A surprise move from Steven Gerrard saw Ciaran Dickson take a spot on the Rangers bench for the Europa League fixture against Benfica on Thursday evening.

A change to the rules for this season’s competition allows clubs to name up to 12 substitutes for each match.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Rangers FC - UEFA Europa League Round of 16: Second Leg

Gerrard can name extended squads for each Europa League fixture. (Photo by Sascha Schuermann/Pool via Getty Images)

Highly-rated 16-year-old defender, Leon King, benefitted from the tweak last month when he was named on the bench for the Gers’ Group D opener against Standard Liege.

Yet, the arrival of Bongani Zungu appeared to close the door for Academy players, with the South Africa international immediately handed a spot for the clash against Lech Poznan at Ibrox last week.

However, Zungu didn’t make the matchday squad in Lisbon on Thursday and neither did King.

Instead, Ciaran Dickson took his place alongside star names such as Kemar Roofe, Scott Arfield and Ianis Hagi.

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Rangers U19 v Atletico Madrid U19 - UEFA Youth League Play-Offs

Ciaran Dickson made the Rangers bench for the 3-3 draw with Benfica. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The 18-year-old midfielder was a key part of the Rangers Colts and U20s sides who impressed in the Challenge Cup and the UEFA Youth League respectively last season and he was spotted in first-team training last week.

This was his first inclusion in a senior matchday squad, though, and it could hardly have come at a more impressive venue.

 

The Scotland U19 international was never going to make it onto the pitch, but he received a priceless taste of the big time as he went through the warm-up at the Estádio da Luz and soaked up Gerrard’s team talks.

The manager has made it clear that only those Academy players who are 100% committed to the club will be brought into the first-team group and it looks as though he’s been impressed by Dickson’s attitude.

Given the midfield options currently at Gerrard’s disposal, it’s hard to see a route into the side for the youngster at least for a few seasons.

However, after seeing firsthand what it’s like to be a first-team star, Dickson should now be extra motivated to do whatever it takes to make sure it’s not the only time he’s involved at that level.

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