Raith Rovers first team coach Laurie Ellis worked with Barrie McKay last season and remembers thinking that it would be a ‘sin’ if the Rangers winger did not get the chance to showcase his talent on the big stage.
That is why Ellis is over the moon for the 21-year-old after McKay netted a wonder strike and collected the man of the match award in Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final shoot-out victory over Celtic.
McKay struggled to pin down a regular place during his loan at Raith last term – making 18 starts – but Ellis, who was assistant to then manager Grant Murray, never doubted the forward’s ability.
Ellis said: “Barrie would have had times last season when he was a wee bit frustrated that he was out on loan and not playing every single week.
“When he did play he showed flashes of what I knew he could do.
“We went through a difficult spell at times and we couldn’t always get him on the ball in areas where we knew he could hurt teams – as he is doing now.
“His talent is going to be seen to it’s maximum when he’s playing in a team like Rangers where he’s allowed to express it and go and win games for them.
“When I spoke to him about stuff, we talked about the bigger picture and he had to make sure he had the application and the work rate, he was developing that, to make sure his career flourished over 15, 20 years – wherever that may be.
“I just remember thinking it would be an absolute sin if his talent didn’t get seen by everyone.
“He’s got phenomenal ability and it’s all about channeling it so that everyone gets the pleasure of watching.
“It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest how well he is doing. It was all about whether he was going to get the chance to do it at Rangers and if he had the drive to make sure his talent got a chance.
“Mark Warburton has clearly had a good couple of chats with Barrie as soon as he came in and probably said, ‘if you want to play here and do well, you can, it’s up to you’.”
McKay has played a vital role in Rangers’ Championship title triumph this season, as well as their charge to the Scottish Cup final, and Ellis reckons the prospect of facing the youngster fills defenders with dread.
Ellis added: “He puts the fear of death into the opposition. There’s not actually one way of playing against Barrie.
“If you put someone tight with him, he’ll take it half a yard to the side and he’s burnt you for ten yards before you know it.
“If you drop off him he’ll slide forward and pick out a pass for someone else.
“He’s a brilliant player to have in your team.
“I really enjoyed working with Barrie last season. He is a really nice young lad.
“I saw it everyday in training and sometimes you would be in awe of the natural talent and pace he has.
“He just glides over the ground and some of his touches, passing and finishing in training was exceptional at times.”