Friday night’s William Hill Scottish Cup tie between Rangers and Stranraer will provide one of Scottish football’s most-distinctive talents with a return to the limelight – three years on from his retirement!
A man once memorably described as having more ink on him than a paperback book, Ryan Stevenson was a tattooed talisman for, among others, Hearts, Ayr United, Partick Thistle and St Johnstone.
His attacking flair made him a favourite wherever he played, and his appearance as a goalkeeper for Raith Rovers only succeeded in enhancing his cult status.
All that looked to have ended, though, when he announced his retirement in March, 2017, at the age of just 32.
He did indeed spend over a year-and-a-half out of the game. But after a restorative spell playing for fun in the Junior ranks with Troon, he is back in the senior game once again.
“People look at Ryan and what they see is all the tattoos on his arms and neck,” said Stranraer manager Stevie Farrell, the man behind the comeback.
“But he is a fantastic footballer, one I have always admired,”
“He did have issues in his personal life, but got through it, and was really enjoying his football again.
“We had a good relationship at Dumbarton, where I was Steve Aitken’s No. 2, and I just felt Ryan would be good for me – and I would be good for him.
“And he has already shown it. He played 50 minutes against Clyde and was excellent, creating two of our goals, just through his intelligence.
“Now it is Rangers at Ibrox, and I can promise you that won’t faze him. If he gets an opportunity there, I would certainly back him to take it.”
It is a view confirmed by Stevenson himself.
“Ibrox is my favourite place to play and I can’t wait for this tie,” he said.
“I have been there a few times. I have won a couple, lost a few and I was unlucky enough to score an own goal when I went there with Hearts.
“I am not a Rangers fan. I support Ayr United, so getting the chance to play for them was very special to me.
“But there is so much about Ibrox I love.
“The history, the tradition, the atmosphere, the scale of the place.
“I knew about this draw when I came to Stranraer, so it was a possibility.
“I am 35 years old, so you’d have to think it will not only be my last chance to play at Ibrox, but my final experience of that level.
“That’s fine. If I am honest, I did this so my two boys – Carter (7) and Brady (4) – could see that their dad could kick a ball a bit.
“I was lucky enough to have a good career. This is a brilliant bonus for me.”
Blessed with a second chance, the Scot is frank about the thinking that caused him to give up in 2017.
“I was scunnered, not just with football but with life, really,” he said.
“Then things began to turn for me, starting with the day job.
“I set up a factor company which took off, and with that bit of my life sorted, I decided to give it one last bash with Troon Juniors.
“That rekindled my passion for the game, and I have been loving it ever since.
“I got back in among the goals, and from that, the chance came to play in the seniors again with Stranraer.
“So I am back and feeling great.
“I know it won’t last forever, but I’m going to enjoy it for as long as I can.”
Friday night will also give Stevenson an opportunity to enjoy a bit of good-natured banter with a former team-mate.
“Allan McGregor is a close friend of mine,” said Ryan.
“We became pally at St Johnstone, where he came on loan from Rangers back in 2004-05, and we have stayed in regular contact ever since.
“He has been an exceptional footballer throughout his career. But he has been especially good this season.
“You see his performances in the games against Celtic, and it is the perfect example of a great player doing it on the biggest stage.
“I hope his performances help Rangers win the title. Not just for the club, but for Greegsy himself.
“Who knows, perhaps they might view the Scottish Cup as a distraction and just concentrate on that aim!
“If I could score a goal past him, that would be even better.”
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