John Lundstram has been tipped to go from struggler to skipper at Ibrox by a player who was blown away from the first time he saw him.
Alex MacDonald welcomed a 21-year-old Lundstram into the Oxford United dressing room six years ago.
At the time the former Scotland Under-21 star had dreams of skippering United himself.
Instead, one season after he and Kemar Roofe inspired Oxford to promotion from League Two, boss Michael Appleton handed the armband to a 22-year-old Lundstram.
The current Gers pair had slipped down the ladder, from the Premier League fringes at Everton and West Brom, to the fourth tier to give their careers a spark.
MacDonald watched and admired as Lundstram grafted his way back up each level with Sheffield United to be brilliant for the Blades in the top flight and overcome his early struggles in Scotland to shine for Rangers.
Now with Gillingham, MacDonald said: “After Oxford got promoted to League One, a few older lads were eyeing the armband because our captain left.
“I was certainly in the running to try to take it but the manager sat us down and said he was giving it to John as that figure who can drive a team forward.
“He always had an older head on his shoulders. I see him being at Rangers a long time and think he’s future captain material.
“He’s actually ready for it at this point in his career, no matter where he is playing.
“He was never massively vocal but, like the manager he’s playing for now, he leads by example on the pitch and is exceptional off it.
“As a Liverpool fan, to go to a massive club run by Steven Gerrard was too good for John to turn down so I know how much this means to him.”
Lundstram was nurtured through the Everton year groups by Alan Stubbs but stopped short of the first team.
He went in search of regular football in the summer of 2015 at Oxford who had just finished 13th in the bottom tier.
A year later they won automatic promotion and MacDonald said: “When he first came, he was a holding midfielder.
“His range of passing, left or right, for a young lad was exquisite.
“He sat in front of the back four and dictated games as an anchor in a two.
“As I watched him grow, he turned into a No.8 – he made things happen in the final third and was so powerful running from midfield.
“I know he had a couple of years in the gym making himself bigger and he’s now the complete midfielder.
“With his size, power and passing range, everything fits for him being a fantastic player for a great club. I can only see him going from strength to strength now at Rangers after his early blip.”
Lundstram excelled and Roofe scored the second goal as Gerrard’s men picked up their first Europa League points of the season on Thursday against Brondby.
Now they aim to continue leading from the front at St Mirren today.
Roofe has scored eight times in 17 games for Rangers and Jamaica this term, adding to a first-season haul of 18.
The 28-year-old could eclipse Alfredo Morelos this season and MacDonald said: “If Kemar is fit instead of missing two or three weeks here and there then he’ll score more than 20 league goals every year.
“He was a major influence on our promotion, Wembley trip and cup runs in 2016. He played off the left and right, up front, in a 10, everywhere in the forward positions.
“Wherever we put him, he looked as if he was going to win us the game.
“I loved watching him come in off the left, his finishing from the edge of the box was brilliant.”
MacDonald signed for Oxford a fortnight before Roofe moved from the Hawthorns, initially on loan in February 2015.
He said: “Michael Appleton had this thing about third or fourth loan moves being really beneficial for all parties as it’s sink or swim time.
“Kemar was a breath of fresh air, a proper pro who’s always looked after himself.
“Over the years I’ve seen lots of lads come to clubs on loan with a chip on their shoulder, thinking they’re better than the level when they’ve not played much football.
“Roofey got his head down from day one. I had a spell living with him in a house with four others.
“He wasn’t interested in going out drinking. He wanted what was best for his football.
“I’ve followed him ever since at Leeds and Anderlecht.
“Then he signed for one of my favourite teams, Rangers. It’s great watching him and John doing so well.”