written by – John McIntosh
Tonight’s game is a big test against top flight side Inverness who sit second after an impressive start to the season, in five games they had not conceded a goal until their first defeat of the season last weekend where they were comfortably brushed aside 3-1 by Partick Thistle.
I would like to focus on the brightest young talent of each side – obviously Lewis MacLeod is Rangers’ star youngster – a player who gets fans out of their seats & can produce moments of magic. He is undoubtedly our most creative force who we will relied upon tonight to break down Inverness’ backline.
The most talented Inverness youngster by a country mile is Ryan Christie. I’m not sure if many of you know him but he is certainly destined for massive things. He is 19 years old & made his debut for ICT against Celtic in December 2013. In the nine months since he has made a further 20 appearances & is held in very high regard by manager John Hughes.
Hughes recently told the Inverness Courier – “You know when you’re working with somebody special, I am in Ryan Christie. I think he’s still got a lot of learning to do in the game.”
“He’ll get bigger and stronger, that comes with growing, but you can put that on the back-burner. He manipulates the football, looks after it, sees a pass, scores a goal, he’s got it all. There’s a lot of clubs sniffing about him at the moment and it’s great for the club. It’s great for us because he deserves all he gets.”
Christie made his Scotland U21 debut in the recent Scotland match against Luxembourg, funnily enough replacing Macleod. He can play anywhere across the midfield & in the next few years his best role will be in the hole behind the strikers where he can pull defences apart.
He won the August 2014 Scottish Young Player of the Month award after a string of excellent performances in the league. Additionally he has been linked with moves to the English Championship & Premiership this summer but Caley Thistle held on to their creative youngster.
He poses a major threat to Rangers chances of progressing.
His ability to take the ball on the stride, gaining control instantly & his close control of a football, balance to move left or right coupled with his pace allows him to glide past opponents with ease which, quite frankly, is such a refreshing change in the Scottish game.
He can pick a pass & can unlock defences & fans should be worried, if Christie is on form, whether Rangers can contain him or not.
Lewis MacLeod, on the other hand, is someone I expect every reader to know well. I can not give him higher praise right – from been given his debut in the lowest tier of Scottish football most fans could see this kid was something special and had massive potential. Many rightly have said he is the best young prospect they have seen Rangers produce since Barry Ferguson.
Often pushed out wide to accommodate lesser players, he never complains & just gets on with his job. So far this season he has produced his best form of his young career & long may his creative performances continue.
Although I know he wishes to be played centrally & likewise most fans are frustrated he hasn’t been given chances in the centre where MacLeod can exert far more influence & input his creative spark far easier & more effectively.
Ironically he has established himself in the Scotland U21s as a centre midfielder with license to get forward while being a creative link to the wide & forward lads. I’m praying Ally McCoist comes to his senses soon & brings him into the middle. When MacLeod is allowed to exert his creative influence centrally he can pick holes in oppositions defence & can certainly hit a quality ball.
I feel that Lewis MacLeod is going to have one of his best games in a Rangers shirt tonight, it’s a massive game as we get to test ourselves against a strong top flight side who recently beat Celtic & are second in the league.
It will be crucial that MacLeod is allowed license to get forward & cut inside allowing him to do what he does best – be the creator & really take the game by the scruff of it’s neck.
Rangers have one of the brightest talents in Scottish football as does Inverness.
Who will come out on top tonight Lewis MacLeod or Ryan Christie?