Steven Gerrard admits he is expecting big things of youngsters Ciaran Dickson and Leon King after handing the academy pair their Rangers debuts.
On the 22nd anniversary of the Ibrox boss’ debut for boyhood heroes Liverpool, he made it a special night for 18-year-old midfielder Dickson and defender King, 16, after handing them both a Betfred Cup run-out in his side’s 4-0 cruise against Falkirk.
Gers booked a trip to St Mirren in the last eight as they strolled past the League One side thanks to strikes from Jermain Defoe, Calvin Bassey, Borna Barisic and James Tavernier.
But it was the performances of Dickson and King which had Gerrard – who saw Filip Helander ruled out after a positive coronavirus test – smiling at full-time after the Bairns had been brushed aside.
“I though young Dicksie was terrific,” he said. “I thought he played with energy, he played with personality and he played with character and he is the type that will never let me down.
“He has probably had a similar upbringing to myself and he knows what it means to represent Rangers and the shirt, so we gave him an opportunity to come and train with us five or six weeks ago and he has been terrific every single day.
“He has earned that opportunity. Young Leon is a bit different. OK, he got the chance tonight because a couple drop out late but he was ready as well and training very well.
“He is still very young, he’s just turned 17 so I’ll be watching them closely now to see how they react to that taste.
“I want them to go and work as hard as they can to get more opportunities so I’ll be watching them to see whether it goes to their head or whether they want to see this as the start of their careers moving forward.
“They both look physically ready. You judge them in training first and foremost and they are training like first-team players.
“They are not training like young kids who are coming in to make the numbers up. They are affecting training and they are contributing. That is what I want. I see a lot in the academy from afar and these are two good types who deserved that opportunity.”
Defoe got Rangers up and running early before Bassey pounced from close-range on the half-hour mark for his first Rangers goal after being given a run-out in place of Helander at centre-back.
Barisic swept home his latest free-kick just before half-time while captain Tavernier fired his 14th goal of the campaign to round off the scoring.
With Celtic now out of the competition after their shock defeat to Ross County, Rangers will be favourites to go all the way and finally claim their first major trophy since 2011.
However, Gerrard played it cool as he said: “We are in a good place. Confidence is high, belief is high and it is about trying to maintain the standard that we have set from pre-season.
“It was nice to make seven changes and the level never dropped and I managed to give Steven Davis time with his family and Keemar Roofe got some time with his family too because of a domestic situation.
“There were a lot of positives. Everyone should be fresh and ready for Thursday (against Standard Liege in the Europa League). It was a strong performance, I’m really pleased with the goals we scored and I’m really pleased with the mentality and the professionalism.
“It’s always tricky when you get out on TV for the last game, everyone is hoping there might be an upset. It was about us doing a job in a professional way and we really showed our quality and our level tonight. We were too good over the 90 minutes.”
Bairns co-manager David McCracken said: “We have to be realistic. Rangers are playing at a level a lot of teams can’t compete with right now.
“We’re a few tiers below, so the scoreline was no disgrace. We’ll take the positives, learn from it and take that in to our league campaign.”