Why Glenn Middleton could be the next big thing in Scottish football
For too long now, Rangers have struggled to bring through young academy prospects into the first-team picture. Certainly, their off-field issues have made rendered this a low priority, given that the club needed to ascend the leagues and return to the pinnacle of Scottish football swiftly and with minimal fuss.
But now that they’re competing for the top-three positions in the Premiership again, the time seems right to embed some young blood into the squad. Ross McCrorie was a notable example last season, performing well both in the midfield and the defence.
Glenn Middleton, however, seems to be following him so far this season. He came from Norwich City, admittedly; after struggling to break through with them in England. As a result, he returned to Scotland, joining Rangers in January.
Middleton was brought to Glasgow by Graeme Murty, his former Norwich youth coach, and the decision hasn’t backfired. Since Steven Gerrard’s appointment, Middleton has made 3 appearances for the club and has done well. In fact, his competitive debut against FK Shkupi in the Europa League in a 2-0 win brought widespread praise from Rangers supporters.
He then scored his first goal against Dundee two months later, despite coming on as a substitute. Last week, Middleton performed well once again against Ayr in the Scottish League Cup. It was the perfect stage for him to stake his case and he did so with aplomb.
The Scotsman has also done well internationally, making 18 appearances and scoring 5 goals for Scotland U17 side, since progressing to the U19s and U21s.
A winger by trade, Middleton does face stiff competition for his position at Rangers. Daniel Candeias was a fan favourite last season, notably for his crossing ability and link-up play with James Tavernier. Former Brighton man, Jamie Murphy has performed brightly with his direct running and end product.
Hence, this season may see the youngster limited to substitute appearances but if he keeps performing well in these cameos, a place in Gerrard’s starting XI surely beckons. The move should be welcomed by Scottish national manager Alex McLeish, who must aim to rebuild his team into a strong side to qualify for Euro 2020.
A Rangers fan himself, perhaps the happiest person will be Middleton himself. Much like Celtic supporters’ connection with their left-back Kieran Tierney, the Rangers devoted seem to be responding well to Middleton’s introduction.