THE dearth of quality natural left-sided players is one that has long bedevilled the Scottish game.

In particular, in recent times it has been a problem at Rangers.

The promising career of Stevie Smith has stalled through a succession of frustrating injuries just when the classy young defender seemed to be about to nail down the left-back position at Ibrox for years to come. Evra a model for modern wing-back By Bert Mitchell

GREGG WYLDE has revealed that he is trying to model his game on Manchester United full-back Patrice Evra.

The 17-year-old Rangers starlet reckons that the graveyard shift of the wing or full-back is the toughest in the beautiful game ... and that France international Evra is the prime exponent of the art of the offensive defensive player.

Wylde said: "Patrice Evra of Manchester United is the man for me.

"His fitness is unbelievable and he very rarely gets caught out of position while he always bombs on and makes himself available on the overlap.

He has a great engine and you need that at full-back or wing-back.

"To get up and down from box to box and then forward again you are going to have to be pretty much fitter than the rest of the lads and that is something I work really hard on.

"The level of sports science we get at Murray Park with the under-19s and reserves is great and Jamie Ramsden, our fitness coach, is really important in helping you with all of that.

"He makes you work that bit harder and understand how important what you do away from the pitch is, like eating the right stuff and refuelling in terms of rehydration.

"It is all part of the package."

But while Wylde is in the almost unique position of being a natural left-footer he realises that moulding himself into a two-footed player will be vital to his hopes of a first-team breakthrough.

He said: "The other big area of my game I need to improve on is my delivery with my right foot.

"I have been working really hard to make sure that I can cut in on my right foot and put in a decent quality of ball.

"Along with a couple of the boys I stay behind and do extra work on my right foot.

"I know it is the weaker part of my game and I know how important it is to be as near as you can to being two-footed.

"It is something I am working towards.

"Hopefully, with the extra work I do, it will make that happen."

Currently the role is being filled by Sasa Papac, the Bosnian brought to Gers by Paul Le Guen as a central defender, but he has had his talents converted for use in the problem area on the left flank.

However, after landing the Clydesdale Bank Rising Star for October award, Rangers starlet Gregg Wylde has posted notice that the Ibrox legions may not have to wait too long before they have a natural-born left-footer worth going wild about.

And the talented teenager - who crossed the great Old Firm divide as a 14-year-old to leave Celtic and join his childhood heroes in Light Blue - admits that a combination of the success of a string of Murray Park kids and the lack of left-sided defensive quality are firing his ambitions in his bid to make the breakthrough into Walter Smith's first-team squad before the end of the season.

The 17-year-old said: "Looking down the line there is only one player in front of me and that is Steven Kinniburgh. Obviously you have Stevie Smith as well, but he is not getting a game right now so maybe there is more of an opportunity on the left side than on the right.

"But it is all going to be down to me. It is great picking up an award like the Clydesdale Bank Rising Star for October as it means you are doing something right, but it also means that you have to keep giving it every-thing and trying your best to improve.

"So, if I keep working as hard as I can, then hopefully I can make it on to the bench before the season is out and then you just never know. That would be real progress for me."

The Scotland youth inter-national continued: "When you look at the likes of Stevie Smith, Alan Hutton and Chris Burke, they all came through the ranks at Murray Park, while Barry Ferguson came through the youth set-up before that. They all got their chance pretty early with the first team which gives you a lot of encouragement.

"You only have to look at John Fleck playing in the Scottish Cup Final last season when he was just 16. All of that makes you think if you keep your head down and keep working away and you are good enough then you will get your opportunity. That is a real positive."

Having enjoyed the privilege of being invited to train with the first-team squad, Wylde admits that he has already started to live his dream within the family environs of Murray Park. However, he has vowed to remain grounded in his bid to make the breakthrough.

Wylde said: "I was signed three years ago from Celtic after being with them since I was seven. But I am a Rangers fan and have been since I can remember, so I didn't have to think twice about the move. Rangers was the only place I ever wanted to be.

"Coming into Murray Park every morning is fantastic. It is a bit of a dream as you are working with guys like the captain Barry Ferguson and big Davie Weir, and they have been your heroes since you were a kid.

"But the main thing is that when you do go round to work with the first team that you just concentrate on soaking up every minute and learning as much as you can from it.

"Every one of the first-team lads is really helpful though. They know it means a lot to any of the kids to get to work with them and they make sure you feel you belong. But your attitude has to be right if you want to make the most of these opportunities and get invited back again.

"The other big factor is how I'm doing with the under-19s. So it is very important for me to be as consistent as I can week in, week out and hope that Billy Kirkwood, our coach, likes what he sees."

Wylde has revealed that the encouragement he has received from Gers youth boss Kirkwood and his staff has given him the licence to attack.

He said: "Billy is always encouraging me bomb forward, make the overlapping run from full-back and make sure I get the ball into the penalty area. Billy is a really positive coach and I love that.

"Obviously I know I am playing in the position to defend, first and foremost, but the full-back can be an extra weapon going forward."

Wylde added: "The quality of my delivery is something that I am working really hard on. It is not just about getting to the goal-line, it is about what you do when you get there.

"It is vital that you cut the ball back into the deep areas if the strikers are going to have a chance of cashing in when they are arriving in the box.

"With the help I get from Billy and the rest of the coaching staff I feel I am progressing."