So after all the hype, the summer-long protracted rumours and counter-rumours, it is indeed official – Ryan Kent is a Rangers player for the next near-half decade.
It was a stunning twist on Deadline Day, one we suggested had to happen, but we had reservations over whether the board would sanction it.
They did. He signed. And the rest is history.
So with that all said and done, what exactly do Rangers have now?
Well, to put not too fine a point on it, Ryan Kent, on his day, on his game, and in the mood, is the best player in the SPL.
He has destroyed Celtic alone, he has made mincemeat of many teams in the SPL and Europe, and by today’s transfer cost standards, £7.5M is a perfectly good fee, if a touch in fact on the inexpensive side.
Kent’s strengths are his pace, low centre of gravity, trickery and energy. He adds an undeniable balance to Rangers’ left side, and even when he doesn’t play at his immaculate best, he does raise the level of everyone around him.
There is no secret that even in Alfredo Morelos’ enforced absence during the split, and Kent’s own slightly sub-par performances, Rangers still got results and played mostly brilliantly.
Why was this? As Ibrox Noise’s Derek argued coherently, Kent’s ability to get more out of his colleagues in the new formation was crucial – Scott Arfield was a colossal beneficiary of this, as was Steven Davis – Arfield had an out and was able to interchange with Kent in the centre, while Davis always had the channel of Kent’s movement. These two particularly excelled during the split.
In short, a tonne of his mates benefited from his movement, pace and industry – they could get the ball to him, he would run, dribble, trick and twist around opponents, giving midfield time to get up the field, while supporting attack in front of him.
The thing is, we’ve not even gone to his own ability – just his affect on others – and his ability, when he is in form, is devastating.
Rangers fans realised, finally, ourselves included, just how good Kent was when he rampaged through the middle against Celtic in December, and beat three men before leaving Scott Brown no option but to foul from behind.
That pace was breathtaking, that close control astonishing, and Kent’s confidence to do it sky high.
No one could touch him.
Now, we hold our hands up to being very harsh on the boy this summer, suggesting Rangers were not his first option and playing down his contribution last season. We stand by all of this the way we presented it at the time:
His first choice was Liverpool. That is of no doubt. It wasn’t till Jurgen Klopp confirmed he wasn’t going to be part of the first team squad at Anfield that his attention became full-focused on Rangers. And that’s fine – that is honestly not an issue. He was always open to the move to Ibrox, but he wanted Liverpool primarily. And given how big they are and how good they are and how successful they are – we have no axe to grind with that at all.
Secondly, let’s be fair – he was mediocre until October. He did stand out at Parkhead for the loss in September, being the only player who stood up to be counted in our colours, and we gave big praise for that, but his wing wizardry did not truly emerge till that first half v Hearts in October, then continued till the following fixture v Rapid.
Then he absolutely exploded against Celtic at Ibrox two months later. But for more of the season than not, in terms of his own direct contribution, he wasn’t great – he was frequently good, but rarely over the whole 40ish performances did he produce a spellbinding display. Around five in total we’d guess.
Now that he’s settled at Ibrox, and has his permanent deal, and feels happy and content to be here for the long term, he may just feel more at ease to play that way more. To express himself – these standout displays might be the real him, but his lack of being settled stopped him producing it more.
Who knows – but he is a special player on his game – we hope to see a tonne of it this season, because no defence in the SPL can handle it, and it gives Rangers greater strength for our European campaign.
Ryan Kent, quite simply, is a spectacular player when he wants to be. We never suggested otherwise.
And we can’t wait to see a lot of that this season now.