Rangers loanee Stephen Kelly has enjoyed an eye-catching loan spell with Championship club Ayr United this season.

The midfielder was one of many young players allowed to leave Ibrox at the start of the campaign in order to gain experience, but not many of those moves proved to be successful.

Cammy Palmer was in and out of the side at Partick Thistle before returning to the Gers in January, while Josh McPake didn’t manage to tie down a regular spot at Dundee and failed to score during his time there.

McPake has been prolific at youth level but failed to net at Dundee. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images for DFB)

There’s no shame in struggling during your first taste of senior football, and those two players will be better for the experience.

Their issues only serve to highlight just how impressive Kelly has been.

The 19-year-old made his debut for the Gers first team in the League Cup in 2018, but with further opportunities unlikely this season, he joined an Ayr United side who at that time were managed by Ian McCall.

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Kelly during his Rangers first-team debut against Ayr United. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

It was a new environment and big step for a player who still has some filling out to do, to be thrown into the second tier of Scottish football.

Yet, he took to it like a duck to water and almost immediately established himself as a regular starter.


He’s carved out his own spot in the middle of the pitch, surviving a managerial change to continue to rack up appearances.

Following a 2-1 home defeat to Morton on Tuesday night, Kelly has a total of 29 appearances, from which he’s scored six goals and registered four assists.

The Scotland youth international is one to watch. (Photo by Lukasz Sobala/PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images)

He’s shown a penchant for the spectacular and prowess from free-kicks but has also helped Ayr to tick with an impressive range of passing.

Now playing under Mark Kerr, Ayr will be eyeing a playoff spot, which would give the Gers loanee a real platform from which to exhibit his talent.

His adopted side are currently fourth in the table but just four points behind second-placed Inverness with a game in hand.

They travel to lowly Alloa Athletic on Saturday, where Kelly will likely pass the 30 appearance mark for the season.

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