Rangers’ youngest-ever player: Who is history-maker Bailey Rice? 16-year-old who was wanted by Manchester City and Celtic

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The youngster has made a bright impact since moving to Ibrox last summer and is regarded as one of Scottish football’s most exciting prospects

Bailey Rice etched his name into the Rangers history books in Saturday 3-0 Premiership victory over ten-man Livingston after the midfielder became the youngest ever player to feature in a league match for the Ibrox club.

Just 24 hours after captaining Scotland’s Under-17 side to a 7-0 thrashing over Switzerland in an international friendly, Rice was rewarded for his display with a place on the first-team bench by Light Blues boss Michael Beale for their trip to the Tony Macaroni Arena.

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James Tavernier scored twice for the visitors and Stephane Omeonga was sent off before Kemar Roofe tapped in a third goal after 85 minutes to ensure Rice was afforded a late run-out, making his debut at the age of just 16 years, four months and 14 days.

Rangers youngster Bailey Rice warms up (Image: SNS Group)Rangers youngster Bailey Rice warms up (Image: SNS Group)
Rangers youngster Bailey Rice warms up (Image: SNS Group)

In the process, he beat Tom Walsh’s previous record by 14 days after appearing in a Third Division match against Stirling Albion back in 2012.

However, Derek Ferguson still holds the record for becoming the youngest ever to play in a competitive match for Rangers during a League Cup encounter almost 40 years ago during an 8-0 Cup Winners’ Cup win over Maltese side Valetta in 1983.

GlasgowWorld profiles the highly-regarded youngster and what could follow as his meteoric rise continues.

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Who is Bailey Rice?

Regarded as one of Scottish football’s most promising young players, Rice shot to prominence in Motherwell’s famed academy system and attracted plenty of interest from a series of top teams in the UK. His rapid progression and was immediately noted by long-term admirers Manchester City, who faced stiff competition for his signature.

Scottish champions Celtic were also reportedly hoping to lure him to Parkhead before he opted to depart North Lanarkshire for Govan in the transfer window last summer and his decision has been a fruitful one thus far, proving his worth from the outset.

Rice has continued to further his development by making a number of appearances for the club’s B team in the Lowland League and UEFA Youth League, aged 15 last year. He took another major step forward in his fledgling career at the weekend, with his arrival at senior level a clear indication of how highly he is valued for both Rangers and Scotland.

What has been said about him?

Gers boss Michael Beale expressed his pride after watching Rice make his senior bow in West Lothian. The Englishman said: “He is only 16 and not often a young boy plays for Scotland in Spain on the Friday afternoon and then comes back to make his debut for Rangers on the Saturday. What a weekend for that young man. It is a pleasing moment for everyone who has worked with him and his family.”

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Motherwell were reluctant to let Rice depart last summer, with former Steelmen manager Steven Hammell, who worked closely with the players during his time as head of the academy, stated: “Although it’s disappointing to lose Bailey at this stage of his development, we respect his decision.

“On the flip side though, we are absolutely delighted that so many of the group we had earmarked for graduation into our professional set-up have placed their trust in us and the pathway we think we can provide to first-team football. We have already seen so many of them train and integrate with the first-team squad in the first week of pre-season and that’s something that should not only give them all encouragement, but additional hunger and desire to kick on.”

Which position does he play & where does he fit into Michael Beale’s plans?

Rice offers positional versatility and can operate both in defence and in several midfield roles. He previously admitted that Liverpool’s Fabinho and Manchester City’s Rodri were his role models, hitning that the player’s favoured position is at the base of a midfield. He already boasts a good presence and stature on the pitch and wearing the armband for his country suggests he brings strong communicaton and leadership skills.

What next for the teenager?

Motherwell youngster Bailey Rice, pictured in action for Scotland U17s, is wanted by Celtic and Rangers.  (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)Motherwell youngster Bailey Rice, pictured in action for Scotland U17s, is wanted by Celtic and Rangers.  (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Motherwell youngster Bailey Rice, pictured in action for Scotland U17s, is wanted by Celtic and Rangers. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

Wearing the number 92 jersey, Rice displayed some good touches during his brief cameo against Livingston. He follows in the footsteps of Paul Nsio and Zak Lovelace in getting an early taste of first-team action. However, history reflects that not all have gone on to live up to their early potential in Scottish football.

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In Rice’s case, it’s clear he already possess physical attritubes that will improve in the coming years with more game time. It seems likely there will be many more first-team opportunities on the horizon. His burgeoning potential is evident for all to see, ensuring a bright future in the game is a distinct possibility.

Who are Rangers top five youngest-ever players?

1- Derek Ferguson - September 14, 1983 (Valetta 0-8 Rangers) - 16 years, 1 month, 14 days

2- Bailey Rice - February 18, 2020 (Livingston 0-3 Rangers) - 16 years, 4 months, 14 days

3- Tom Walsh - December 8, 2012 (Rangers 2-0 Stirling Albion) - 16 years, 4 months, 27 days

4- Paul Nsio - August 30, 2022 (Rangers 3-1 Queen of the South) - 16 years, 5 months, 15 days

5- Zak Lovelace - August 30, 2022 (Rangers 3-1 Queen of the South) - 16 years, 7 months, 7 days

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