This article is part of Football FanCast’s Loan Watch series, which takes a closer look at those players who are aiming to galvanise their careers away from the spotlight of their parent club.
Has Ross McCrorie, a player who thrives on doing his own destroying in midfield, found his natural home on loan at Portsmouth?
McCrorie is a favourite amongst the Ibrox faithful, not only because he is a home grown talent but also because of his style of play.
There is also the way he broke into the first team. In a team lacking quality, he stood out and his all-action approach endeared him to fans in a side accused of having a soft underbelly.
Physicality is one of McCrorie’s strongest assets, and this has seen him cope with the rigours of the senior game in loan spells at both Ayr United and Dumbarton prior to his first team start for the Gers in an Old Firm defeat in 2017/18.
Despite losing 2-0, McCrorie coped admirably in a makeshift defence, putting his more experienced teammates to shame.
Things didn’t always go well though and a red card in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic followed by a 5-0 defeat saw the youngster’s confidence shattered and a notable drop in his performance levels. In a struggling team, he was asked to perform miracles at centre-half and in defensive midfield.
He made 25 appearances and provided 2 goals and 1 assist on his debut season.
When Gerrard arrived at the club he immediately let it be known that he saw McCrorie as a defensive midfielder and he deployed him in 5 out of the 8 Europa League qualifiers in that position. In fact, Gerrard would only play McCrorie once at centre half all season due to injuries, with his other 30 games coming as a defensive midfielder.
In January 2019, Steven Davis and Glen Kamara arrived at the club and, with Ryan Jack already in situ and performing well, McCrorie’s opportunities became more limited. This would also be a factor at the beginning of this season with Gerrard deciding that the Scotland under 21 captain would need more regular game time if he is to develop, telling him to “be selfish”.
His long-term future is still seen at Rangers as revealed by former Gers Director of Football, Mark Allen, on Rangers TV, despite rumours to the contrary when he first moved on loan to Portsmouth.
McCrorie has endured a mixed start to his loan spell, after being sent off on his debut he has played in midfield and more interestingly – at right-back. In fact, he was playing at right-back when he completed 90 minutes in a league fixture for the first and only time this season.
The south coast outfit have endured a difficult opening to the season and find themselves in 19th place in League One. In the position that McCrorie typically plays, it won’t take long to become a scapegoat when things aren’t going well, and some of the Pompey fans have already started to turn on him.
He has featured for just eight minutes of action in the past three games in all competitions, and his limited opportunities suggest that he is struggling to thrive in his new surroundings.
Given the quality of players Gerrard has at his disposal, this will need to change if the 21-year-old wants to emerge from League One with a refined skill set that is tailor-made for a place in the Rangers first team.
Davis, Kamara, Jack and Joe Aribo are more capable in possession and at the moment McCrorie is clearly a level below his competitors.
Playing at right-back, however, might give McCrorie more space to see the game in front of him.
His athleticism would be perfect for this role as would his natural defensive tendencies. He has also shown, albeit on limited occasions, that he can create chances from this position.
If McCrorie is to become the future Scotland and Rangers captain he was tipped to become early on in his career, he may need to consider a change of position, and he will also have to wait for the current incumbent, James Tavernier, to move on to get his chance though.
At the moment, his performances in the centre of midfield at Portsmouth will have to improve to justify a return to the Ibrox side’s first team next season.