Glasgow Rangers manager Steven Gerrard recently confirmed Nikola Katic has suffered a setback which has ruled him for the rest of the season.
What’s the word?
The Rangers defender sustained an injury during pre-season training last summer but his agent had insisted his client was pushing for a return in early 2021.
However, it was subsequently revealed he has not managed to recover as quickly as previously hoped, and as such will be forced to sit on the sidelines for the remainder of the season.
He said: “I think he’s an excellent player but these are injuries you must take your time with, you can’t rush him back. You don’t want it happening again just for the sake of pushing yourself to get an extra month and trying play a few games.
“You may as well take your time, get it right, have a full pre-season because that’ll be him out for a full year, so it’s going to be difficult for him to get back up to the level that we’re used to seeing him play. It’s going to take some time so think pre-season is a good time for him to build up slowly with the rest of the team and then get back into action.”
Gerrard faces a selection dilemma
The timing of the injury blow almost couldn’t be much worse after Rangers sent George Edmundson out on loan to Derby County in the January transfer window, with Gerrard’s side facing a very busy fixture list between now and the end of the season.
Kilmarnock are next on the agenda, and then there are Europa League games and an increasingly hectic Scottish Premiership schedule subject to Covid-19.
Prior to his injury, Katic had established himself as an integral part of Gerrard’s side, including getting himself into the Ibrox faithful’s good books with a dramatic winner at Parkhead to beat Celtic. In his last season alone, he averaged two tackles per 90 in the Europa League. For context, even Leon Balogun and Filip Helander have only managed 1.4 and one respectively.
Now, the long-term absentee is expected be sidelined for several more months to recover from the blow. This means that the 24-year-old will not only miss the Europa League, but he’ll also be unavailable to help the Gers in their push to regain the title for the first time since the 2010/11 season.
Having just Connor Goldson, Balogun and Helander available at the back leaves little margin for error, with the relatively inexperienced Calvin Bassey also an option in the central defensive role if required as a last resort.
Barring a coronavirus crisis, an injury crisis could quickly cause problems, so Gerrard will have to consider managing his options carefully to avoid a potential catastrophe.
Ultimately, the key thing for the Gers boss is making sure the £10k-a-week earning Katic can get up to speed as quickly as possible without suffering any more setbacks. Rushing him back into the equation would do both him and the club more harm than good, so as Hutton rightfully says, it’s better for the Ibrox side to really play it safe with the 6 foot 4 titan.
AND in other news, Ross Wilson must secure the future of Rangers centre-back Leon Balogun…