Rangers announced the list of players heading for pastures new at the end of their contracts with Greg Stewart and Bongani Zungu being joined by several academy players in departing the club.
Almost all of the youngsters have youth caps for their respective countries which shows that talent is not enough to succeed at Auchenhowie.
This season though will be a pivotal one for several of the oldest crop from the training centre as they look to follow Nathan Patterson in becoming a bona fide member of the first-team squad.
The difference with Middleton, that some people forget, is that he has proven that he can contribute at senior level for Rangers – and he did it in a team far inferior to the one that won the Scottish Premiership title.
His performances for St Johnstone at the end of the season demonstrate that he is good enough for domestic football but – despite wanting to prove himself to Steven Gerrard – another loan transfer could well be an opportunity to put himself in the shop window rather than prove that he is good enough to succeed in Light Blue.
His first season in senior football has been a good one, he maybe didn’t produce the numbers that he would have wanted but he has shown that he can compete physically and produce moments of magic, consistency should be his target for next season and I’d expect him to step up to the top flight on a loan deal – posting decent numbers in the Premiership could see him join the first-team the season after, if he extends his contract.
James Maxwell and Calvin Bassey
I’ve put the two left-backs together because I think their futures are interlinked, Maxwell, is the younger of the two but has now played more senior games, his impressive spell at Queen of the South suggests that he is capable of being fast-tracked in the way that Nathan Patterson was.
This means that Bassey can go out and get much needed game time, remember, the only senior games he has ever played have been with us, deputising for Borna Barisic, he is clearly a promising player but he needs at least one season of regular action to iron out the creases.
McPake is similar to Kennedy in that he has enjoyed a successful loan spell this season, he won’t be short of offers in England following his time at Harrogate Town but if he wants to stay at Rangers he needs to do it in the Premiership and continue to develop his end product – the only thing missing from his game – his physicality and athleticism certainly isn’t up for debate.
Is already in and around the first-team but would be very surprised if he doesn’t follow the likes of Lewis Mayo and head to the Championship for a season, he’s a unit of a boy for 17-years old but, like Bassey, would benefit from 30-40 games against physical opponents in competitive fixtures – the biggest factor is that we have six senior centre-halves already, sitting at Ibrox won’t help his development as much as going out and playing, he can count Gerrard as one of his biggest fans though.
I’d be very surprised if he isn’t making up the numbers in midfield next season, he has two excellent loan spells, has very similar traits to Steven Davis and looks a natural successor over time – if he continues to develop at his current rate. If he goes out on loan again, it could signal the end of his time at Rangers because there isn’t much left that he can prove.
There are other contenders like Robby McCrorie and Lewis Mayo who both face an uphill struggle to force their way into Gerrard’s plans but, if they go out on loan again, there is nothing to suggest that they don’t still have a future at Rangers.
Replacing multi-million pound departures with academy players will always be the dream, the current crop have as good a chance as any, if they prove that they are more than just talented youngsters.