especially if Kamara departs in the summer.
The former Dundee man has been heavily linked with a move to the Premier League, with his former club Arsenal reportedly at the front of the queue, with recent reports suggesting that the Gunners were willing to offer him a five-year deal at the Emirates Stadium.
It is definitely a possibility that the Finland midfielder could leave, but Gerrard may already have his ideal replacement in Kelly. The youngster scores impressively when it comes to tackles, interceptions and key passes per game, which marks him out as an all-round midfielder in the mould of Kamara.
Kelly’s current manager Hughes was full of praise for the Rangers academy graduate earlier in the season, saying: “He’s as brave as a lion and has the courage to get on the ball. He’s my type of player: someone who wants the ball and keeps it ticking over.”
Therefore, there seems no reason why Kelly can’t establish himself in the Rangers first team next season and step up as Kamara’s long-term replacement, especially if the current Ibrox ace moves south.