ACCORDING to those with experience of the matter, Nathan Oduwa’s legs will give out long before his heart. It has been a rough introduction to Scottish football for the Tottenham Hotspur loanee whose free-flowing style of play has found him regularly on the wrong end of a frustrated defender’s ire. Many an Oduwa dash, flick or juggle has ended with the player receiving a pitchside consultation with the club physiotherapist having been the victim of yet another ferocious tackle. It does not serve as a deterrent.

The response to such treatment may be louder and longer now that he is a Rangers player but being tripped, tackled and targeted is not a new thing for the 19 year-old. He was lying on stretchers and visiting treatment rooms long before he set foot in Scotland.

An appearance this summer for a Spurs XI against Stevenage ended abruptly when Charlie Lee, himself a one-time trainee at White Hart Lane, took exception to a piece of Oduwa trickery. His answer was to launch into what one report described as a “ferocious tackle”. The player spent eight minutes on the pitch receiving air and gas before being taken off on a stretcher with a head injury. And this in the first half of a so-called “friendly”.

Prior to that there were Oduwa’s adventures at Luton Town. It may ultimately merit not much more than a footnote in his CV should he go on to fulfil his potential and enjoy a career at the highest echelons, but a three-month loan spell at the League Two club last season has so far proved highly significant in his development. Removed for the first time from the cossetted world of academy football – with its build-slowly-from-the-back philosophy and emphasis on technique – Oduwa would go on to describe his experience of playing for a “men’s team” in English league football’s bottom tier as something of an eye-opener.

John Still cackles at the memory. The Luton manager confirms playing at that level was indeed something completely alien to Oduwa but that it ultimately could be the making of him. In a team struggling for form and falling just short in its attempt to reach the promotion play-offs, Still could not use the capricious Spurs loanee as often as he would have liked. In terms of both Oduwa’s talent and his application, however, the respected, veteran coach could not help but be impressed. As with his introduction to Scottish football, there were opposition defenders in League Two who did not take kindly to this kid showcasing his array of rabonas and rainbow flicks and Oduwa picked up the bruises to prove it. It was his determination to keep going, to not be deterred by the unwanted attention, that made Still think that this was a player with staying power as well as skill. It is why he reassures Rangers fans that, no matter how heavy the treatment becomes, Oduwa will never stop performing.

“I think Rangers are getting Nathan at the perfect time because he experienced what I call “proper football” with us last season,” Still told Herald Sport. “When he first came to us we knew he was quick, could beat people, and had a goal in him, but he found the competitiveness of our games and making the adjustment from development football initially quite tough.

“But he had a great attitude and we always felt that the next club he went to would get the benefit as there would no longer be any surprises for him. I remember telling him when he first arrived that if he got on the ball and breezed past an experienced player – as he was capable of doing – then that defender wouldn’t want that to happen again. So whether through verbal chat, or being physically strong or powerful, the opposition would soon be letting him know he couldn’t just keep doing that. He didn’t seem to grasp it initially and then one or two people gave him a bit of a whack. And then he understood it.

“But it never put him off. He never shied away and he kept looking for the ball and trying the next thing. He stood up to the physical stuff, he took the knocks and just got on with it. His attitude was terrific. At first you wonder if a young guy can deal with that when it comes his way. But we didn’t have too many doubts about Nathan and Rangers shouldn’t either.”

The idea of trying to change Oduwa, to get him to play a more pragmatic style, was anathema to Still. The forward was, therefore, allowed to play his natural game with Luton, with the manager aware there would be occasional consequences of that.

“You can’t ask him to do something different because that’s just the player he is,” he added. “We knew that when we took him that we had to let him play with the freedom that he wants. He can be a match-winner or a game-changer but with that comes the risk that he could lose the ball in a bad area and you could lose a goal. If you’re a team at the bottom of the league and you need 11 warriors then you may not always be able to cater for him. But for a team going well like Rangers then he can be a real asset and he won’t be put off by the tackles or the comments. He’ll just keep coming back for more as that’s the sort of player he is. He’s a tough kid.”