This series will focus on ex-Rangers players and how their careers have turned it. It will mostly focus on players who were at Ibrox during the early parts of their career. Some will be academy products, some will be loan players and others who were signed from other clubs.
Some of these players were cult heroes, some were thought to be the next big thing and some just drifted away. For the debut of this series we’re going to focus on Rhys McCabe. Currently making the headlines as the UKs youngest manager, let’s delve into his early days at Ibrox and what has happened since.
He made his Rangers debut as a 19 year old against Hearts in March 2012 after coming through the youth set up. He had previously been an unused substitute on nine occasions before finally making it on to the pitch. It was his Old Firm debut later that month, however, where he really made his name.
One of the most impressive Old Firm debuts in recent memory, he controlled the game as if he’d be playing in the fixture his whole career. He wasn’t overawed by the occasion in the slightest and showed the potential to be a key player for Rangers in the years to come.
He, unfortunately, never got that opportunity though as administration hit the club. He recently spoke on the Pints And Two Shots podcast about the uncertainty around the club at that time. Fans had a negative view of most players who they feel ‘deserted’ the club at that point. However, a listen to McCabe talking about the situation puts into perspective how poorly Rangers dealt with the situation.
He then had the opportunity to go to either Everton or Sheffield Wednesday. He choose Sheffield Wednesday due to the opportunity for first team football as he felt he was ready for it.
He spent three seasons at Hillsborough but couldn’t make the impact on the first team that he wanted. He made over 40 appearances for the Owls and also had a loan spell at Portsmouth during his time there.
He was then released at the end of the 14-15 season alongside ten other players. He had trials at St. Johnstone and Hibs before signing for Dunfermline in League One. He played with the Pars for two seasons, making 51 appearances, scoring five goals and getting five assists. Upon his contract expiry he then decided to take his career to Ireland and signed for Sligo Rovers in 2017.
He spent two years in Ireland, one with Sligo and one with St. Pat’s Athletic. In his time in Ireland he made 80 appearances between the two clubs, scoring seven and assisting five in that time. He was released by St. Pat’s in November 2019 and in the January found himself back in Scotland at Brechin where he signed a six month deal.
At the end of the six months he then signed a one year deal with Queen of The South. In his only season with QOTS he made 26 appearances and got four assists, he then left the club at the end of that deal.
Then he finally found a home, in June 2021 he signed for Airdrie. After his first season at the club, the then manager Ian Murray was sacked. McCabe was then given the opportunity to be player manager for the 22-23 League One season. This made him the youngest manager in the UK.
Airdrie impressed with their attacking style of football. During the season they were the third highest scoring team in Scotland, only behind Rangers and Celtic. Airdrie finished third in League One then absolutely destroyed Falkirk in the play-off semi-final 7-2 on aggregate.
Airdrie and McCabe then faced Hamilton in a tie to see who would play in the Championship next season. Airdrie won the first leg 1-0 but it took an 89th minute in the second leg to make it 2-1 Hamilton and the game went to extra time. There were no more goal in extra time and Airdrie eventually won the game on penalties.
A massive achievement for the youngest manager in the UK to take Airdrie into the Championship. He’ll surely now be doing everything he can for back to back promotions and get the diamonds into the SPFL.
The future looks very bright for Rhys McCabe and Airdrie and he’s definitely cemented himself as one of the nations most promising young managers.