Even as an 18-year-old who arrived at Tynecastle from Stenhousemuir, David Templeton could rely on a persuasive talent.
His new team-mates at Hearts were immediately captivated, although there were still rough edges to a game based on intuition, trickery and resourcefulness. It was two years before he made his debut for the club, but the qualities were clear. "He was immense," said Lee Wallace, who was also at Hearts at the time. "It was evident he was a player."
The two are team-mates again now at Rangers, where Templeton has quickly become a favourite among the support following his £700,000 move in the final hours of the summer transfer window. With the club under a registration embargo, Templeton is the last player aged over 18 that Rangers will sign until September, but there is no pining among the fans. Templeton has the ability to mesmerise, and he has found the Ibrox support eager to identify a new favourite.
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With his artfulness, reputation as a winger and the middle name Cooper, comparisons with the late Rangers winger might be inevitable. Ally McCoist, the Rangers manager, was reluctant to draw similarities even after Templeton's virtuosity in the 3-0 win over Clyde on Wednesday – Cooper was his friend, but also a player who is still considered an uncommon talent, set apart from what the majority of other Scottish players have been capable of – but he was adamant the two at least shared a rare vision.
Templeton's pass for Wallace's opening goal was brilliantly executed, but few players would have been aware of the full-back's run, while receiving the ball with their back to goal, let alone possess the ability to make it happen by flicking the ball into the air then hooking a pass over their shoulder.
"He's got the ability to do anything," Wallace said of his team-mate. "He's sharp, he's quick, he's direct. He's going to be massively important to us. You can see the impact he has made since he came back from injury [in September] He's having a hand in a few goals and scoring some himself, too."
Templeton has started the last two games in a central role just behind the main striker. The position allows him to be more involved in the game – he impressed in the role for Hearts against Liverpool in the Europa League in August – but it is also the area Dean Shiels prefers to operate in.
Shiels started the game against Clyde on the bench but came on during the first half, after Andy Little hurt a hamstring, and Templeton was moved out to the right flank, but it was the latter who continued to be the most influential player on the pitch. The versatility is welcome to McCoist, since the manager still considers his squad to be threadbare, but Templeton looks more adept and compelling playing in the centre.
"It's kind of like a false No.9 role he's got," Wallace said. "David can play inside or outside, he's got that ability. Balls are getting fired right into him and he's got a guy right behind him, but he's twisting and turning and getting away from them. Guys like him and Barrie McKay are going to cause chaos and it's great to have."
Rangers are operating now from a position of strength. The win over Clyde was their ninth consecutive league victory, and they are 12 points clear at the top of the third division table. Having finally come to terms with the circumstances and demands of how to win in the lowest tier in Scottish football, Rangers are beginning to play with the kind of authority that had been expected of them.
Setbacks are still possible, but the sense is of a side that has shed most of its vulnerability. Where conceding a goal would once have confirmed and so emphasised the team's frailty, it is now more of an inconvenience.
Winning the title remains paramount, but McCoist is also striving to pass on some old values in this new team. The demands of success at Ibrox are constant so the habit of winning, whatever the circumstances, will need to become ingrained.
"Even if it [the gap] gets to 30 points, we will never take out foot off the gas – that's what the manager instils in us," Wallace said. "We need to stay focused and grounded. It's important we don't get too carried away with the lead we've got. We'll be ruthless every time we play."
ANALYSIS Team-mate sings winger's praises