There has been much discussion over the inclusion of Rangers midfielder Lewis MacLeod in the latest Scotland squad to face the Republic of Ireland and England and while the Tartan Army is split on the matter, former Rangers and Scotland midfielder Barry Ferguson has heaped praise on the Murray Park graduate.
Ferguson, who led Rangers to the 2008 UEFA Cup Final in Manchester before losing 2-0 to Zenit, claimed that the 20-year-old is the ‘brightest young prospect’ in the Scottish game in years.
He said: “I’ve seen quite a bit of him and think he’s the brightest young prospect in Scotland for a long time. Lewis will get better and better and just needs to keep working hard, but the coaches will make sure of that and he seems like a level-headed boy. He excites me every time I see him playing.
“He will go on to become a top central midfielder. I’d like to see him playing centrally and in time I think that will be his position. You can see he is developing physically as well, he is getting bigger.”
There is no denying that MacLeod is a top talent – but the brightest young prospect in Scotland in a long time? What ever happened to piling too much pressure on a young player?
Back in 2009, Ferguson hit out at then-Rangers youngster John Fleck being handed a Scotland cap against Holland under George Burley. But Ferguson felt too much pressure was being put on the young player.
He commented: “It’s crazy. He’s [Fleck] only broken into the Rangers team and people are putting far too much pressure on him. He’s the best talent to come through in years so let’s get behind him.
“It’s up to George [Burley] to say what he thinks but we should just let him play and get on with his football. He’s only 17 and just out of school.
“People are putting too much pressure on him. He’s a great talent and he should be left to fulfill that. He’s the best I’ve seen but you don’t want to put too much pressure on him.
“He knows the pressures of playing for Rangers but he has a good head on his shoulders and has enough people here to tell him what not to do.”
The hype around Fleck was just as big, if not bigger than MacLeod, but the nephew of Robert Fleck soon believed the hype too much and just like former Celtic striker Islam Feruz – his ego got in the way. He departed Ibrox for Blackpool on loan in January 2012 and when Rangers were liquidated, he moved to Coventry City and the hype died as quickly as Craig Whyte’s tenure as Rangers owner.
Maybe Barry Ferguson should have taken his own advice – when he was discussing Fleck – MacLeod is a good prospect but until he is tested against the best that Scottish football and European football can offer then he will just be a prospect.
Portugal must not be on Ferguson’s radar, nor Spain it seems – with Ryan Gauld [Sporting Lisbon] and Jack Harper [Real Madrid] in my own opinion – the brightest prospects in a long time for Scotland.