Rangers captain James Tavernier has raved about Ibrox starlet Stephen Kelly, who impressed with his performances in pre-season.
Kelly signed a contract extension last summer that tied him to the club until 2023 and he spent the season gaining Premiership experience on loan at Ross County.
Prior to pre-season, many fans expected another loan spell to follow during the upcoming campaign, but he’s staked a claim to stay at Ibrox.
He’s been heavily involved in the friendly schedule and was particularly impressive against Brighton on Saturday, playing 69 minutes against the Premier League side.
The 21-year-old also got a late runout against Real Madrid on Sunday and received praise from Tavernier after the game.
“Stephen Kelly was absolutely outstanding yesterday and so was Nathan [Patterson] and that just pushes everybody because no one’s place is safe and you want that in a team because it gives you more competition and makes everyone perform that bit extra,” said the captain [Rangers.co.uk].
Plenty of young and fringe players received opportunities early on in pre-season but Kelly stood out from the crowd with his composure and ability on the ball.
Gerrard now has a genuine decision to make in terms of whether or not he keeps the young midfielder with the group for 2021/22.
In the short term, a departure is unlikely, given that Ryan Jack and Joe Aribo are currently out injured.
However, it’s important that Kelly isn’t just kept around all season simply as a backup, as that may do more harm than good to his development.
Another midfielder impressed Rangers fans over the weekend, with a piece of skill against Real Madrid a particular highlight.