Craig Ireland hails Rangers rookie as a monster, sends warning to Celtic star
By Harvey Byrne
Former Raith Rovers Under-20s boss Craig Ireland has hailed Rangers rookie David Bates and has warned Celtic star Moussa Dembele ahead of the weekend’s Old Firm derby.
Bates, 20, started his career at the Rovers, where Ireland worked with the youth team between 2008 and 2015.
The young defender was highly impressive for his age, making 15 appearances for the Scottish Championship side’s senior team before prompting the Gers into bringing him in on a development loan deal in the summer before signing him permanently in January.
He has since started the Ibrox giants’ last three Premiership matches, keeping three clean sheets and he could be in line to start in Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final clash against fierce rivals Celtic at Hampden Park.
Now, Ireland, who has a good knowledge of Bates believes he has the attributes to become a top player and match goal machine Dembele at the weekend.
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“David deserves so much credit for the attitude he’s shown to get to this stage at 20,” told Ireland to the Scottish Sun.
“It’s been a massive thrill to see him first get the move to Rangers and begin to establish himself as a first-team player.
“Rangers haven’t conceded a goal since his debut, so why can’t he do well against Celtic on Sunday if picked.
“Batesy would have no fears of going up against someone like Dembele. He’d be like a rash with him — he’d stick to him like he does with every striker.
“Of course, it would be a huge occasion if he were picked, but David’s a great lad, if he played I’d love to see him do well.
“However, I’m going to be in the Celtic end and I do want them to win.
“I first saw Batesy about five years ago at Raith Rovers.
“He was gangly, nothing of him — just a big, awkward, ginger-haired kid.
“But Batesy came in with bags of enthusiasm and desire. He played for me in the youth team and then we took him through to the reserves. Eventually he got a few games in the first team.
“Batesy was able to play at right-back and centre-half.
“In terms of his physique and presence I think he’s a bit of a defensive monster.”
Rangers have struggled with injuries in their back line in recent weeks with Clint Hill, Lee Wallace and Rob Kiernan all missing matches in recent weeks.
However, youngsters Myles Beerman and Bates have stepped in and done a good job for Pedro Caixinha’s side, helping the team start an unbeaten run with the clean sheets from their three appearances.
Now, Celtic are a different level to what the Gers have been playing recently and do boast 32-goal scorer Dembele, but the Ibrox side will be eager to win on Sunday and prevent Brendan Rodgers from completing the treble while going onto a final themselves.