Shorts pulled up to his armpits, shirt tucked in, plain black boots and a sensible haircut. Jordan Rossiter is a throwback to what footballers once looked like!
The 19-year-old Scouser made another impressive appearance in light blue against Peterhead in Tuesday night’s League Cup win over Peterhead, adding to an ever-growing list. Although his signing was overshadowed by those of Niko Kranjcar and Joey Barton, there is a serious case for it being the best piece of business conducted by Rangers over the summer.
Rossiter started his career at Liverpool aged six. By age 15, he had played for Liverpool’s Under-18 and Under-19 sides. Come 16, he was a regular in their Under-21 squad and was named the Liverpool Academy Player of the Year.
He then made his first-team debut at 17, scoring and making himself the second youngest Liverpool goalscorer in history, and has been compared to Steven Gerrard by no less than Anfield “God” Robbie Fowler.
When it was announced in May that Rossiter had agreed a move north to Rangers, Liverpool fans were understandably upset. Jurgen Klopp had picked the youngster in his first game as Liverpool boss and it was believed they were grooming the natural successor to Gerrard’s iconic number eight shirt, but Rangers snuck in and got their man for a bargain £250,000 after Rossiter ran down his Liverpool deal.
Despite his Ibrox start being delayed his his involvement in England’s Euro U19 campaign, Rossiter has quickly made himself a favourite of the Ibrox support. A fantastic range of passing and a remarkable ability to read the game have allowed him to seamlessly slot into the midfield and protect the defence.
Prior to his introduction in the Hamilton game, the midfield trio of Andy Halliday, Barton and Kranjcar looked a bit disjointed and found themselves unable to take real control of the game. By bringing Rossiter on and allowing Barton to play a bit further forward allowed the former Burnley star and Kranjcar to control play in the middle of the park while having a little protection further behind – more than once on Saturday Barton and/or Kranjcar were left for dead by Dougie Imrie.
Tuesday night against Peterhead was the same. Whilst it was only Peterhead, Barton and Kranjcar had a lot more success in the middle of the park and Rossiter was always there to offer a pass or drop in and cover. Many were surprised when Rossiter was withdrawn just after an hour, although it may have been to save him for this weekend’s trip to Dundee.
He’s a player who is well beyond the vast majority of talents at that age in Scotland and his signing is, given the position of Scottish football now, something of a coup. Despite there being a steady stream of discarded academy talent heading north, few are as highly regarded as Rossiter and even fewer are England captain (or captain of any other “major” football nation) at Under-19 level.
Even with his thick Scouse accent, he comes across as an intelligent, articulate young man and exudes confidence in his ability as a footballer; something which is a noticeable trend amongst boss Mark Warburton’s signings, while being as typically grounded as most Scousers are.
It’s not just the immediate benefits though that could make Rossiter Warburton’s best signing of the transfer window, but the future transfer rewards if he fulfils his unquestionable potential. Rangers have missed the boat in recent years as the financial gap between clubs in the cash rich leagues and the rest has exploded.
Celtic have had some reasonable success with identifying young, or unknown, talent before selling them on at a big profit. Carlos Cuellar is the most recent example at Ibrox, while Celtic have picked up the likes of Victor Wanyama, Virgil van Dijk and Fraser Forster for next to nothing before selling them to a club in the Premier League.
If Rossiter was to go on and have a fantastic few years at Ibrox, grow into the player it’s expected he can, learn from players like Barton, Kranjcar and Kenny Miller, and maybe even help the club to the Champions League group stages, then there’s every chance a move back to a top side in England could happen sooner rather than later.
But until it does, he’s ours. And the rest of Scottish football are going to wish he wasn’t.