The folly of Nathan Patterson’s decision to attend an illegal party in February was compounded as he sat at home and watched James Tavernier limp off in Antwerp just a few days later.

But since that episode of Covid madness the rising Rangers star’s timing on the park could hardly have been any better in producing big moments to make the first team breakthrough.

Patterson took just 16 seconds of his second half introduction in the return leg against Royal Antwerp to score his first senior goal for the Light Blues.

And with Tavernier remaining on the sidelines, the teenager has produced a string of sterling displays which could see him challenge the club captain for a string slot next season.

Patterson’s latest impressive performance came as he ticked off another box with his first Old Firm start and the first half in particular of the 2-0 Scottish Cup win belied his lack of experience in the derby fixture.

Nathan Patterson in action for Rangers during a Scottish Cup tie between Rangers and Celtic
Nathan Patterson in action for Rangers during a Scottish Cup tie between Rangers and Celtic

Again, his timing was spot on. It came just 48 hours ahead of the Ibrox club’s appeal against his and his four team-mates’ six-game ban for that Covid breach with a Hampden hearing set for today.

And after confirming they would be challenging the punishment, Steven Gerrard had urged the SFA to take into consideration Patterson’s value to the Scotland national team.

The Rangers boss said: “This kid is going to go and play for Scotland and all of a sudden the SFA want to ban him for that long. I’m not too happy over that and I’m not sure Steve Clarke will be very happy.”

Clarke couldn’t have failed to be impressed by Patterson’s performance and there is a groundswell of opinion that he should be included in Scotland's Euro 2020 squad.

So if, as Gerrard suggests they should, the SFA’s disciplinary panel take that into consideration then Patterson showed his big-game mentality at just the right time.

Former Rangers and Scotland full back Alan Hutton reckons the outcome of the hearing could have an impact but, speaking to BBC Sport, said of Patterson: “His time for international football is now.

Scotland's Alan Hutton

“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.

“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.

“However, having his four-game Covid rule breach ban hanging over him isn’t ideal. If we took that out of the equation and he played from now until the end of the season, I think he would go in the summer.”

If Clarke’s decision seems straightforward in Hutton’s eyes then Gerrard has more of a headache and the 36-year-old is desperate for him to resist the temptation of a loan move next season and set up a fascinating fight with Tavernier for a starting spot.

The ex-Spurs man, speaking to BBC Sport, said: “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 positions, 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.”

Jimmy Nicholl is another former Gers right back and tells the story in his own inimitable style of how he knew his time was up in the first team.

He takes up the story, which forms part of his after-dinner speech, saying: “Graeme Souness and Walter Smith came to me and asked if I fancied helping Peter McCloy taking charge of the reserve team.

“They went on to say they’d just bought Gary Stevens and I thought ‘That’s strange, he’s too good for the reserves!’ I never thought for one minute he was going to take my place in the first team.

“But he was an England international at the time and he was younger and quicker than me. I was 32 at the time so it didn’t bother me.”

But Nicholl, who worked with Tavernier during his spell as assistant to Graeme Murty, doesn’t believe the current captain is anywhere near the stage he was at with the 29-year-old having just signed a new deal after winning over his doubters.

The Northern Irishman says talk of Patterson replacing him immediately is premature and said: “You might get a response from James Tavernier because when did he last have serious competition?

“I don’t want to be disrespectful to any right back during Tav’s time but I can’t remember him being challenged. Maybe Nathan Patterson coming through and with the acclaim he’s getting at the minute it could raise the bar for James Tavernier because he doesn’t want to be a bit-part player at 29.

“Everyone is raving about Nathan Patterson and seems to be disregarding what James Tavernier has done this season. Patterson is good but - and there is a but - I read a comment saying he’s played in pressure games. What pressure games?

“He’s played in big games but he hasn’t had 50,000 people there or gone to a hostile away crowd. And he’s come into a team playing consistently good football.

“In terms of Scotland, Steve Clarke will have to assess what he needs but those Euro 2020 games are pressure fixtures. Right now if eight or nine Rangers players are on it and two or three aren’t then they’ll still win games against certain opposition.

“But with Scotland at the Euros you need everyone at the top of your game. Will he be able to handle that? We had a situation with Northern Ireland at Euro 2016 where we lost to Poland and four or five players were like rabbits caught in the headlights.

“However, Nathan Patterson is good enough to be in the squad. Norman Whiteside went to the World Cup in 1982 as a 17-year-old when he hadn’t kicked a ball for Manchester United so it could be the making of Nathan.”