Steven Gerrard’s arrival at Rangers was a serious signal of the club’s intent to hunt down Celtic in the not too distant future but the Liverpool icon’s presence alone can only do so much.
It remains to be seen exactly what Gerrard’s footballing philosophy entails but it was clear before his appointment that an influx of quality players were a prerequisite before anyone connected with Ibrox could realistically contemplate the prospect of overtaking Celtic.
Of course, it is unrealistic to expect Gerrard to overtake his old mentor Brendan Rodgers this season. Celtic have a superior squad, with greater Champions League experience that is now in the habit of winning regularly and is now fully attuned to Rodgers’ ideals to boot.
Rangers do not have the spending power or pulling power to rapidly assemble a squad capable of outgunning them; the likes of Wolves and Nottingham Forest down in England are currently proving how expensive it is to do so.
Gerrard has wasted no time in attempting to improve his squad, bringing in the likes of Connor Goldson, Scott Arfield and Jon Flanagan.
But one name among the new arrivals jumps out as having the ability to help Rangers rapidly bridge the gap in quality between the two halves of Glasgow; Ryan Kent.
The former Liverpool captain has clearly used his contacts at Anfield to ensure the promising wideman joined him north of the border and if Kent jumps up a level and begins to realise some of his true potential, it could prove to be the signing of the summer.
One Englishman, Patrick Roberts, departed Glasgow this summer to return to Manchester City after a loan spell at Parkhead that saw him net 15 goals in 51 league appearances, and Kent has the ability to replicate that impact.
Kent’s temporary spell at Rangers – which kicked off by earning the corner that led to Alfredo Morelos’ winning goal in the 1-0 Europa League triumph over NK Osijek – will be the fifth loan deal of his career and he has made an impact almost everywhere he has been.
In 2015/16, the wideman impressed Coventry fans with his displays in 17 League One appearances, and his performances were so good that Jurgen Klopp was eager to include him in his plans from January 2016 onwards.
He spent the following season on loan at Barnsley, where the only full season of football he has had in his career earned him the Tykes’ Young Player of the Year award after three goals in 44 league appearances, as the club consolidated their Championship status upon their return to the second tier.
His direct running, fearlessness and ability to deliver quality from wide saw him go down a hit and convinced Bundesliga outfit Freiburg to bring him to Germany at the start of last season.
It did not quite work out in Germany, but the fact that Klopp felt he could handle the German top flight aged just 20 should still enthuse Rangers fans that he can make a real impact in the Scottish Premier League one year on.
Kent bounced back from that setback with an impressive spell at promotion-chasing Bristol City, where he fitted right into Lee Johnson’s high-tempo style and added a new dimension to a side who were beginning to run out of steam by the time he pitched up at Ashton Gate in January.
The winger has made an impact in the English second tier that far surpasses what Roberts had achieved in just 19 Championship appearances for Fulham before he moved to Celtic and flourished over the course of two-and-a-half years.
Gerrard has largely added steadiness and resilience to the Rangers ranks this summer, but if he is to quell the growing impatience among the fans to reel in Celtic, he needs to recruit quality that can settle quickly.
Kent has shown that he can provide both and there is absolutely no reason he cannot emulate Roberts’ impact this season. If he shows his best football over the course of a full campaign, Rangers fans will be hoping their club has him for longer than just the one year.
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