Rangers babe Lewis is on Macleod nine

IT is only a few months since Lewis Macleod was given his first taste of Rangers first-team action with the Light Blue legions introduced to a name many would have been unfamiliar with.

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Lewis has been a star for McCoist's Rangers team in the Third Division this term
Lewis has been a star for McCoist's Rangers team in the Third Division this term

Now the midfielder has firmly established himself as a key member of Ally McCoist's squad and has the Ibrox crowd talking about the potential star Gers have on their hands.

When the Rangers gaffer named the youngster in his squad for an SPL game at Fir Park in March, it marked the first step on the road to stardom for the 18-year-old, even though he didn't come off the bench in the 2-1 victory.

Macleod's progression to the Rangers starting line-up has been a long time in the making, with years put in to turning him into the prospect he is today, with him emerging as one of the brightest young talents in the Scottish game.

It may have taken the club's drop down into the Irn-Bru Third Division for his dream to become a reality, but the midfielder has quickly grabbed his chance to impress, featuring in every one of the league and cup fixtures McCoist's side have played this season.

The speed of his rise will have undoubtedly surprised many, with even the man himself admitting that his aims for the campaign amounted to just training with the first team squad at Murray Park and attempting to catch the eye.

Those hopes have been surpassed and then some, with the Gers kid proving to be one of the major plus points of the campaign thus far for McCoist and Rangers.

Macleod's ambitions have come to life in a short space of time and the midfielder, who was last week named the Irn-Bru Young Player of the Month for November, is now eager to continue his rise.

He said: "I have been at Rangers since I was 10. At the end of last season, I was on the bench against Motherwell and I was just looking to train with the first team in the next year or two.

"If I wasn't getting a game, I would have liked to have gone out on loan.

"But it [dropping to the Third Division] has worked out well for the young boys, it is good that they are getting experience coming through the leagues.

"I have played every game and to be playing for Rangers, especially at Ibrox, is a dream come true. The crowds have been fantastic as well.

"I am straight in at the deep end. In the first couple of games I was a bit nervous, but I think I am getting used to it.

"I am playing more games and experience comes from that. I am getting used to it now that I have played 20-odd times.

"If we were still in the SPL and I wasn't playing, I would maybe have looked to have gone out on loan to a First, Second or Third Division team.

"It is good that I am still at Rangers, but playing in these leagues. I think it will stand me in good stead for going back to the top.

"I am happy that it has happened so quickly. I think I have adapted quite well to it. It would have been a lot harder if I hadn't got used to it and I had struggled.

"I don't really get recognised. It is something I will have to get used to if, and when, it happens."

While Macleod has impressed in the first team, it has been a mixed season so far for the majority of McCoist's men, with the league leaders only just finding their form and looking to stretch their advantage at the top of the Third Division.

Life in the bottom tier has taken some getting used to for many of the Rangers squad, with their imperious home form offset, in the opening weeks of the campaign at least, by their shocking record on the road.

It has been a school of hard knocks on many occasions this season as the Light Blues have had to get used to some rough treatment being dished out.

And Macleod has been no different as he has patrolled the middle of the park with aplomb this term, with the 18-year-old full of praise for the manner in which his fellow team-mates have coped.

He said: "David Templeton got a few kicks against Stirling. The four players that fouled him all got booked.

"It has been hard. It has been a lot more physical than when I played Under-19s last season.

"I don't know how it compares to the SPL, but I think I have handled it quite well, even though there have been some tough challenges."

Having dealt with all the Third Division has to throw at him and cemented his place as one of Rangers' key players, Macleod is now able to set his sights on greater challenges, with appearances in the dark blue of Scotland his next aim as he attempts to further enhance his burgeoning reputation.

The midfielder had already represented his country at four different levels before being handed his maiden call-up to the U21 squad ahead of their friendly clash with Portugal in November, a match that also saw Ibrox peer Barrie McKay get recognition for his blistering early-season form.

The Gers duo have helped the U19 side qualify for the elite round of the European Championships, which will be held in Lithuania next year.

The Scotland boys have been handed a tough group which includes an Auld Enemy clash against England for the May showpiece that will see all three ties played in five days.

Wins over Armenia, Romania and Switzerland booked Scotland's place at the finals, and Macleod is keen to continue starring for his country.

He said: "The group has just been drawn and we have got England, Belgium and Georgia. It is something to look forward to.

"We played England in the Victory Shield and they beat us 2-1. It will be good to play against them. They have got a lot of really good young players.

"I was delighted to get called up to the 21s, we were unlucky against Portugal.

"I might not be in the next couple of squads, but I am looking to push on to try and get in there."

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