WHAT a difference a year has made for Rangers midfielder Ross McCrorie.
Last January he was about to leave Ibrox for a loan spell at Dumbarton – and he wasn’t sure if he’d be coming back.
But hard work, dedication and the advice of a Rangers legend helped to transform the 19-year-old’s career.
McCrorie is currently in America with the Light Blues to take part in the Florida Cup.
The trip comes just a week after he signed a new four-and-a-half year contract, and was widely praised for his performance in the Old Firm match at Parkhead.
Former Rangers midfielder Ian Durrant has been a huge influence on this rising star.
McCrorie explained: “When I was with the Rangers Under-17s, he was the one that moved me up to the Under-20s.
“He then made me captain of that team.
“When I went out on loan to Ayr United in 2016, he assured me that if I kept working hard, then I’d make it. That gave me great belief.
“Ian Durrant’s a Rangers legend, so I took his word for it. He took me under his wing when I was one of the younger ones in the Under-20s.
“It was a huge confidence boost. I knew he had seen something in me when he took me aside for chats.”
The pair teamed up again 12 months ago in a move McCrorie wasn’t certain was right for him.
He went on: “I got a phone call from Durranty the day before the transfer window closed, and he asked if I wanted to join him again – because he’d just left Rangers to become assistant manager at Dumbarton.
“It was unexpected and I wasn’t sure about another loan move. It helped that Ian was there.
“The reason I wasn’t sure was because I was so desperate to get a chance at Rangers.
“I was a bit disappointed about having to go back out on loan.
“There was a fear when I went to Dumbarton that I might not come back to Rangers.
“I’m not going to lie. I worried that I might not get a chance here after that.
“But looking back, I probably wasn’t ready and Dumbarton helped me come on leaps and bounds.
“Going there was an eye-opener at first. But it’s a great club and they made me feel so welcome.”
McCrorie started out as a defender, but Rangers boss Graeme Murty has been using him as a holding midfield player.
It’s a position that’s not entirely new to him.
He said: “Ian Durrant had seen me playing midfield for Rangers Under-17s and then at Ayr, so he knew I could do a job in there.
“He was more of an attacking midfielder and his best advice was just to get stuck in!
“In a playing sense, I learned about game management at Dumbarton.
“We were at the lower end of the Championship, playing against teams who were better than us.
“You learn how to see games out.”
Pedro Caixinha’s time as Rangers manager will mostly be remembered for the embarrassing European defeat in Luxembourg and his love of Portuguese proverbs.
But bringing Ross McCrorie into the first-team squad could prove to be the one bright spot of his tenure.
McCorie said: “I don’t think Mark Warburton fancied me, but I respected his opinion. He felt I wasn’t ready and he was probably right at the time.
“Pedro came in and gave me an opportunity.
“I think he saw something in training.
“I did pre-season with the first team and played in the games. I’m thankful to him for giving me the chance.”
It’s a chance McCrorie is determined not to waste.
He said: “There were a lot of ex-Rangers boys at Dumbarton, players like Tom Lang, Callum Gallagher and Tom Walsh.
“I was thinking: ‘They’ve been at Rangers and haven’t quite made the grade’. I didn’t want to be like that and it made me push even harder.
“I wanted to be different from them and make the most of my chance.”
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe