Rangers’ centre-forward options look set to be trimmed with the imminent departure of teenager Zak Rudden.
Football Insider reported this morning that the 19-year-old has agreed personal terms on a permanent transfer to Partick Thistle and is due to have a medical before the move is completed. The youngster, who was on loan at English League Two side Plymouth since August, signed a contract extension at Ibrox last year but that is due to expire in the summer (as per Football Insider).
Rudden is a graduate of the Rangers academy but never made a first team appearance, with the closest he came to a senior debut when he was an unused substitute for a Europa League qualifier against FC Shkupi in July 2018. He had a decent return of 12 goals in 31 games on loan at Falkirk last season and spent the first half of the current campaign on loan at Plymouth, where he was in and out of the first team and managed just two goals in the English fourth tier.
His impending permanent departure from Rangers highlights the continued reluctance of first team manager Steven Gerrard to trust in the club’s youth. Only two players aged 21 or under have featured competitively for the first team this season, with Josh McPake and Jake Hastie getting just 92 minutes between them, and they have since been on loan at Dundee and Rotherham respectively. Aside from McPake, Lewis Mayo is the only other teenager to make a first team matchday squad this season and he wasn’t called from the bench against St Joseph’s in Europa League qualifying.
By contrast, Gerrard has given more than 1,000 minutes to four players over the age of 30 this season, with two of those (Allan McGregor and Scott Arfield) among the five most-used players at Rangers in the current campaign (as per TransferMarkt). Gerrard may be in the infancy of his managerial career, with this just his second full season in charge at senior level, but so far he has shown a lot more faith in veterans than young talents.
Rangers seem to have some very precocious youngsters bubbling under at Ibrox. Teenage defender Nathan Patterson signed a new contract last month, while 15-year-old Leon King has reportedly piqued the interest of big names from the English Premier League (as per The Athletic). Nathan Young-Coombes has stood out with his goalscoring exploits in the UEFA Youth League and Kai Kennedy was invited by Gerrard to travel with the senior squad for a league game against Hamilton a few weeks ago.
However, the decision to sell Rudden before he made a competitive senior appearance would indicate that Gerrard isn’t willing to give the youth ago if he feels they aren’t up to first team level. The teenager’s imminent departure, and the struggles of other youngsters for first team recognition, should serve as a warning to the current academy crop as to how hard it can be to get a break at Rangers these days.
Rangers fans, do you agree with the decision to sell Rudden or should he have been given a chance to prove his worth at Ibrox? Have your say in the comments section below!
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