The exodus of players from Rangers in the summer of 2012 will always resonate with supporters & have forever soiled the memories that fans had of players like Steven Naismith, Allan McGregor, & Steven Whitaker.
To a certain extent – fans could understand, but not forgive, these players for their decisions.
However, youngsters like Rhys McCabe & Jamie Ness made the hasty decision to leave the club when they were positioned to become legends who would help lead Rangers back to the top of Scottish football. This left a lingering sense of frustration around Ibrox.
In December of 2013, Rangers head of youth football Jimmy Sinclair candidly discussed McCabe & Ness’ decision to leave.
“I had faith in these young players and hoped they would look at the situation as a great opportunity to embed themselves in a Rangers team. They had the chance to become major names among the Rangers support. But they made their decisions for whatever reasons.”
Ness, now 23, moved to Stoke City where he has failed to make a first team appearance. In January, he was loaned to Leyton Orient where he scored in his debut. Ness has impressed in his limited time on the pitch for Orient, as it appears that he was brought in to provide depth & not to be a regular starter.
For McCabe, 21, his move to Sheffield Wednesday began with a great deal of promise last season but that potential dwindled & eventually he has become an outsider to first team action for the last year. McCabe has only managed to crack the starting lineup for Wednesday two times this season & has made nine appearances overall.
“When Rhys McCabe joined the club from Rangers he was somewhat unknown. Initially, it seemed he was signed with a number of young talented players to join the development team. There was some wrangling over his signature with the unfortunate financial situation at Ibrox – so he didn’t feature in many pre-season games, however he evidently did well in training and was involved in the first team from the start of the season. This added to injuries and loss of form of other central midfielders meant McCabe had plenty of first team games in the early part of the season and looked a good player.”
“Despite a good start, our form took a dip and we started to struggle. Manager Dave Jones had started the season trying to play a more passing style, however as our struggles continued he opted more for power and experience and we played a more direct style. This didn’t help Rhys’ game as a talented creative midfield player and his form took a dip. In the second half of the season he wasn’t used much as the team improved and ultimately successfully staved off relegation.”
McCabe had to be hopeful having an entire pre-season to settle into the club this summer – which included a friendly with Rangers where he was welcomed by a chorus of boo’s by the supporters who traveled to Hillsborough.
Unfortunately for the Scottish youngster, he continued to watch first team action from the stands in 2013-14.
Mullooly explains, “Rhys McCabe hasn’t had many opportunities this year. He again featured more early on, however the team again struggled to get a victory and Dave Jones was eventually sacked. Stuart Gray took over as manager and was tasked with improving our form. He has succeeded in that however McCabe hasn’t featured much other than the odd substitute appearance. The emergence of Kieran Lee as an integral central midfield player, more experienced loan players coming in and the improved form of the team has meant McCabe has been solely with the development team and not have a look in with the first team.”
Given all of this it appears that McCabe’s loan to Portsmouth, announced earlier this week, is coming at the most opportune time. Like Rangers, financial problems have crippled Portsmouth who went from a big spending Premier League club to a fan-owned team who are now languishing near the bottom of England’s League Two.
Pompey manager Richie Barker is hopeful that McCabe can brighten up what has been a difficult season for Portsmouth, who sit fourth from the bottom of the table.
Barker told the club’s official website, “We were eager to bring Rhys in when we knew he was available because he’s a quality player who will help keep possession in the centre of the park. He hasn’t been in the Sheffield Wednesday side recently and is hungry to play. He jumped at the chance to come here, which is a good sign.”
Harry Davis who covers Portsmouth for the We are Going Up! blog & podcast told Rangers Report that the hope is that McCabe can spur on Pompey’s struggling attack. “With regards to the role he can play, it seems to me he has the ability to provide an attacking option from the midfield, which is something we’ve been lacking for the latter part of this season.”
Davis added, “He has experience in League One and in the Championship, so he can only do good and bring some valuable experience, regardless of his age. I expect he’ll play against York on Saturday, so it’ll be interesting to see how he is used in the starting eleven.”
Sadly, it looks as if a move to England’s fourth tier is the only way McCabe could get first team football this season – further affirming Jimmy Sinclair’s claim that the youngster would have been better served staying at Ibrox. Of course, hindsight brings absolute clarity & McCabe’s young career is reaching a critical point.
There is still hope from those who follow Sheffield Wednesday that McCabe’s future lies with the Owls.
Wednesday blogger Carl Mullooly told Rangers Report, “As a fan, I am hopeful that McCabe can become a good player for the club. He is still young and hasn’t had many opportunities in the first team.”
“His loan move to Portsmouth could be the ideal chance to kick start his career. Dropping down to League Two will hopefully see him get some games under his belt and gain valuable experience in challenging circumstances. Portsmouth is a great club who have found themselves in difficult times.”
“It will be good for McCabe to play in front of big crowds and hopefully he will help Pompey in their battle to stay in the football league and come back to Hillsborough a better player.”
“The jury is still out over whether McCabe is good enough to make the grade at Championship level, however he must seize the opportunities that he has to prove himself.”