FOUR seasons ago, things at Rangers looked rather different. Still in the Championship under boss Mark Warburton, plenty was changing as the club looked to rebuild itself completely and finally get back to Scottish football’s top flight.
The Rangers’ Academy too hadn’t long begun its own huge overhaul – a process which is truly bearing fruit now with the club’s youngsters comparing so favourably to Europe’s best and there being a number of exciting youngsters knocking on the door of the first-team.
While not to the same extent as now, though, season 2015/16 did have moments where it seemed youngsters were about to break through, with one of those being midfielder Jack Thomson.
Aged 16, he was handed a place on the bench for the club’s Scottish Cup quarter-final tie with Dundee at Ibrox in March 2016, a game where the Light Blues blew their darker blue and higher league opponents away with a memorable 4-0 victory.
Thomson appeared destined to make his top-team bow imminently, but injury after injury has continued to prevent him from turning out for the Gers in a first-team match.
Now, three-and-a-half years on, Thomson finally hopes his persistent spells on the sidelines have finally come to a close.
“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for me,” said the now-19 year-old to Friday’s Official Rangers Podcast. “It’s been up and down but this is probably the first full pre-season I have completed fully-fit, and that has me been full-time for four years.
“I’m so buzzing and looking forward to pushing on and staying fit and healthy. There are a lot of bodies round at the first-team, so it is going to be difficult to push into it, but I am just looking to train round there as much as possible and hopefully get involved a few times.
“I want to keep developing, push on physically and get as much game time as possible. I just want to enjoy playing football again as it has been difficult in the last couple of years.
“I just want to enjoy it, play as many games as possible and see where it takes me.”
Thomson was a key part of the Rangers Colts side which defeated Stranraer on Tuesday night in the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Cup to set up a last 32-tie away to Northern Irish Premiership club Ballymena United.
The experience of defeating a professional men’s team in a competitive match is one Thomson adored, and now the prospect of traveling over to Ulster for the next round is one which is hugely appealing to him.
“It was absolutely brilliant,” Thomson beamed on the Stranraer result. “First and foremost, it was a brilliant result against a League One team who I think will do really well in that league this year as they have a good team, so to get that result was brilliant for us.
“We don’t come up against teams like that all the time. They play quite direct football, but the fact we were able to still get the ball down and play our football, though it may be a bit tougher at times, was a really good learning curve.
“We have to keep pushing that way as that’s what the first-team come up against, so it is good for us to get that practice.
“The whole competitiveness of the tournament too is great. You get good crowds going to the games, and we have Ballymena United in the next round which will be a good crowd too. It’s a tough competition, and we just want to keep pushing and pushing to try to get as far as possible as Colts teams have struggled to do that in previous years, but hopefully we can really push forward in it.
“Playing in Northern Ireland is always amazing. You go when you are younger to the Milk Cup and then you get the odd fixture with the Reserve squad, so I am really looking forward to that one, as all the boys are. It’s a brilliant draw for us.”