Barrie McKay is in the midst of his second straight season out on loan after making 41 appearances for Rangers during the 2012-13 season. Early on in that season, McKay was being tagged as Rangers next youth star that would propel Rangers back to the top of Scottish football. Obviously, Lewis Macleod steadily climbed above McKay in the rankings of prospects that season but the future appeared to be bright for McKay. He had flaws but was only 17 & was in a unique position of developing his game for the first team.
In League One, McKay made three cameo appearances as a substitute in the first two months of the season & the writing was clearly on the wall that McKay was being phased out of Rangers immediate plans. Ally McCoist had brought in a plethora of new signings to the club & was going to rely on the predictability of veterans rather than use the first team as a youth development opportunity.
After going two months without a first team appearance, McKay was loaned out to a poor Morton side in December. He went onto make 18 appearances & scored three goals for a team that only won four of those matches that McKay played in. His final memory for the season was being on the wrong end of a 10-2 shellacking by Hamilton.
The mood in the Morton dressing room was said to be understandably dour last season & McKay was called out by those who follow the club to play “with more passion.” In his defence, it is a lot to ask a teenager to go from being a regular part of a massive club like Rangers, regardless of its league stature, to being cast aside to a club that won only six of its 36 matches all season. Being exposed to perpetual losing can be particularly damaging to a youngster’s development.
Going into this season, it was obvious that McKay would need to leave Rangers again if he was going to have the chance to play first team football. However, Rangers had to be much more thoughtful with regards to choosing a destination for McKay’s loan period. Obviously Raith Rovers became McKay’s new home away from home – at least until the end of 2014.
Rovers have had an up & down season, that accompanies being a mid-table team. Young manager Grant Murray has made the team competitive, however fans have been left grumbling over his handling of McKay.
Shaughan McGuigan from Tell Him He’s Pele spoke to Rangers Report about McKay’s performances for Raith Rovers this season & his assessment is consistent with what others have said about McKay for the last few years – the talent is there but McKay still needs to work on becoming a more well-rounded player.
He’s been a bit of a mixed bag to be honest, and while you would expect that of a young winger, you can see the reasons he struggled at Morton last season, and, ultimately, why he’s been sent out on loan by Ally McCoist to learn his trade.
When he’s tasked with picking up the ball and testing a full-back, then he can do it very well.
He’s pacey and direct, and can put in a decent cross, as was evident for his assist for Grant Anderson against Alloa a few weeks ago.
If Raith were a side that dominated games & enjoyed the lion share of possession, then he’d be a great benefit, but the opposite is the case, and as a result, his shortcomings have at times been a hinderance.
McKay has yet to master the defensive side of his game, and appears far less willing to track back, than he is to get forward.
Also, he has a habit of squandering possession with lazy looking passes, which led directly to goals being conceded during the 4-3 loss to Queen of the South, and the 1-1 draw with Hibernian. Frustratingly, that goal at Easter Road, was gifted just seconds after he’d struck the bar with a 25-yard drive at goal that almost bounced over the line.
If he can align his technical ability with some defensive nous and an increased workrate, then there could very well be a player in there somewhere.
Without that though, he will probably continue to generate frustration & excitement in equal measure.
McKay is in a unique situation in the sense that he was thrust into the spotlight of playing for Rangers at 17. That is far from the norm for a player of McKay’s ilk. He still doesn’t turn 20 until this coming December & has many years until he reaches the prime of his career. Those flashes of brilliance capture the imagination of what kind of player he can become, but there will be growing pains.
For what it’s worth, McKay has stated his desire to extend his loan with Rovers if it means he gets to play. While there is little chance of McKay getting in McCoist’s lineup this season, you wonder if Raith is the best spot for McKay. At 39 years old, Grant Murray is a young manager who is likely still developing his aptitude to run a club.
Think about McKay’s career & besides Murray, he has been under the tutelage of McCoist (not necessarily known for player development) & Kenny Shiels (who was unsettled, at best, as he tried to help Morton stave off relegation last season).
Maybe it is time to arrange for McKay to join a club that is led by an experienced manager – who has a history of working with young players & who is secure in his employment.
One manager leaps to the fore when considering another loan destination for McKay.
Dick Campbell is the longest tenured manager with his current club in Scotland & has guided Forfar Athletic to the top of the League One table this season. It may not be ideal for McKay to drop down to the third-tier of Scotland but it may be time that a vastly experienced manager give it a go with McKay’s development.
Sometimes players with questionable reputations regarding attitude flourish when coupled with grizzled managers with decades of experience of dealing with talent.
It’s just a suggestion but McKay is a talented footballer who needs proper grooming to truly meet his potential.