Scouting Report: Jordan Rossiter – Let’s Leave the Injury Jokes Aside, and Talk About His Ability

2018/2019 stats (for Glasgow Rangers in all competitions): 181 minutes, 2 starts, 3 sub appearances; 0 goals, 0 assists.

By now, you’ll have seen the superbly put together video of the ‘worst kept secret’ of the winter transfer deadline day. Just like Ryan Lowe said during his interview yesterday, I would never have expected the likes of Jordan Rossiter at the club, although it becomes a little easier to understand why when you look at his career trajectory in the past five years, with two hugely contributory factors weighing him down in my view.

Firstly, and most obviously, it’s his injury record. Assuming his page on Transfermarkt is reasonably accurate, to have so many lengthy spells on the sidelines at such a young age can only have had a massive impact on him, but it also says a lot about his character and mental toughness to have fought his way back to fitness so many times. Unfortunately, having so many knockbacks will inevitably start to attract ire, derision, and this can then take the form of ‘banter’ about him spending more time in Fairfield General Hospital than he will on the Gigg Lane turf. You just have to accept that some people will resort to that, given how much focus professional footballers are under, particularly ones with Rossiter’s profile.

A local Liverpool lad, he entered the academy at just six, and rose through each age bracket with glowing references, and made his debut at 15 in the now-defunct NextGen Series, a continental cup competition designed principally for U19 players… which brings me to the second issue. A strong showing as a substitute in that game against Inter Milan was sufficient for Reds legend Robbie Fowler to draw comparisons between him and Steven Gerrard:

I’m sure it was meant as only the highest praise, but that is an extremely heavy mantle to have to take on whilst still an adolescent. Of course, it’s far from a unique situation to him, but I’ve always found it a lazy, often damaging way of describing a player, which both sets fans up to have unrealistic expectations, and the label can become internalised by the individual him/herself, making it that much more difficult to enjoy their football and progress.

One thing that’s rarely been questioned is Rossiter’s actual ability, as that tweet attests to. In compiling this Scouting Report, there is a bevy of evidence to support the claims that have always been made about him, but it is unavoidably scattered over a large expanse of time.

Capped up to England U20s level, he’s been used exclusively at club and international levels as either a defensive or central midfielder. His strong left foot, which he’s nearly as adept with as his right, has meant often being chosen to be the left of a midfield duo or trio in order to utilise this facet of his game more extensively. His career passing accuracy to date is just a shade lower than 90%, with around a third of his total being played forward, and his impressive array and range has helped to unlock defences from deep areas on the pitch, in not too dissimilar a way to former Celtic prospect Eoghan O’Connell’s recent exploits for the Shakers.

Whilst not the quickest, which has doubtlessly been exacerbated by persistent calf and hamstring problems, he does cover a lot of ground in every phase, which will be a crucial aspect under Ryan Lowe’s system without the ball. Equally as handy is his ability to really get stuck in, and he’s just as apt to recover possession in the opposition half as he is his own. This could be of great help in reducing the number of instances Bury get countered upon, especially when coupled with how well he retains the ball.

In my review of January, I identified that as perhaps the weakest part of the current tactics. Rossiter is not a silver bullet for all that’s given up in defence for the sake of attack, but he does offer a skillset that’s hard to replicate, and is testament to the coaching he received at Melwood and more recently at the Rangers Training Centre; strong in the tackle, decent in the air, a natural with both feet, quite positive when passing, likes a shot from range, and most importantly in a sense, he loves to drive forwards, which will be key to how well he meshes into the XI when called upon. With Neil Danns on international duty with Guyana in March to try to earn qualification to the Gold Cup, there is a place up for grabs in his absence, if indeed he hasn’t already established himself by then.

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Rangers manager Steven Gerrard remains one of Rossiter’s biggest admirers and proponents, and will surely feature the 21 year-old heavily in his plans for 2019/2020 if he can prove his fitness with a much-needed run of consistent matches

It remains to be seen whether he’ll start tomorrow as Crawley Town make the journey north from West Sussex, but I think he’ll definitely feature at some point. There’s little chance that he’s been brought here at the expense of possible alternatives in the SPFL and the third tier of England to sit on the bench, and much of the credit must go to Lowe’s friendship with Gerrard to help persuade him and the rest of the Glasgow Rangers setup to send a second player from Ibrox to BL9 this campaign. Jamie Barjonas didn’t feature as much as he or his parent club would have liked, but in truth, Rossiter is a different prospect from the outset from his teammate, and that’s not meant to in any way diminish Barjonas, who will now spend the remainder of the campaign at Raith Rovers in a similar pursuit of regular minutes.

To give you an illustration of just how at odds 2018/2019 is the years immediately preceding it, Sporting Director Lee Dykes, together with Lowe, has ensured that the squad has been reduced in size, two of the leading lights in the U18s have signed pro terms, and none of the ‘core’ senior contingent have been sold at an important juncture. Only Scott Wharton and Rossiter have arrived at Carrington, and they both eptiomise quality over quantity in positions that needed strengthening to maintain the tilt for automatic promotion. It’s equally plausible that the latter is ‘above’ the Shakers’ relatively low standing, as I’ve seen suggested both within and without the club, but as good as he is and could prove to be, I don’t feel as though the collective success is all hinging on him being a success in his time there. He has retained a positive outlook in the face of adversity on several occasions, and that will help him no end in fitting into the squad, no matter how much he does or doesn’t end up playing.

 

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