of their centre midfielders?
Rangers continued their activity in the summer transfer market by capturing Liverpool starlet Ovie Ejaria…
We’ve seen a number of comings and goings at Ibrox this summer. Steven Gerrard has wasted no time rebuilding his team and separating the wheat from the chaff. Many departures have been expected, but one has taken a number of people by surprise and that is the potential exit of Greg Docherty.
The 21-year-old has been told by Gerrard to find a new club for the season in order to guarantee himself game time. The Rangers boss admitted to Docherty that he’s slipped down his midfield pecking order. The one positive for the midfielder is that Gerrard insisted he is part of his long-term vision at Ibrox.
With Ovie Ejaria, Scott Arfield and Lassana Coulibaly all arriving in the south side of Glasgow something was going to have to give. Jason Holt has already departed and Andy Halliday will, surely, leave the club at some stage this summer. Docherty’s position perhaps also hasn’t been helped by the return of Ryan Jack from injury.
But is sending him out on loan the best option? Gerrard clearly thinks he has the talent to succeed at the Light Blues, so why not nurture him in the here an now? You’d think if anyone could develop a centre-midfielder with raw talent it would be Steven Gerrard. Similarly, this is a player on a long-term deal whereas the likes of Ejaria and Coulibaly may not be at Ibrox next season. Why not start building your long-term vision now?
Sunderland are reportedly the favourites to land Docherty on loan and perhaps a season with Jack Ross in League One could help him continue his development. However, is loaning out the ex-Hamilton player the best option for the club and is it beneficial for the player?
It’s a tough one. On the one hand, the 21-year-old needs to be playing regularly in order to develop and that now doesn’t seem likely at Ibrox this season. It must be slightly disheartening for the youngster given the way Gerrard has set up his team looks to perfectly suit his style of play. A high and constant press is something Docherty would be excellent at. After all, his fitness and physicality are two of his strongest attributes. He is a raw talent and rough around the edges but, if developed, could still prove useful in this Rangers side.
In reality, however, a loan move away from Rangers seems the likeliest option. And for all intents and purposes, this could be beneficial to Docherty. The main thing is he ensures he goes to a club where he’ll get regular game time and is likely to improve before his return to Ibrox. For example, Kilmarnock seems like it would be a good fit as Steve Clarke would know exactly how to use him and they could use a player with his energy and physical presence in their midfield.
Furthermore, a good example of a Rangers player who benefitted significantly from a loan move is current goalkeeper Allan McGregor. The Scotland international enjoyed loan spells at both St Johnstone and Dunfermline before returning to Ibrox and becoming a first-team regular.
Conversely, the problem with this is that there’s actually no guarantee of game time elsewhere. Say he does go to Sunderland, who says he’ll be starting every game? We also don’t know how Jack Ross will fare in English football so if he were to depart, Docherty could be left with little game time away from Rangers under a coach that never signed him.
In that case, surely battling for a place at Rangers would be better? He’d be training with his teammates, improving under Gerrard and getting an idea of what the latter’s plans for the club are. In essence, the loan idea is great on paper, but it’s not as black and white as that.
As previously mentioned, Rangers aren’t short of options in the middle of the park. I wrote an article about how Ejaria’s arrival at Ibrox was a damning indictment of their central midfielders given that the Liverpool youngster is pretty inexperienced. It turns out there might be some truth in that given Holt and Docherty look they’ll both be out on loan and Halliday is still expected to leave.
That said, Ejaria is a completely different player from Docherty and it’s much more likely Coulibaly’s move to Govan is what has knocked the 21-year-old down the pecking order. Moreover, Rangers still have Graham Dorrans to return and it’s difficult to see where he fits in Gerrard’s side.
So in terms of sheer numbers, Rangers won’t miss Docherty, but his playing style is different from many of the aforementioned midfielders. Nobody is saying he’d be the first name on the team sheet, but he certainly has a lot to offer the Ibrox club. It appears that Coulibaly’s arrival may have been the final nail in the coffin for Docherty so to speak. However, what’s slightly troubling is that nobody has seen the Mali international perform for Rangers yet. He could be excellent, but by the same token, he could struggle to adapt or make an impact in Scotland.
With that point in mind, it’s important to stress that Ejaria and Coulibaly are both loan signings. This is surely part of the problem at Rangers where they aren’t building a stable squad? Here you have two players who are, in all honestly, unlikely to playing at Ibrox next season but they take precedence over a young Scottish player on a long-term contract. Rather than chopping and changing why not focus on developing Docherty into your long-term vision rather than putting it off for another year?
Similarly, and it’s not a point to dwell on, but Andy Halliday is still at Ibrox. It’d be shocking if Rangers started the campaign with Halliday at the club especially when he’s certainly less of a player than Docherty; and Holt for that matter. A number of fans seem to be frustrated by this, but Halliday won’t be starting week-in-week-out if he remains at the club. He’ll surely be there for back up. However, therein lies the point. Say Rangers suffer a few injuries in the middle of the park. The majority, if not all, would rather have Docherty there to fill in than Halliday.
The bottom line is that Docherty’s move away could be beneficial so long as he finds a club that where he’ll get game time. He seems like the kind of player who will work hard wherever he is and wants to keep improving. Moreover, he has all the attributes to be a top player for Rangers. In the short term, his departure may not affect Rangers at all as they currently have numerous midfield options. However were they to be struck by injuries or some of their loan signings flop then it may come back to bite them.