With all the hype surrounding Ryan Kent, there is one thing that was seldom mentioned in the press;
His electrifying effect on other players.
Other had his aura to a certain degree, for example Daniel Candeias with his incredible work ethic did drive others to work harder. Halliday as well could motivate others to a higher level, but Ryan Kent offered something entirely different – he was not the most accurate striker of the ball. Many of his runs came to nothing. He cleary was not the best, but his speed and his unpredictability rubbed off and it gave the entire team the belief they were truly better than their opponents.
In this one aspect, the ability to get others to lift their game, he was heads and shoulders above the rest.
In the modern game, split seconds matter. A tackle left just a tenth of a second late can lead to a penalty, but the mysterious thing Ryan gave to Rangers was the confidence to run at opponents with speed. If you don’t believe me, just look at the post-split game against Aberdeen.
Time after time the entire team was moving up and down the field with amazing speed, dragging defenders and midfielders around the park as if they were on leashes, then suddenly sprinting up the park against a dramatically-exposed defender. After just 10 minutes the entire Aberdeen team was in shock, and when they did finally get the ball, their team structure was entirely out of shape.
Yes, speed matters, but since Ryan Kent’s move back to Liverpool that same speedy engine at the heart of Rangers’ armaments has gone very quiet. The same players who ran at Aberdeen with pace now look pedestrian. Attacks are more patient. The opposition are given more time to get in position, and it hasn’t taken us long to notice the difference.
Even the introduction of fast-paced Jordan Jones hasn’t impacted the rest of the team in the way Kent did, despite the NI winger’s impressive own displays.
These last few weeks seemed different, because they were different. It was not the same Rangers that we saw a few short months ago, and the now-constant rotation of the team is not helping us regain that momentum.
The results had been doing the business, yes, and it’s a results-based business of course, but noticeably the last handful of games the results and performances have been less convincing.
We at Ibrox Noise are not experts, but it is clear to anyone that it’s not the players that need to be changed, it’s the need to get back that belief. The belief they can use their speed to scare the opposition, and have them running around chasing our fast disappearing shadows.
Ryan Kent was a major part of that, possibly the major part of that, and while his own performances weren’t always absolutely marquee, the effect his pace and work ethic had on the rest of the team cannot be underestimated.
And we suspect this is a huge reason why Steven Gerrard wants him back so urgently.