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.
Glenn Middleton’s late loan move to Hibernian raised a few eyebrows given the fractious relationship between the two clubs and their recent history.
What it did though was provide the youngster with an opportunity to impress in full view of Rangers fans and, more importantly, his manager, Steven Gerrard.
Middleton arrived at Rangers in January 2018 on a development contract from Norwich City. As a Rangers supporter growing up, he couldn’t pass up the chance to join his boyhood heroes. It didn’t take him long to make an impact at youth level, providing both goals and assists with his direct style of play and powerful running.
Gerrard arrived at the club in the summer of 2018 and Middleton was one of a few youth players to join the senior squad for pre-season training. He obviously impressed the new boss as he was promoted to the senior squad with immediate effect, earning a new contract to reflect this in October 2018.
He was thrown in at the deep end in the Europa League and impressed for an 18-year-old with no previous first team experience, he contributed with a goal and an assist against Spartak Moscow in a 4-3 defeat.
Middleton’s first team opportunities were limited once Ryan Kent found his feet and Scott Arfield was moved into a more advanced position, with Gerrard preferring Daniel Candeais as a back up. He still managed to finish with figures of 5 goals and 5 assists in 29 games, a goal contribution rate of 0.8 per 90 minutes.
This season Middleton was going to face a similar problem with the arrival of Jordan Jones, Sheyi Ojo, Brendan Barker, Jake Hastie and eventually Ryan Kent. At just 19-year-old, Middleton is the youngest and least experienced in terms of first team football so, playing games at senior level was always going to be key for his development this season.
In true Middleton fashion he started with an assist in his first game for Hibs.
The team have have struggled for form this season but he has still managed 2 assists in his first 6 appearances and played 71 minutes of the 1-1 draw with Celtic last weekend.
Add this to his 1 goal and 1 assist in 2 Scotland under 21 games (just 82 minutes of football) and it’s fair to say he’s enjoyed a solid start to the season without setting the world alight.
Middleton was outstanding in a 12 minute cameo against Croatia in a recent qualifier, winning the ball on the half-way line before beating three defenders to set up Connor McLennan to score the equaliser in a 2-1 victory.
Middleton has shown, in flashes, that he is capable of being a first team regular for Rangers.
His performance against Spartak Moscow away from home particularly supports this claim. With youth and inexperience comes inconsistency and the Ibrox club will be hoping that Middleton returns with plenty of games under his belt so that he can once again pull on the famous blue jersey.
The talent is there, he now has the opportunity to progress, if he does and with time on his side, Middleton could be a Gers fans’ favourite for years to come.