Loan star Stephen Kelly has spoken to the Daily Record about his ambitions at Rangers.
The 19-year-old midfielder has one competitive appearance for the Gers, having turned out in the League Cup against Ayr United last season.
Now, he finds himself amongst the playing staff with the Honest Men, looking to gain experience of senior football in the Scottish second tier.
So far, things are going well, with Kelly registering three goals and two assists from eight league outings. Yet, while he’s aiming to make the grade at Ibrox, he’s under no illusions that it’s an extremely difficult goal to achieve.
Rangers loanee Kelly says Ibrox spot still ultimate aim
“Ross (McCrorie) progressed all the way through at Rangers, like I have, and managed to break in,” Kelly told the Daily Record. “But he’s now out on loan again. So it’s hard to imagine (being in the first team) because it’s not great when you don’t see a youth player in there.”
“But that’s down to it being such a massive club and we need to win the league now – quicker than ever. That’s the challenge for me, to be the one who breaks that run. Every player coming through the academy wants to be the one who gets in.
“But sometimes it might not work and I’m prepared for not getting a chance if that’s the way it works out. It’s still my goal to play for Rangers, that’s always been the case – but this move to Ayr has shown me that there’s other football, away from Rangers.”
This is a revealing excerpt from a refreshingly honest extended interview with Kelly.
It’s clear that despite only being 19, this is a young player with his head screwed on. There’s an awareness of his situation, the reasons behind it, and an appreciation that it would be unwise to pin all his hopes on becoming a first-team regular at Rangers.
To an extent, it’s a concern that one of the Academy’s most promising talents finds it hard to see a pathway to the first team. After all, major funds are being pumped into the club’s youth system. The Young Gers are excelling from U16s through to Colts level but in general, for individuals, the gap to the first team is yet to be bridged.
Yet, given that Rangers are in the midst of a revolution under Steven Gerrard, it’s understandable.
After so long without it, the fans want to secure major silverware as soon as possible, and in an effort to deliver it, there has been minimal promotion of academy prospects and an emphasis on bringing in established talent from elsewhere.
Kelly is one of the few who look genuinely capable of breaking through within the next few years. As he’s clearly aware, though, there are no guarantees and it’ll certainly take a lot of graft.