Glenn Middleton reckons joining Dundee United will be the catalyst to showcase the talent that made him one of Scottish football’s brightest young prospects when he exploded onto the scene with Rangers.
Still only 22 years of age, Middleton has racked up a remarkable amount of experience.
He was a Light Blues regular at the age of 18, earning rave reviews for his fearless showings on the flank during a fine 2018/19 season and representing the Glasgow outfit in the Europa League.
Despite failing to become an Ibrox mainstay — he departs after making 29 senior appearances — Middleton went on to lift the Scottish Cup during a loan stint with St Johnstone and turn out for Hibs and Bradford City.
And the Scotland under-21 internationalist insists this is the right time to cut ties with Rangers permanently and fulfil his potential at Tannadice.
“I’m very grateful for all the opportunities I got at Rangers but there comes a time when you need to push on and that time is now,” Middleton told Courier Sport.
“I’m very proud of my time there. Maybe sometimes I don’t realise that I was only 18 when I was doing what I was doing — playing in Europe and starting for Rangers in the Premiership. Not many 18-year-olds can say that.
“However, I can’t just say that for the rest of my career. I need to move on and show everyone why I was in that position in the first place.
“The first few days at United have been amazing and I just keep saying to myself, ‘this is me; this is my club’. I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy my loan spells. I learned so much and became a better player and a better person.
“But knowing that I won’t be going somewhere else for a good few years is a nice feeling and gives me something to build from.”
Scotland step up
Middleton’s new gaffer, Jack Ross, has lofty expectations for the versatile forward.
Capped 22 times for Scotland’s under-21 side — scoring five times — Ross believes there is no reason Middleton should not aspire to senior recognition in years to come.
Asked whether that is a goal he shares, Middleton does not skip a beat.
“For sure — it all comes back to ambition,” he continued. “If you don’t believe you can reach those levels, then this game isn’t for you.
“I’m very ambitious and that’s why I needed to be settled somewhere.
“You can’t play to your best and achieve your goals if you are always changing; you can only ever show glimpses. Now it’s about getting that consistency back in my game and showing people what I can do.”
No Euro fear
In truth, Middleton had scant opportunity to do that on his debut.
Nevertheless, the former Norwich City academy kid got valuable minutes in his legs and will be firmly in contention to feature against AZ Alkmaar in the Europa Conference League on Thursday night.
And Middleton — who faced LASK with the Saints last term and crossed swords with the likes of Villarreal, Spartak Moscow and Rapid Vienna with Rangers — is adamant United will do more than simply enjoy a memorable occasion.
“We aren’t going into this game thinking, ‘oh, it’s a great one-off game’,” he vowed. “We believe we can win and progress. That should be the target for everyone.
“The platform is massive. You want to reach those levels and test yourself against top teams and top players.
“I played against LASK for St Johnstone and, looking further back, played in Europe for Rangers so I do have a bit of experience on that front.
“That night at McDiarmid Park, with the crowd and the atmosphere, is what European football brings. I’m sure the United fans are just as excited as us and will create an unbelievable atmosphere. It’s then down to us to do the rest.
“We’ll treat AZ with respect — as we do with every team — but I don’t feel like you should go into any game feeling like the underdogs or feeling like you can’t get a result. You are in the wrong sport if that’s your mentality.”