03 November 2015

Jason Holt: The Rangers midfield dynamo at a bargain price

Rangers' number 23, Jason Holt.
by Alan Clark | Content Editor

Jason Holt arrived at Ibrox in the summer as the Mark Warburton era got into full swing.

He was always regarded as a dangerous player. Indeed, it was Holt that scored in a crucial Championship tie last campaign as he put the Jambos one up against Ally McCoist's Rangers side in a 2-0 win - pouncing on a loose ball on the edge of the area and thumping the ball past Steven Simonsen.

Despite this, few would have seen the midfielder - who couldn't break into the Hearts starting 11 on a regular basis - as one of Warburton's main priorities in his early recruitment drive.

But so it came to pass, he was.

With his contract up at Tynecastle he was a free agent, however due to his age the Gorgie side were due some money for their role in developing the player. Rangers and Hearts negotiated a £65,000 development fee and the 22-year-old was a Rangers player.

He was an important part of the Hearts squad for three seasons but found starts hard to come by in his final year in maroon. He did however enjoy a successful short loan spell at the start of this year at Sheffield United in League 1.

From the off, Holt expressed the positive feeling he felt coming into the club as well as the new ethos that had been installed in training under the new coaching regime.

He made his competitive debut in the 6-2 win at Hibernian, showing what he can do as his burst of pace - after a neat passing exchange - won the foul that led to the stunning James Tavernier free-kick goal. He also assisted Martyn Waghorn from the byline for 2-1 just before the interval.

Holt grabs a goal in a 5-1 rout of Queen of the South at Palmerston in August.
It was an impressive debut for those isolated moments but in that game and most of the matches that have followed, Holt has shown some really exciting attributes that really does make you question Robbie Neilson's apparent willingness to let him leave Hearts.

Funnily enough one of his best displays has come in defeat. Sunday's 2-1 reverse against Hibs was a strange one in the sense that the Gers actually played some good football. Chances were created, the attacking intent was there at all times and a win looked firmly on the cards for a large spell in the second half at 1-1.

Throughout the 90 minutes (but in particular the aforementioned dominant spell) Holt was pulling the strings. Doing what he does best - taking care of the football, playing dangerous passes, hovering between the lines and creating space for himself or a team-mate.

He seemed to pick the right option every single time. A pass forward to probe the Hibees defence. A pass backwards if a forward one just wasn't on. Driving with the ball himself.

Even off the size five, he'd move into the right areas and kept making himself available for a pass. It's these features of his play that have been so prevalent in his Rangers career to date, thriving in the 4-3-3 formation that Warburton and Davie Weir have installed at Ibrox from top to bottom. In addition, he has goals in him with four goals from 15 appearances in all competitions to date.

Watch below: Holt equalises in the 2-1 win over Queen of the South last month...

The above goal is a great example of how he likes to play. If it's not him on the ball looking to feed in a team-mate, he'll be doing his best to get on the end of a through ball by making clever runs. He did that to a tee here, finishing very well to boot. His winning goal at St Mirren last weekend was very similar.

The way Rangers play under the new management team of Warburton and Weir fits Holt's game perfectly. This would have been a major factor in them bringing him to the club, of course, but it just shows what a suited system and regular starts can do for a player.

There's a long way to go in the season but the signs are firmly there that this is the year Rangers will get out of the lower leagues and make a return to the top-flight. Recruitment will be crucial in both January and summer transfer windows but some of the current squad will of course still be major players in the coming years.

Holt has showed in his career at Hearts that he can dazzle in the top division at a young age which, coupled with his impressive start in Govan, give encouraging signals that he can be a key figure for a Rangers team challenging for the top honours again. He likes a goal from distance, too.

Holt celebrates his goal away to Alloa Athletic in a 5-1 victory.

Of course, producing the goods for a Hearts team in the Premiership is a different kettle of fish to
doing it for a Rangers team aiming to become Scottish champions - given the pressure and scrutiny that is evident at both the Old Firm giants. That he has taken the nature of life as a Rangers player in his stride so far at Ibrox is another positive sign that he's able to not only handle it, but flourish right in amongst it. 

Having missed out on winning the Scottish Cup with Hearts due to being on loan at Raith Rovers, Holt's only taste of silverware was their second-tier title last season, so Holt will be hungry for silverware at the top level of the game.

If he continues to perform with the consistency and ability he has been producing under Warburton, there may be teams starting to take notice of him. That will be a worry for Rangers fans but one of the aspects of the new strategy within a revitalised infrastructure at the club is bringing in players that add value off the park as well as on it. 

Selling players on for profit is going to have to be a regular thing, as gut wrenching as it is at times. The cycle is endless. It has to be.

However Jason Holt's career goes, for Rangers right now, the £65,000 outlay could well be the best piece of business they have conducted in years.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article Alan.
    He has quietly and effectively went about his business and proven to a real steal. He could be a permanent fixture for years.


Keep it civil, lads.