BEN WILLIAMSON has hailed the nurturing influence of Rangers coach Kevin Thomson — as the talented teenager makes waves with in-form Arbroath.
The 19-year-old joined the Lichties on loan in January and is yet to taste defeat, immediately establishing himself in the heart of midfield and helping to inspire a remarkable eight-game unbeaten run.
Williamson’s impact has been all the more impressive given he has been truly forced to sink or swim. In previous campaigns, a youngster farmed out to a part-time side would still be able to train with their parent club in alternate days. However, because he has left Rangers’ testing bubble, Williamson is unable to work at Murray Park.
That has left the diligent playmaker putting in the extra hours in his own time, while benefitting from near-daily calls from ex-Rangers and Hibs hero Thomson.
Williamson lauded: “Kevin Thomson is always on the phone to me and we’ve done Zoom calls looking at my game. What am I doing well? What can I improve?
“I’m close with Kev and I know I can get in touch with him off my own back for advice. He’ll tell me if I’ve done well and he’ll tell me if I’ve had a shocker — and what I can do about it.
“I grew up a Rangers fan so I know what Kev was all about. He’s a guy that knows what it takes, on and off the pitch, to play at a top level, so I’d be mad not to take everything on board.
“With being part-time at Arbroath as well, he gives me wee extra drills and things to work on. I just soak it up and want to learn.”
It is understood Gers assistant manager Gary McAllister even phoned Arbroath boss Dick Campbell personally after Williamson’s debut for a debrief of his display — underlining the high hopes the Light Blues have for him.
Williamson added: “Billy Kirkwood is either at all my games or has someone there, and I’m doing a lot of work with the analysis department at Rangers, so they are brilliant when it comes to giving you feedback and looking at your progress.
“I know I’ve got a long way to go and plenty more to prove, but I’m buzzing with the way things are going right now.”
If Thomson is part of a new generation of bright young coaches — and by all accounts, he is — then Campbell is at the other end of that age spectrum.
However, Williamson is fulsome in his praise for the 67-year-old legend of the Scottish game, even if that feeling is not always vocally reciprocated.
He laughed: “The gaffer is an unbelievable personality but when it comes to match-day, he expects nothing but the best. He’s not really the type to say ‘well done’ but I’m sure he’ll let you know if he’s not happy! That’s maybe an old school style, but I think it’s exactly what I needed.
“I wanted demands and that pressure to get three points every week — it’s something you need to get used to. I’m learning from him in every training session.
“The gaffer is giving me the chance to prove myself, which is all I want, and I feel like there is still a lot more to come. I’ve already improved mentally and physically, and my confidence has never been higher.”
If the good times are to keep rolling for Williamson — who recently penned a new deal with Rangers until the summer of 2022 — Arbroath must see off a Queen of the South side boasting a cabal of his Ibrox pals.
Dapo Mebude, James Maxwell, Rhys Breen and, as of this week, Ciaron Dickson are all enjoying formative stints at Palmerston Park as the seek to steel themselves for a crack at the Gers first-team.
He may be outnumbered by his academy colleagues, but Williamson is determined to have the last laugh at Gayfield.
Williamson added: “It will be special to play against all of the Rangers boys, having come through the ranks together, but I know we’ll all be desperate to win — because the stick will be unbearable for the losers!”