DAVID Bates and Ross McCrorie face a difficult task establishing themselves at Rangers in the second half of the season despite their impressive displays for the Ibrox club to date.

The possibility of Russell Martin, the Scotland centre half who has not been featuring for Norwich City this season, arriving on loan during January is a realistic one.

And with Ryan Jack set to return from injury and Andy Halliday also coming back into the fold after a loan spell there will even greater competition for places in the coming months.

Read more: Russell Martin open to Ibrox loan move - but Rangers have made no official approach

But Bob Malcolm believes Bates and McCrorie are more than capable of establishing themselves in Graeme Murty’s first team in the coming months having been greatly impressed by both of them in recent weeks.

The centre half cum central midfielder broke into a Rangers side that was packed full of multi-million pound signings and big names when Dick Advocaat was the manager at Ibrox back in 2000.

And the Scot went on to win the Scottish title twice as well as the League Cup and the Scottish Cup in the following seven seasons.

“Rangers had a really strong squad when I was there,” he said. "There were a lot of great players at Ibrox when I was there.

“There were Lorenzo Amoruso, Craig Moore, Bert Kontermann, Henning Berg and Sotirios Kyrgiakos at centre half.

"In midfield there were Barry Ferguson, Mikel Arteta, Fernando Ricken, Stephen Hughes, Jorg Albertz, Tugay and Claudio Reyna. There were probably eight other players who could play in your position.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be a first choice player. I was happy to play anywhere. Sometimes I played at centre half, sometimes I played in central midfield. But I broke into the team when there were injuries and got a run of games. I then fought to keep my place."

Malcolm firmly believes that Bates, who was named Man of the Match after coming on for Alves against Celtic at Parkhead on Saturday, and McCrorie, who last week signed a new four-and-a-half year deal, can do exactly the same thing if they adopt the right mental attitude.

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“When you are coming through as a kid at Rangers you need to be ruthless,” he said. “You can’t care about what anybody says, either your own fans or Celtic fans. You have to take whatever anybody says with a pinch of salt. You obviously have to listen to what your manager says, but you have to be single-minded.”

Malcolm who has spent spells as assistant to his old Rangers team mate Barry Ferguson at both Blackpool and Clyde since retiring from playing, believes that McCrorie has effectively cemented his place in Murty’s team with his mature performances this term.

He would like to see Bates, the 21-year-old defender who was also named Man of the Match when he played against Aberdeen at Pittodrie at the start of December, given the chance to show what he can do following the winter shutdown.

“I have been very impressed with Ross,” he said. “I have been to the last five or six Rangers games and he has done very well. He has made the transition from centre half to central midfield well. I think the move takes a lot of pressure off him. He’s certainly got the legs you need to play in the middle of the park. He can get about the pitch.

“Ross has been playing in the team for some time now and is one of the first names down on the team sheet. I like everything about him. He is an athlete, his is good in the air, he is a good defender, he is good on the ball as well.”

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Malcolm added: “David was brilliant in the Aberdeen game which he played in. I hadn’t seen that much of him before. He got his chance when Bruno Alves and Fabio Cardoso got injured and then dropped out of the team again.

“I like him because he doesn’t try to be clever. He is just a defender who wants to defend. He works hard to keep a clean sheet and succeeded at the weekend. He doesn’t try to do any clever flick ons and fancy headers. That is what we are looking for at the moment.

“At the moment Rangers don’t need somebody who thinks he’s Frank de Boer. We just need somebody who does the basics well. I think David is suited to that perfectly.”

Malcolm is hopeful that having Murty, who was the under-20 coach at Auchenhowie before he got asked to take over from Pedro Caixinha back in October, in charge will mean more youngsters get their opportunity in the first team.

“There is no doubt that Graeme has been keen to give the young lads a chance,” he said. “He has worked with them before and knows what they can do. It is a big step up from the under-20 side to the first team, but he’s clearly got faith in them and that is great to see.

“But I think the fact the manager now knows that he can rely on them in first team games against the top teams in the country gives them a great opportunity to go on and stake a claim for a regular start.”

Read more: Russell Martin open to Ibrox loan move - but Rangers have made no official approach

Malcolm, though, has warned Bates and McCrorie they must start performing at the top of their games on a weekly basis, not just in big matches, if they are going to remain involved in the Rangers first team.

“Now they have shown they can perform against Aberdeen and Celtic, the best two teams in the country, they have to show they can do is against all the other teams,” he said.

“They can’t afford to think that, just because they have played well against Aberdeen and Celtic, that they can relax when it comes to the matches against Partick Thistle and the other teams at the bottom of the league. It isn’t any easier against the likes of Dundee, Kilmarnock and St. Johnstone. You still have to work every bit as hard.

“If Rangers had taken maximum points from the games they played against Hamilton, Dundee, St. Johnstone and Kilmarnock then they would be above Celtic just now. I know there is a big gap between the squads, but that still shows you how important it is to win these games.”