Alan Hutton is desperate for rising Rangers star Nathan Patterson to resist the temptation of a loan move next season and battle skipper James Tavernier for the right back spot.
Hutton admitted it will be a fascinating fight with club captain Tavernier for the position after Patterson capped his recent rise with an impressive showing in the 2-0 Scottish Cup last-16 win against Celtic.
The teenager wasn’t fazed by his first Old Firm start as he continues to fill the boots of crocked Tavernier and Hutton admits Steven Gerrard now faces a selection dilemma when his captain, on the bench at Ibrox on Sunday, returns after a couple of months out.
Gerrard’s problem could be solved in the short term if Patterson and his team-mates lose their appeal against the SFA’s six-match ban for a breach of Covid rules when they attended an illegal party in February.
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But Hutton knows there’s a fight on next season and the 36-year-old - who also believes Patterson should be in Steve Clarke’s Euro 2020 Scotland squad - accepts he might have to consider a loan move for game time.
Hutton himself forced his way into the Gers starting XI as a right back with Alex McLeish moving Fernando Ricksen into midfield to accommodate the pair.
That isn’t something Gerrard has the luxury of and Hutton said: “Patterson has shown he can handle the pressure of playing for Rangers in big games, but we can’t forget how outstanding Tavernier has been.
“He’s grown into the captaincy and his goals and assists from right-back are unbelievable. It’s mind boggling. But what we’ve seen so far is that Patterson can play at the top level.
“The battle between him and Tavernier is going to be interesting in the months to come. I had the same situation when I was coming through.
“The difference is Fernando (Ricksen) could play in midfield. When I was pushing him that hard he switched position, it was happy days for everyone. But Patterson doesn’t have that.
“If there was an opportunity to go on loan, it would only make sense if he goes to a club playing the same style as Rangers or else there’s no point as it wouldn’t help his development.
“But I want to see him make it a tussle between himself and the captain. It’ll be a great contest between the two.
“Competition is what you need at a big club and it’s going to be a headache for Gerrard. Game time could become limited, but I would want Patterson to stay and fight for his place.”
One thing Hutton is certain of is that Patterson deserves to be promoted to the full Scotland squad in a position that has proved a problem in recent years.
The former right back, capped 50 times for his country, told BBC Sport : “If there’s a standout performer, why wouldn’t you take him to the Euros?
“If you’re in form, you should be in the squad and, since coming into the Rangers team, his performances have got better and better.
“If you look at the Scotland squad, you’ve got Stephen O’Donnell and Liam Palmer in that right-back or right wing-back role. It’s one I know well, having played there on 50 occasions.
“And right now there’s a real opportunity for Patterson, who’s young and hungry, to go in there and have a good run at it.
“He plays without fear, he likes to get forward, but he’s also a good defender. His energy levels are extremely high and he’s growing in confidence game by game.
“He’s been learning as he goes along from James Tavernier and he just keeps getting better. Sunday’s Old Firm game showed that. He was outstanding.
“If I look at the Scotland squad, the right side is one area they are a little bit light. O’Donnell has the shirt and is doing okay with Motherwell, and Palmer is playing regularly too in a struggling Sheffield Wednesday team.
“But Patterson is putting pressure on them. If he doesn’t go to the Euros, I will understand Steve Clarke’s decision. He trusts the guys he’s got and Patterson has only just started his Rangers career.
“But you want the best players at that moment and Patterson ticks all those boxes. For a young player, it’s great to be in that environment and understand what it’s about. Even if it’s just a learning experience.
“However, having his four-game Covid rule breach ban hanging over him isn’t ideal. If we took that out the equation and he played from now until the end the season, I think he would go in the summer.”