Of the myriad criticisms that are levelled at Ross Wilson's tenure as sporting director at Rangers, perhaps the most valid is his failure to put quality young Scots at the centre of the football department's transfer strategy.

After all, there has barely been a successful time in history when the notion the club shops locally first and foremost, hasn't been front and centre in their market thinking. Across two tenures Walter Smith, who undoubtedly set the benchmark for modern Ibrox managers in his second spell, made sure to fill the team with men who made cliches flesh. Bleed for the jersey? Check. Understand the remorseless win-or-die culture? Check. Able to perform in a physically unforgiving league? Check.

In contrast, throughout Wilson's time, only Scott Wright can be identified as a young Scottish signing of note. That record would be less egregious if the ones that got away were not excelling just a few short years on.

For example, Rangers have been crying out for a young left-back to truly challenge Borna Barisic for a place in the team since Calvin Bassey was moved to centre-back. Josh Doig at Hibs seemed an obvious target but a deal wasn't progressed before he moved to Serie A for a fee of £3m in the summer of 2022. Rangers instead spent up to £5m, on a Turkish full-back called Ridvan Yilmaz.

To be fair on the diminutive former Besiktas man, he can play. The problem remains the one that screamed out the minute you saw him - does this kid have the physicality to cope with the muscularity of the Premiership? You'd have to say, given the injuries that have plagued his spell in Scotland, the answer has been no. Barisic remains first choice despite his limitations, while Doig has flowered in Serie A and is now conservatively valued at £8m.

Another who has taken the Italian league by storm is Lewis Ferguson - perhaps the most galling failure of all. The son of Derek, the nephew of treble-winning captain Barry and a diehard fan, it made no sense why Aberdeen's midfield powerhouse wouldn't have been earmarked for a move to Govan. Ferguson was let go from the youth set up as a kid before he rebuilt his career and confidence with Hamilton. Mention his name and there was always a sense that minds in the building had been hardened from those fledgling days - he wasn't good enough and wouldn't be in the future. 

It was baffling at the time and it's more so now as Ferguson dominates Bologna's midfield and continues to perform at a high level in one of the world's best leagues. Juventus are amongst the known admirers of a player who is now out of Rangers' reach after scoring four and assisting three times in just 13 games.

And there's another to add to this list of bargain buy transfer ignominy - Lawrence Shankland. He's been the best goalscorer plying his trade outside of the Glasgow clubs in Scotland for 6 years now. He was available on a free transfer in 2019 from Ayr when a deal would have been agreed for buttons and when he left Beerschot in Belgium in 2022 for around £600,000. Both times it was a gamble worth taking. Today, he's nobody's role of the dice having scored 38 goals in 66 games for Heart of Midlothian, becoming their captain and talisman in the process.

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If Philippe Clement wants to win the title this year, he needs goals. Danilo already looks handy in that department but his facial injury against St Johnstone earlier in the season exposed the lack of depth behind the Brazilian. It's obvious that Cyriel Dessers is not, and will never be the answer. The Nigerian striker is a lovely big guy, but he's not shown anything close to the standards of finishing or build-up play required to be a Rangers no.9.

Shankland represents the closest deal Rangers could possibly get to a certain hit. He's been able to score wherever he's been; Edinburgh, Dundee, Ayr - it doesnt matter. Shankland not building on that at Ibrox, let alone failing to match previous levels of consistency is unthinkable with the increased creative quality that would surround him.

There have been a few comparisons with the deal that saw Alex McLeish sign Kris Boyd back in January 2006 and you can see why. The romanticism of a prolific goalscorer who supported the club as a boy and all that. But Shankland, with due respect to Boyd, is a much better all-round player.

Even in the troughs of his career in Belgium or playing under Mickey Mellon at Dundee United where he was criminally isolated, his record has been contextually good. While Boyd was a penalty box poacher with ice in his veins, Shankland can score tap ins, link play and has the capacity for moments of brilliance. In short, it's a no-brainer transfer for Rangers, given their need for goals and the makeup of their squad.

Of course, whether Hearts would play ball or not is another story. Buoyed by the financial boost delivered by their Foundation pledges every month and the largesse of a billionaire benefactor in James Anderson, the Edinburgh club won't sell anyone unless they sniff a very good deal. Selling their captain to either Glasgow club in January would go down like a lead balloon with fans who already seem on the edge of foment over Steven Naismith's stuttering start to the season.

They would certainly not be willing sellers and any notion that Shankland might be secured for a couple of million is fanciful at best. Given Rangers splashed out £5m for Dessers in the summer, also 28 remember, it seems unlikely a deal could be struck if it's not in that kind of ballpark. Even then, Hearts might just decide they'd rather keep a guaranteed scorer until the summer and reassess then. 

This can be a dangerous strategy though. Players tend not to take kindly to dream moves being scuppered. Shankland and his agent might strongly suggest to Hearts that if the club values him at such a high fee, they need to pay him accordingly. Players have all the power in the modern game and we've seen from previous transfers that things can get ugly fast if there's intransigence on both sides. He has 18 months left on his deal and the clock is ticking already should offers be turned down in January.

With Wilson now gone, and his replacement yet to be secured, the driving force behind any deals in January will surely be new manager Clement. He will likely know about Shankland from his time in Belgium. As a football obsessive, he will certainly have seen his performances in and for Scotland. You have to assume one of the attractions to the board of him taking the job, as a total outsider to the Scottish game, is to see it afresh. It will be fascinating to see if he aligns with many other observers in the Shankland - or goes down a different road entirely.

Whatever happens, it will certainly be crucial that Clement looks to address a baffling transfer blind spot that's already seen millions of pounds in potential player trading lost due to miscalculations in a market Rangers should be at its strongest and most confident operating in.