Gordon Smith: Will Ferguson return to haunt Rangers this season?

Lewis Ferguson in action for Aberdeen (SNS Group)

A HEFTY win for either Rangers or Aberdeen in the game of the weekend at Pittodrie this afternoon and people will rush to acclaim second place as good as sealed.

That will be a mistake.

Last season Rangers took 10 points off the Dons in the head-to-heads – and still finished below them.

What should be of more interest is the respective way the two sides are developing.

I say that because what we will be watching will be two teams in transition.

The arrival of Steven Gerrard in the summer ushered in a revolution in terms of the Ibrox club’s squad.

With the board’s backing, the new manager wasted no time at all in overhauling the group he inherited.

While it hasn’t been a tale of big-money buys, he has effectively brought in an entire team.

That has been no surprise.

As the statistic about their record against the Dons last season underlines, Rangers were not good enough last term.

They lost far too many games they should have been winning and dropped far too many points at home.

But how good are the players they have brought in?

Even in these early days, I think we can be say Allan McGregor, Connor Goldson, Nikola Katic and Scott Arfield all look good pick-ups.

Likewise, that of those who played last season, James Tavernier, Jamie Murphy (who was on loan from Brighton but has now been signed on a permanent deal) and Ryan Jack will be regulars in Gerrard’s side.

I think it’s also fair to assume Jon Flanagan and Lassana Coulibaly will also feature frequently.

Long term, I see Flanagan being deployed at right-back, with Tavernier pushed up one and Declan John in at left-back.

It is the others who the jury is out on.

Take Alfredo Morelos, Josh Windass, Graham Dorrans and Daniel Candeias. All have talent. All are also inconsistent.

Ovie Ejaria, the loan from Liverpool, hasn’t shown much yet. Umar Sadiq, the loan from Roma, hasn’t really had the chance to do so.

Glenn Middleton has shown skills in flashes. I don’t know Ryan Kent at all, but his reputation suggests he is another decent young player.

So there is, at the very least, the nucleus of a decent Rangers team there.

The way the defence has tightened up already suggests, too, that the new backroom staff know their business.

I think to close the gap on Celtic, even to an extent, Rangers are going to need more of the creative players to step up.

Where better to show they are ready to do so than at Pittodrie?

Aberdeen v Rangers is one of the best fixtures we have to offer, and I am very much looking forward to being at the match.

On the basis of last season’s form, the visitors will be slight favourites.

The Dons have, after all, lost Kenny McLean, Ryan Christie – who has returned to Celtic at the end of his loan – and Adam Rooney.

It hasn’t all been one-way traffic, though.

On Thursday night, we saw one of their new signings, Lewis Ferguson, score a spectacular goal at Burnley with an overhead kick.

Having started against an English Premier League team, I would expect him to be involved again today, and if he repeats the trick it will be an embarrassment for Rangers.

They had him as a kid before he switched to Hamilton Accies, and through his father, Derek, and Uncle Barry, they have strong links to the player.

It is a little early to get carried away about him yet, but at 18 years old, Lewis is a great prospect.

Six years older, Mikey Devlin – a pick-up from Ferguson’s former club Hamilton in January but new in that he is only just fit to play – is different in that he offers valuable experience alongside Scott McKenna, Aberdeen brightest young player.

I am a big fan of the latter and believe that holding on to him is key to the Dons’ chances this season.

Even if they do, though, I’d still be picking Rangers to come out on top over the piece.

Under Steven Gerrard’s charge, momentum is building.