Rangers teen Leon King was named B team captain on Tuesday night for an SPFL Trust Trophy tie against Ayr United.
It’s not the first time he’s worn the armband for David McCallum this season and it’s good to see the 17-year-old being given a leadership role.
The tie was a proper test for the Young Gers as interim United boss Jim Duffy named a strong team, which included several experienced Championship players and former Gers Academy goalkeeper Aidan McAdams.
However, particularly with the B team’s involvement in that competition now over after a 3-0 defeat, questions must be asked about the decision to keep King at Ibrox rather than sending him out on loan.
Disappointing result tonight for the lads , we’ll bounce back stronger 💪💙 thanks again to the fans that came along !! https://t.co/xJe8QIAWbU
— Leon King (@Leon_king04) September 14, 2021
The UEFA Youth League is still to come and the guaranteed regular playing time that the Lowland League schedule provides is a good thing for most Academy players after a stop-start 18 months due to the pandemic.
Yet, is an occasional European youth tie and regular fifth-tier football really enough to push a player as highly rated as King to fulfil his potential?
After all, this is a starlet who turned down Premier League clubs to sign a pro deal at Ibrox last year [Scotsman] and who spent the majority of last season with the first team, even making two senior appearances and featuring in multiple Europa League matchday squads.
Now, instead of being pushed every day and making Premiership and League Cup appearances, he’s turning out against the likes of Edinburgh and Stirling Uni and keeping clean sheets without breaking a sweat.
The B team’s acceptance into the Lowland League for 2021/22 was a big deal for Rangers after years of campaigning for a Colts side to be granted access to competitive senior football.
But leading clubs elsewhere in Europe wouldn’t dream of fielding one of their brightest talents in recent memory in the fifth tier, so why are Rangers doing it?
As well as hurting his development, keeping King in the Lowland League for too long risks alienating a player who is currently only tied down until the end of this season.
Therefore, if he isn’t in with a realistic chance of first-team action in the short term, the Gers must attempt to extend his contract and send him out on loan to a team playing at a much higher level, as soon as practically possible.