BARRIE McKAY’S willingness to embrace hard work rather than his natural ability has been highlighted as the main reason for his surge at Rangers this season.

The 20-year-old has had 18 appearances for the Ibrox club already this season under Mark Warburton, generally occupying the flanks in the team that is currently perched at the top of the Ladbrokes Championship. Of course, it is a standard and a division he is more than familiar with. While Rangers were travelling up through League One two seasons ago, McKay was out on loan with Morton, before a similar arrangement last term saw him sent to Raith Rovers.

His recent performances in a lighter shade of blue have impressed many, including Scotland Under-21 head coach Ricky Sbragia, who named the 20-year-old in his squad to face Ukraine next Friday in a European qualifier. And while Sbragia has faith in McKay’s talents, he has also been taken with his maturity and work ethic, a trait that reminds the 59-year-old of himself.

“I think it has [going out on loan benefitting him],” he said. “You sometimes come to that situation. I remember myself – and I wasn’t at the style or level of their football – being at Birmingham in 1978. I got offered a two-year contract but I wanted to play football. I went to Walsall which was two divisions down from the top division.

“I could have sat at Birmingham and picked up some good money, played an odd game at first team level. But I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to get out. I need to get a football education and that’s what’s happened. It happens a lot in Scotland and they do learn from it. They see the other side as well.

He’s been terrific with Rangers and deserves the call up.”

McKay is a player Sbragia knows well. He has been a regular at various age levels with his country and the coach admits he has always been taken with the ability of the former Kilmarnock youth.

Rangers manager Warburton is obviously of the same opinion given how frequently the winger has played this term, and Sbragia believes he now deserves the chance to impress again for Scotland.

His call up is timed perfectly given next week will see national team boss Gordon Strachan part of the coaching staff ahead of the game at St Mirren Park in Paisley.

“I think he’s done extremely well. I’ve known him from the 17s. He’s on form in Rangers’ first team,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to bring him in with a couple players missing. It’s a great chance for him to come in and show us how good he is.”

Sbragia added: “I know when he came with the 19s he was a very energetic player. He always performed at a high level for us so in general I think he’d be loving it now.

“The manager loves him, he’s done extremely well and he’s playing week in week out. He’s playing some really good football and that can only be good for Barrie.”