Rangers: Academy lad extends contract until 2024

Rangers 19 year old right back Nathan Patterson has extended his contract until 2024, what does this mean for the club and academy?

As I’ve gotten old(er), I’ve seen first hand that the adage “age is but a number” sadly has it’s limitations. Being as young as you feel is nice and all, but does little to stop the receding hairline – I like to think of it as more of a protruding forehead – and doesn’t suddenly make you not look like a man-child when you try to step outdoors wearing the same hoodies and jeans you wore ten years prior. Goodness knows, I’ve tried.

That’s the big reason why a club, specifically Rangers of course, having an academy is so important. Players can’t fight the clock, unless you’re Zlatan Ibrahimovic who could well be every bit as immortal as he thinks he is, at this point. It’s not all about breeding home-grown natural replacements, most clubs these days have academies but still spend gazillions buying players from other clubs and their academies instead.

Nonetheless, it’s sure to bring a smile to any Bear’s face to hear young Nathan Patterson, not long 19 years old, has signed an extension to keep him at Ibrox until at least 2024. Indeed, Rangers fans won’t be the only ones celebrating, as manager Steven Gerrard had this to say, as quoted by the Scottish Herald;

“We have monitored Nathan’s progress closely over the past 18 months. His attitude is second to none, and I am particularly pleased with his desire to learn from his team mates especially our captain, James Tavernier.

Ross and I have discussed our plan with Nathan for the incoming 18 months and have made our expectations clear. Nathan is a strong example of our player pathway for those who are training with the first-team and in our Academy.”

There’s a good bit to digest here, but, suffice it to say that Patterson must have made a reasonable impression for Gerrard to go all in, as he has. Learning from Tav isn’t so surprising, given Nathan plays in the same position as the skipper, but is absolutely desirable on every level. I’d take 11 James Taverniers in my James Tavernier FC squad any day, please and thank you.

One big question mark, that Stevie G was smart to dismiss before it was even raised, is game time for the lad. With the current Rangers team absolutely packed with quality, going from strength to strength at home and abroad, and ultimately Tav being a stone wall blocking first team access – well, it can be a bit demoralising for youngsters who see no options now and in the future to break through.

Nonetheless, Gerrard, alongside Ross Wilson, seem to have a plan in mind, if for no other reason than that he should be an example to the academy lads that there is room in Rangers if the quality and hard work is there. Gerrard, to be fair, hasn’t shied away from playing Patterson even before this extension, giving the 19 year old some 20 minutes against Ross County last weekend and as much as 66 in the Europa League against Lech Poznan.

Now, of course, in all three of his appearances this season, Patterson has looked a bit raw. Poznan was his best outing, but even then his pass completion percentage was a bit off at 65%, the lowest on the park. He looked hungry though, winning more tackles than any other player and taking on more dribbles too – his marginally erratic passing can be more explained as a byproduct of how eager he really was and, ultimately, the fact he’s only 19.

And there’s the rub, while it’s exciting news it’s still only a project, albeit one that sounds very likely to bare fruit. There is a common theme to over-hype academy lads, this is universal with all clubs and colours. I suspect it’s likely because growing your own makes for a better success story, the moral high ground over buying success, or lack thereof in Celtic’s case this season.

Patience is the key here, the lad is still very young, still very raw, but has the chance to develop and learn in the best club, under the best manager and from the best player in Scottish football. We’ve got at least 5 more years to watch him develop in the role, so Bears should sit back, relax and enjoy the ride without piling pressure on him or the club. Trust me, it’s yet another thing that only gets easier as you get old(er).