Old Firm loan review: In-depth look at how Rangers and Celtic youngsters / first-team players are faring at their respective clubs

Both Old Firm clubs have a combined total of 17 players out on loan deals

As the loan transfer window in Scotland closed yesterday, a number of Rangers and Celtic players, including some household names, have already spent time on temporary deals at new clubs over the first few months of the 2021/22 season.

Light Blues manager Steven Gerrard is tracking the progress of ten fringe players, while Hoops boss Ange Postecoglou will be keeping tabs on seven of his Parkhead stars as they look to continue their development with regular first-team football.

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With competition for places fiercely competitive at both Old Firm clubs, it has been a challenging period for youngsters itching to make their first-team breakthrough.

The opportunity to develop their rising talent elsewhere across the country or even abroad will enable both sets of players a platform for them to improve and ultimately return to challenge for starting place.

Here, we take a look at how a blend of youthful & experienced Old Firm players are progressing:

RANGERS

CEDRIC ITTEN– Greuther Furth

The Swiss striker grew frustrated over his lack of game time at Ibrox as he struggled to hold down a regular spot in the team with Alfredo Morelos, Kemar Roofe and new recruit Fashion Sakala all preferred options.

Itten scored on his first appearance for newly promoted Bundesliga club Greuther Furth. Stepped off the bench against champions Bayern Munich last Friday to head in a consolation during the 3-1 defeat but he stated afterwards it was “one of the highlights of my career.” Many Gers fans will feel Itten still has a big part to play upon his return to Glasgow.

NIKOLA KATIC – Hajduk Split

The Croatian defender returned to his homeland after his time at Rangers was plagued by a serious knee injury which saw him miss the entirety of last season. Now back to full fitness, Katic is regaining his match sharpness in the Hrvatski Telekom Prva Liga (Croatian top-flight) and has helped his new side to six wins from nine games as they sit a solitary point of top spot in the table. It is reported Rangers have an option to recall Katic in the January transfer window.

Nikola Katic in action for Rangers B during a recent SPFL Trust Trophy match against Dumbarton. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

GLENN MIDDLETON – St Johnstone

Back at McDiarmid Park for a second spell after his successful first six-month stint which saw him part with both Scottish Cup and Scottish League Cup winners’ medals. Started both legs against Austrian side LASK as Saints crashed out of the Europa League last month and has been a regular starter for Callum Davidson’s side. A second-half substitute against Hibernian on Sunday.

JAKE HASTIE – Partick Thistle

The speedy winger has endured a frustrating start to life at Firhill after joining the Scottish Championship outfit last month. Has seen just 37 minutes of action after making two substitute appearances against Morton and Inverness. Hastie has missed the Jags last two games through injury but is now back in training and in line to return against Ayr United this weekend.

JOSH McPAKE – Morcambe

Another talented attacker who has been on the fringes of the first team and is a part of Steven Gerrard’s plans moving forward after committing his future to Rangers until the summer of 2024 in the summer. The Scotland Under-21 international is plying his trade in English League One with the Shrimps, managed by former Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson, on a season-long loan. The majority of his appearances so far have come from the bench. Unused substitute in Tuesday night’s 2-0 win over Lincoln City.

BEN WILLIAMSON – Livingston

Highly rated midfielder who shone during his stint at Arbroath last season and has stepped up to the Premiership after moving to Livingston for the season. Has enjoyed a productive month with David Martindale’s side, starting their last three league games against Dundee, Celtic and Hearts.

LEWIS MAYO – Partick Thistle

Jags boss Ian McCall has always admitted to being an admirer of the 21-year-old centre-half, who returned to Firhill for a second spell. First stint was cut short due to the Covid pandemic but enjoyed a successful stay at Dunfermline last season where he featured 26 times. Has continued his progress after starting all bar one of Thistle’s Championship fixtures to date.

KAI KENNEDY – Dunfermline

Another Gers academy product who has penned a new deal, which will keep him at Ibrox until 2023. Had to wait over a month to make his first start from the outset against Arbroath but has kept his spot in a struggling Pars side that have drawn their last three games.

JAMES MAXWELL – Ayr United

Promising left-back who was one of a number of youngsters to train with the Gers first team during pre-season. Joined his hometown club under previous manager David Hopkin in July, with his first appearance coming as a late second-half substitute during the Ayrshire derby defeat to Kilmarnock. Started games against Arbroath, Raith Rovers, Dunfermline but has been an unused sub in recent weeks.

JACK THOMSON – Queen’s Park

An attacking midfielder who has gained valuable experience with Orange County SC in California after both clubs formed a strategic partnership in December 2019. Has nailed down a regular start in the Spiders engine room and scored in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Peterhead.

CELTIC

LEIGH GRIFFITHS – Dundee

Hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons last week after making the Deadline Day switch to Dens Park. Charged by the Scottish FA for excessive misconduct after allegedly kicking a smoke bomb off the pitch and into the stand housing St Johnstone’ supporters during the Dees 2-0 defeat. Has failed to score in his first four appearances.

Leigh Griffiths has yet to score on his return to Dundee.

SCOTT ROBERTSON – Crewe Alexandra

Exciting prospect who has returned to League One in England for a third time after receiving glowing reviews during previous spells at Gillingham and Doncaster Rovers. Has started all six matches for the Railwaymen since joining David Artell’s side at the end of August. Looks to have a bright future ahead of him at Parkhead.

ROSS DOOHAN – Tranmere Rovers

Now in his seventh loan spell away from Celtic, the 23-year-old goalkeeper was reunited with former Dundee United boss Micky Mellon who took the youngster to Tannadice on an emergency loan last season. Has been in terrific form in recent weeks, keeping back-to-back clean sheets against Salford City and Forest Green since regaining the gloves.

JONATHAN AFOLABI – Ayr United

Republic of Ireland Under-21 international who boasts potential but has barely had a first-team opportunity of note since joining Celtic in August 2019. Has endured a challenging start to life with the Somerset Park men having failed to find the net in four substitute appearances and was sent off against Raith Rovers on September 7. Has failed to make the matchday squad since.

LEE O’CONNOR – Tranmere Rovers

Former Manchester United youth player who arrived at Parkhead in the summer of 2019 and was seemingly destined for big things but still hasn’t made a single competitive appearance. Back at Rovers for a second loan spell, the defender featured for the first time against Leeds United Under-21s in the EFL Trophy. Unused substitute in last two games.

LUCA CONNELL – Queen’s Park

Creative midfielder who shone during his loan spell last season, scoring three goals in 11 appearances on route to helping the Spiders secure the League Two title. Returned to Laurie Ellis’ side a fortnight ago. Has started recent games against Clyde and Peterhead on the bench but scored in Saturday’s 3-2 win over the Blue Toon.

KERR McINROY – Airdrieonians

With his contract set to expire next summer, the midfielder’s Parkhead career could be drawing to a end. McInroy has been at the Hoops since the age of 12 and featured for Celtic’s B team in the SPFL Trust Trophy this season. He was part of manager Ange Postecoglou’s pre-season programme and will now look to earn a new deal by impressing on short-term loan with the Diamonds. In line to make his debut against Clyde on Saturday.