Stephen Kelly has worked under Rangers manager Steven Gerrard often enough to know what he looks for in a player.

That's why it took the young midfielder no time at all to agree to a season-long loan spell at Ross County. It is also why he wasted little time in signing a new contract at Ibrox the minute it was offered. Kelly reckons playing first-team Premiership football with The Staggies will be the perfect preparation for a return to Glasgow.

Having re-signed until 2023, a delighted Kelly was told by Gerrard and Gers assistant Gary McAllister that he is expected to make his mark in the top flight this season. No pressure there, then. But the 20-year-old doesn't mind the expectation. In fact, Kelly understands that he'll have to flourish at County to stand any chance of breaking into the Light Blues' squad upon his return.

He has experience of first-team men's football in the Championship with Ayr last term. Added to the fact that he has spent plenty of time working under two iconic football players in Gerrard and McAllister, and Kelly's grounding has been solid.

"I had a quick chat [with Steven Gerrard] before I left and he and Gary McAllister expect me to make a big impact," Kelly said. "We agree that it's a massive 12 months for me. The biggest thing is to get the minutes and then the goals and assists come second, but the main thing is to get games.

"In the manager's first season I was with the first-team quite a lot, most weeks I was training and made my debut and played in a few friendlies. Then last season I spent out on loan, so in terms of training with the first-team at Rangers it's been a year-and-a-half since I've been with them. Gary started his football in Scotland so to work with someone like that, and the manager speaks for himself. Working under those type of players and learning in terms of mindset, it's been good.

"I had this year still to go on my contract but it was good to sign an extension. It looks like I could be in the plans given I do well. When you're young the contract is not as big as maybe when you're a more senior player but to get that security and faith from the club, it feels good.

"The way the loan spell went last year, I think I earned it to get the faith and respect to go ahead this year at a higher level. You take confidence from the manager and Gary saying good things, can only be a positive.

"To have a chance at playing for Rangers, you need to be performing well, whether it's the Championship or in England, or the Premiership. You need to be performing consistently to have any chance of going back. The manager did say that but I kind of had it in my head already.

"You can go to different leagues but not much compares to the way the game is played up here in the Premiership. It's a very difficult league but I'm looking forward to it."

Gerrard and McAllister are not the only two Rangers-associated stars Kelly has been able to pick the brains of. The youngster hailed current club leader Scott Arfield and some former Ibrox stars for their advice and guidance throughout his time there.

"I've been quite close with Scott since he's come in," Kelly added. "He gives wee tips on movement and things like that. Previous players I'd say Lee Wallace was very good with myself and all the younger boys. Andy Halliday always looked out for the younger boys and Steven Davis always checked how I was doing.

"Having these types of people to speak to about the game and them actually being interested is good."

Away from Ibrox, Kelly is simply excited to get going. And he insists he's been impressed with the ambition shown by Staggies manager Stuart Kettlewell to bring him to the club. "The fact that they were interested in me sold it because I feel wanted," he said. "The manager said he'd tracked me a bit last season and saw me as someone who could come in and be a big part of the team. It's going to be a harder challenge than I've had before, but it's very good for myself. I just want to get as many games here and see where it takes me.

"So far this is the biggest challenge and biggest season for me. It could determine whether I go back to Rangers and get a chance, or maybe not. There's a lot to be gained."