With a big move to Championship club Swansea City confirmed, is Barrie McKay a missed opportunity for Rangers?
The talented young Scottish winger was sold by Pedro Caixinha for around £500,000 last summer to Nottingham Forest, after an inconsistent season that resulted in a huge overhaul by the Portuguese over the transfer widow.
The Rangers fans have never been overly-enthused about the move, and with a further transfer to one of English football’s most recognised clubs, McKay has clearly made a good impression since heading down South.
After bursting onto the scene at Rangers whilst they plied their trade in the Third Division, McKay impressed supporters with his directness and ability to run at full-backs with ease. There was a burning desire from the Rangers fans to see the youngster succeed given the fact he was clearly a young talent who was desperate to make it at the club.
However, chances curtailed for McKay under Ally McCoist as pressure grew on the then-Rangers manager to bring in more recognised and proven talents. This would lead to the McKay heading out to Greenock Morton and Raith Rovers to continue his development in respective loan spells.
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It was only when Mark Warburton became Rangers manager however that we started to see some of the huge potential in McKay come out. Netting his first goal in a 2-0 win at Ayr United in August 2015, the winger finally had his first goal for the club since 2012.
The youngster hugely impressed in the Championship, and ended the campaign in the PFA Scotland Team of the Year. A starring role against Celtic in the 2016 Scottish Cup semi-final also raised his profile – netting a stunning strike to give Rangers a shock 2-1 lead at Hampden.
It was clear Warburton had gotten the best out of McKay, and he was determined to pay that faith back to the Englishman.
With confidence at its peak ahead of the 2016/17 campaign however, McKay seemed to become a tad more inconsistent in his displays. Against higher-quality full-backs, he occasionally found himself being shut out and would sometimes struggle to make his mark on games the way he was the previous season.
That’s not to say McKay didn’t contribute. Five goals were slotted home by the then 21-year-old. Some weeks he would find himself struggling to find that flair in the final third that he was known for, whilst others he looked like a world-beater and often left Celtic right-back Mikael Lustig in his wake.
It was clear McKay still had massive potential, and still had a lot of improvement to give in a Rangers jersey. Then Caixinha came.
McKay was immediately used sparingly before being infamously let go on the cheap to Nottingham Forest to make way for Caixinha’s failed recruits.
The Scottish cap has said in the past that Rangers forced him out, and it remains to this day a decision the club’s supporters have been highly bitter about.
With a mightily impressive 126 Rangers appearances by the age of 22 to his name, McKay remains a hot prospect with his new club Swansea after impressing enough at Forest to get his move.
It could easily be suggested that letting a creative talent in McKay leave instead of building a team around him was one of Caixinha’s biggest blunders.
McKay initially hit the ground running at Forest under Warburton, notching five goals and leading the assists chart early doors.
Despite an inconsistent time at the City Ground, it’s clear McKay still has huge potential in his locker. A lack of stability has meant his development has curtailed to an extent, with Rangers one of the clubs who could’ve provided that platform for McKay to thrive in front of an adoring fan-base who continue to wish him well.
The future remains a mystery, and McKay could very well end up back at Rangers one day. However, for now, it continues to be a case of what might’ve been.