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Nathan Patterson could have a Rangers decision to make amid Premier League interest

IT is all about the timing for Nathan Patterson. He has made the most of every opportunity to date, but he could soon face the biggest decision of his career.

When he was given the chance to step in and take over from James Tavernier last season, the right-back thrived as he helped Rangers secure their historic Premiership title.

In the summer, he answered the call of his country and has only gone from strength to strength under the guidance of Steve Clarke in the months since.

Over the next four weeks, his name will be touted around and his future will be debated. Only Patterson knows what it holds, though.

When Everton made two approaches – the first of £5million and the second around the £9million mark – during the summer, Rangers were able to stand firm and rebuff the interest.

Rafa Benitez has tried and tried again. Now he hopes to make it third time lucky as Everton attempt to lure Patterson south of the border next month.

Steven Gerrard described the £5million offer as a ‘joke’ when asked about the situation in the aftermath of the victory over Ross County back in August.

He would acknowledge, though, that ‘all the players have got a price’ and that is as true for Patterson as it is any other of the sellable assets within the Ibrox squad.

When Giovanni van Bronckhorst replaced Gerrard as manager last month, he inherited a promising position in the Premiership and a team capable of success at home and abroad.

He also took on Gerrard’s problems, however, and the situation with Patterson is one of the most pressing. He will hope that Everton, or anyone else for that matter, don’t expedite the decision making process this season.

Benitez has relied heavily on captain Seamus Coleman throughout what has been a difficult first few months at Goodison Park and the requirement for options at full-back is as great now as it was in the summer when Patterson was first identified as a target.

A £17million deal for Vitaliy Mykolenko, the Dynamo Kyiv left-back, is further proof of the Toffees’ spending power and a move for Patterson won’t fall down due to a lack of funds. It will depend if Everton want to go as high as Rangers need them to, if their arm is to be twisted.

Only Van Bronckhorst, the Ibrox board and sporting director Ross Wilson will know what that valuation is. If a couple of million is added to the bid, it surely makes it an appealing offer.

The reluctance to sell Patterson is obvious. Destined to be a star for Scotland for a decade or more, the 20-year-old will eventually succeed his captain as first choice right-back at Ibrox.

Patterson is the shining light, the example to follow, for the Auchenhowie academy. In truth, more should have gone before him and Rangers need several to follow in his footsteps to justify the investment – both in financial and personnel terms – in their youth system.

Whatever money Rangers eventually bank for Patterson, it will be a success story. Ultimately, it is down to him to determine how the next chapters unfold.

The issue of giving Patterson enough game time to improve and impress remains an almost impossible one to solve but Van Bronckhorst has at least tried to find something of a solution.

In the matches with Sparta Prague and Livingston, the defender was utilised further forward as he slotted in ahead of Tavernier and helped Rangers see both games out.

A start would follow in the Group A dead-rubber with Lyon but it is at left-back where his latest opportunities have come for the champions.

His ten minute cameo at home to St Johnstone saw him utilised on the opposite flank for the second time and he would fulfill the same role – after a quick tactical rethink – during Saturday’s victory over Dundee United.

Gerrard spoke last month about Patterson needing to be challenged in different scenarios and it will do him no harm at all to get more match minutes under his belt on the left of the back four rather than the right.

But that is not where his future lies in the long term. Only Patterson will know if he feels Rangers is the best place for him going forward.

His relative lack of game time and starts must surely be a concern but Patterson will be level-headed enough to understand the situation that Van Bronckhorst is in.

That position cannot be taken for granted, though, and there will surely come a time when the Scotland internationalist will feel he has to move on if his route to regular football is still blocked at Ibrox.

Right now, Patterson could go into many Premier League squads and not look out of place. In time, he has the potential to be a starter for almost all of the teams in England’s top flight.

It would be natural if his head is turned by the bright lights and the pound notes of a move to Merseyside and Rangers will invariably face an increasingly difficult task in convincing Patterson otherwise.

The timing of his move – a deal that is a matter of when, not if – is crucial and that will be for Patterson, alongside his family and his representatives, to deliberate themselves.

If Everton do return to the negotiating table next month, those discussions may have to be brought forward and all parties could well have key decisions to make in a short space of time.

Rangers may not be able to match the wages at Goodison Park, but they can provide Patterson with the opportunities that he will crave as Van Bronckhorst’s side target European progress and domestic silverware.

Patterson’s timing has been spot on throughout his fledgling career. If his biggest call yet can be delayed until the summer, at least, then everyone will be a winner at Ibrox.

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