It’s time for Rangers to let Aaron Ramsey rip off the cotton wool.
On the face of it, the prospect of facing Annan Athletic away on a plastic pitch in the middle of February, is hardly what lured the Welshman from Juventus on deadline day. And, yes, a lot of people would expect him to be given the weekend off rather than take the risk of sending him out on a synthetic surface in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup.
But I’m prepared to make a bet here. If you asked him, Ramsey would play on a cow field or in a car park right now just to get a few minutes in his legs and a first start under his belt.
I must admit, I expected to see more of him than we have done over the last 10 days or so. I was surprised that he didn’t go straight onto the bench for the Old Firm game at Parkhead and I thought he’d get more than just 15 minutes as a sub against Hearts and Hibs.
But I’d hazard a guess a decision has been made to effectively put him through a mini pre-season at Auchenhowie because he’s hardly had any football this season in Italy.
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I suspect they’ve been making him do a lot of extra work in training to bring his fitness levels up and now that he’s been working hard for the best part of a fortnight, it strikes me as the ideal time to get him out on that pitch this weekend. And I mean any pitch.
Yes, I know there might be some raised eyebrows if a guy of Ramsey’s caliber is thrown into a full debut at Galabank against a side from League Two but, as far as I’m concerned, it seems like an ideal time and place to get him started.
You can do all the training in the world but, for a player trying to get back to full fitness, nothing compares to getting minutes in competitive matches. It’s not a risk to play Ramsey this weekend, it’s an absolute must if Giovanni van Bronckhorst wants to get the most out of this signing.
Look, it’s ridiculous for anyone to suggest that signing Ramsey was a waste of money just because he’s only had two brief cameos off the bench.
That would be daft. If someone offers you the chance to sign a player of his quality then you snap their right hand off in the rush to grab the pen.
Ramsey is a top quality operator – a proven match winner on the European and international stage and probably one of the most exciting talents to have come to Scottish football in the last two decades – so Rangers couldn’t say ‘no’ when the opportunity presented itself.
The only question mark about the deal was how were they going to get him up to full speed? All the other boxes were ticked.
It’s all about getting him as fit as possible as quickly as possible and giving him the best chance to make a real impact between now and the end of the season.
I’m sure the Rangers fans will be desperate to see him in that starting line-up and I am pretty sure Ramsey himself will be itching to get out there.
Forget all this stuff about the dangers of playing on astroturf. At this stage of a Scottish winter there are grass pitches all over the country which would represent a similar risk.
I’ve been down to Annan enough times over the years to know what Rangers can expect. It’s a tidy wee ground and the people there will give them the warmest of welcomes. As lower league facilities come, it’s as good as anything you’ll see.
And I don’t think for a minute that Ramsey would turn his nose up at the opportunity of making his first start at a place like that. In fact, I’m absolutely positive the opposite will be true. He’d play anywhere just to get some game time and I’m sure he’d relish the chance to get a good 70 minutes or so into the tank this weekend.
You have to remember why he was brought here in the first place. To be game changer in terms of this season’s title race.
With the best will in the world, Rangers didn’t need to make a signing like this to beat Hearts, Hibs or whoever else. And, no, they don’t need Aaron Ramsey to get into the next round of the cup either.
But if they can get him up to 100 per cent in time for the final two Old Firm games of the season? Well, that’s another matter altogether. He could make all the difference between coming first and second place if he’s at his best in those matches.
I also expect Steve Davis to get a start in midfield against Annan because Giovanni van Bronckhorst is getting all his options back at just the right time. The re-emergence of John Lundstram is another massive bonus and I’m delighted for the Scouser because he’s had a difficult first season settling in at Ibrox and he’s had to deal with a lot of criticism.
I always felt there was a proper player in there and he’s shown what he can offer in the last two games. In fact, he’s been an absolute stand-out along with the likes of Ryan Jack, Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos.
He deserves credit too because he’s also shown a lot of character at a potentially difficult moment following the defeat in the derby. And it’s been reflected throughout the entire team.
It looks to me as if these guys are standing up to be counted when it’s really needed, which is exactly what is demanded of anyone lucky enough to pull on that shirt. They’ve responded like Rangers players should do.
Aaron Ramsey chose to come to the club because he wanted to wear the jersey and take on the responsibility that comes with it. It’s time to let him get out there and remind the world what he’s all about.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.