WITH James Tavernier and Jon Flanagan ahead of him in the pecking order at Rangers and the Ibrox club currently involved in a neck-and-neck Scottish title race with Celtic, Nathan Patterson will be doing well to make more first team appearances in the months ahead.

The 18-year-old certainly impressed on his debut for the Glasgow giants in a William Hill Scottish Cup game against third tier Stranraer on Friday night and showed exactly why so many in the game have such high hopes for him.

Yet, featuring in a Ladbrokes Premiership match, never mind a Europa League game, will be a far taller order for the youngster. It will be entirely understandable if his manager Steven Gerrard prefers Tavernier or, while his captain is out, Flanagan to Patterson.

The defender, though, is undeterred by the challenges he faces. He has seen how Trent Alexander-Arnold has fought off stiff opposition for the right back berth at Liverpool and established himself at Anfield in the past few seasons despite his tender years.

Closer to home, he has also been impressed by how Jeremie Frimpong, who only turned 19 last month, has forced his way into the Celtic side in the 2019/20 campaign and featured in some big games for the Parkhead club in his specialist position.

Patterson admitted yesterday, as the Rangers Youth Development Company presented a cheque for £450,000 to the Ibrox club’s youth department at the Hummel Training Centre, that the success of Alexander-Arnold and Frimpong has encouraged him.

The Scotland Under-19 defender is determined to build on his positive start to his senior career and play again.

“I looked up to Dani Alves when I was younger,” he said. “But now I look up to Trent Alexander-Arnold more. He came through the youths at Liverpool and plays in a style that I like to play. He likes to attack, but he can also defend as well

“I like to watch other players to see what I can pick up on and put into my game and see if I can make myself better. I just like to watch him (Alexander-Arnold) because he’s a great player. He is obviously at a massive club as well.

“What he has done shows that if you are good enough and you are willing you can go as far as you can. It doesn’t matter what age you are as long as you are ready and willing to take risks and do the best that you can. It will pay off.”

Asked about Frimpong, Patterson said: “I just want to be like him basically – to be playing in cup finals and big pressure games. That is what you want – to be playing in great games. That is the best way to be. Pressure is good. You just need to take that pressure into a game and perform.”

Patterson, who featured in a friendly against Lokomotiv Tashkent during Rangers’ winter training camp in Dubai earlier this month, got his chance because Tavernier is sidelined after undergoing a minor procedure on his appendix. He revealed his club captain has been encouraging.

“He has been great,” he said. “He has been playing really well this season. But I just filled in for him and played the way I have to play. He always speaks to me. I always watch and see what I can pick up on in his game and try to integrate that into my game.”

Several Rangers kids have either gone out on loan or moved on during the January transfer window in order to get regular game time. Patterson refused to rule out doing the same thing in future. But his immediate aim is to play for Gerrard’s side.

“My objective is just to play for Rangers first team,” he said. “If going on loan gets me closer to the Rangers first team then I will do that. But meanwhile I will just get my head down and try to get in and around the Rangers first team.

“I have just played in front of 40,000. It was great. I am getting used to the pressure of playing in front of so many fans. I just want to keep going. I felt as if I was pushing on and doing well. I just grabbed the chance.

“This is the club I love and this is the club I want to play for. When the opportunity came up to sign a deal with this club that would keep me here for a while there was no other thought in my mind.”

Patterson signed a new contract that keeps him at Ibrox until 2022 last month. He admitted that show of faith in him had boosted his confidence. “It is great,” he said. “It gives you that wee bit more inside you. It makes me want to go on and show they were right to believe in me.”

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