Rangers legend Ian Durrant arrived to give us a hand as we announced our exciting new sponsorship deal with East Stirlingshire F.C.
Ladbrokes News took the opportunity to chat with the former Scotland international ahead of the Gers’ Scottish League Cup clash with East Stirlingshire this weekend.
Having been involved with the coaching set-up at Ibrox, the 49-year-old gives us the inside scoop on Rangers’ next breakout stars, as well as discussing Aberdeen’s title chances, Scotland’s World Cup 2018 hopes and more…
Ladbrokes News: You’ve obviously been involved in bringing many of the brightest young talents through the Rangers youth set-up –the likes of Nathan Oduwa, Jordan Thompson, etc. Who do you think will be the next breakout stars from the Ibrox youth set-up?
Ian Durrant: Barry McKay is certainly a real talent, and Ryan Hardie is another lad who has really stood out. Then you’ve got Liam Burt and Jamie Barjonas in midfield – both of whom have a lot of skill.
Ross and Robby McCrorie are also a pair of excellent lads who will be pushing hard to try and get into the squad. I think they definitely have the quality to begin to get game time in the first team. The important thing is consistently producing performances which will catch the manager’s eye.
Barry broke through last season and showed that the opportunities are there for young players at Rangers and that they’ll be rewarded with more games if they can grasp that opportunity.
LN: The bookies have the Old Firm sides as the two favourites in the betting for next year’s Ladbrokes Premiership title. So can you see Aberdeen, Hearts or any other sides upsetting the odds to win the league?
ID: On their day, Aberdeen and Hearts can be more than a match for the Old Firm, especially at Pittodrie and Tynecastle, and the Dons in particular have run Celtic close in the past couple of seasons.
I think with Celtic having Brendan Rodgers in charge, and the added strength of Rangers, the others have a tough task, but it’s certainly possible. The only certainty is that we’ll see a very strong league this year!
LN: So do you see Rangers seriously challenging for the title in their first season back in the Ladbrokes Premiership?
ID: Getting a good start is crucial. They need to get points on the board early and stay close to Celtic until the first Old Firm game [September 10]. It’s going to be a tough season for them, with the step up in quality of their opponents.
But the squad Rangers have assembled is more than capable of a success this season. The likes of Joey Barton, Nico Kranjcar, and Clint Hill are players who can sustain a high level of performance, so they’ll be crucial if the club are to put in a strong challenge this season.
LN: Another of your old sides, Kilmarnock, avoided the drop last season. How impressed have you been by the way that Lee Clark has begun to turn the side around? And how high do you think they can finish in the Ladbrokes Premiership this season?
ID: I was at Rugby Park when they beat Falkirk 4-0 in the play-offs, and Killie were excellent that day.
They didn’t start well last year, and they were chasing their tails a bit – but Lee has brought in 11 new faces this summer and there are some really talented players in that squad. I think if they can hit the ground running, they’ll get a top-six finish.
LN: Obviously missing out on Euro 2016 was a real blow for Scotland, but the draw for World Cup 2018 qualifying (alongside England, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, and Malta) looks a manageable one. Are you confident we’ll see the national side in Brazil come summer 2018?
ID: We need to take something off of England, and we can definitely cause them problems at Hampden. Scotland’s achilles heel has always been away games. If Gordon [Strachan] can solve that issue and make us better travellers, then there’s no reason we can’t make Russia.
LN: Now that you have left Rangers do you have any plans to return to coaching and would you prefer to stay looking after the youngsters or would you consider a first team management role?
ID: There’s nothing in the pipeline right now – I’m just enjoying having a break from the game. However, if an offer comes along for a coaching or managerial role, I’ll definitely consider it.
I’ve always enjoyed working in football, and I’m willing to look at any avenues within the game. I am someone who has always adapted quickly to roles in football, so even if a role emerged outside of the UK, I might take it – provided it felt like the right fit for me.
Meanwhile, it’s 3/1 for the Ibrox outfit to win this season’s Ladbrokes Premiership – a feat which certainly wouldn’t leave a certain Mr. Durrant surprised!
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing