Barrie McKay, without doubt, is the player who has been most improved from the players that remained before Mark Warburton and Davie Weir assumed management control this summer. With Warburton allowing everyone a clean slate, Barrie impressed the management team in pre season, with an excellent attitude and application, something which many supporters had previously questioned.
In the summer of 2012 after administration and then liquidation of the holding company, Rangers were accepted to play in Division 3 (Scotland's fourth tier), at this point our supporters rallied behind our team in our thousands home and away and it was hoped while playing in the lower tiers we could blood in our academy youngsters, alas except for a few players this was not the case.
Going back a bit now to his childhood, Barrie grew up within a mixed household when it came to football clubs supported. Barrie and his father were the only bears while brother Daniel McKay is a Celtic fan and he had this to say back in 2012.
“He (Barrie) grew up a Rangers fan but you don’t need to put in who I support. It’s not Rangers anyway.”
Daniel then expanded on this with a tale of when he became a dad for the first time to his daughter Ella.
“Barrie actually came straight to the hospital after one of his games when Ella was born. He walked into the Southern General still wearing his Rangers tracksuit and I told him he could at least have got changed.”
As a youth, Barrie was performing to a high standard for Kilmarnock but when he was called in expecting some talk on a new contract, he was to be dealt a blow because Kilmarnock said that they were releasing him due to a possible hip problem although within days he was snapped up by his boyhood team Rangers.
Jumping forward to the 2012-2013 season and with Rangers in the fourth tier of Scottish football for the first time in their illustrious history, Barrie enjoyed being involved in the Ibrox first team and duly made 41 appearances in all competitions at the age of just 17. By September of that season, he had impressed enough to be given a new 5 year contract by Rangers after reportedly being watched by Premiership clubs Everton and Liverpool.
In the 2012-2013 league season he played 31 games and provided 1 goal and 12 assists, for a kid that was 17 years of age that is quite remarkable,especially when you factor in the style of our football and the huge pressures placed on his shoulders to be a creative outlet on top of playing in front of such a demanding crowd.
Rangers were promoted to League One, and for some reason Ally McCoist decided against using him as he played just 34 minutes in the 2013-2014 league season. In late December 2013, he was loaned to Championship side Greenock Morton (yes, a league above where we were) to gain valuable first-team action on a one-month loan, which was then extended until the end of the season with Morton being relegated.
In the six months that Barrie was at Morton, he made 18 appearances and provided 3 goals and 3 assists, with him producing dazzling displays to the opposite such is life as a wide man of a young age but inconsistency was an issue, and many people were at this point questioning his attitude and character.
In September 2014, he was loaned out to fellow Championship side Raith Rovers until 1st January 2015, which was extended until the end of the season. In the 2014-2015 season, he played 25 games and created 5 assists and hitting the back of the net twice, yet again there were impressive performances and games where nothing worked for him.
Feelings amongst both Raith and Morton fans are very mixed towards Barrie in terms of his time with each respective club. However, he has been rejuvenated by Mark Warburton, who instantly was impressed by McKay and since then he has been quite fantastic, playing wide left, wide right and number 10 and he has shown excellent attributes and flexibility and for me will be a devastating number 10 in the future.
Barrie had this to say in a recent interview where he laid bare his feelings about being sent away on loan for two seasons under the McCoist era.
“Being sent out on loan obviously benefited me because I got to go out and pick up some experience, but you do feel you're not really wanted at Rangers at the time and that you're not really needed”
What impresses me watching him is firstly his first touch is incredible and also his vision, many times he will fake going on the outside cut inside take his time and then pick a pinpoint pass for the overlapping captain Lee Wallace to either cut back or have a shot one on one.
When he is moved into the number 10 role, this happens for one or two reasons – the opposition have doubled up on him to restrict his ability to create as they fear him or as teams are tiring in last 30 minutes or so due to the way we dominate possession, more space opens up and we can break more directly and with his vision along with pace he can pick his pass perfectly and has started to finish off moves now too which is delightful – a clear example being the latest goal against Morton.
So far this season, he has made 29 appearances contributing 6 goals and 11 assists and is second only to Tavernier in our assists record, and as I’ve previously mentioned he has an excellent first touch and playing as we do with “inside forwards/wingers” Warburton asks his wide men to cut inside, which some fans see as Barrie not being confident to take his man on but he has added that to his game more recently and his goal against Cowdenbeath for example was a great solo run from inside his own half, he went on outside of first player then ghosted in between two players before applying the finish from just inside the box.
Barrie has also enjoyed international recognition in the form of call ups and appearances for various youth levels for Scotland over the last few years and his stunning form so far this season earned him a call up to the Scotland 21s.
As usual Scottish football supporters were supportive of a Rangers talent performing well to be called up to the Under 21 Scotland team, of course I was joking, they mocked the decision to call him up before he put in a confident display - Scottish football could very well hate itself to death.
Playing under Warburton in the attacking style we now play in, I can only see Barrie improving and he has a big game against Kilmarnock – a team he was released from in quite poor circumstances so he will want to prove a point and signing that new deal he is in talks currently about will be a massive boost for Rangers football club.
To conclude, we have a potential star in Barrie and it is some journey he has been on in terms of only turning 21 last month but with the right coaching and development he can reach to the very top levels in football. He is the bear who was unwanted by our previous management who never gave up and he scored our first goal in the fourth tier of Scottish football: how fitting would it be for him to score the goal that wins us the league and takes us back to where we belong?
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