After some speculation that he would be leaving Ibrox this summer, Blackpool have confirmed the signing of Ryan Hardie from Rangers.
The 22-year-old joins the English League One side on a two-year deal, with the option of a third, as he ends his tenure with his boyhood club.
The frontman, who has represented Scotland at under-21 level, had numerous loan spells whilst at Rangers, but did not feature under Steven Gerrard.
Blackpool boss Simon Grayson is delighted with the signing. Speaking to the club’s website, he said; “The club has been monitoring Ryan’s progress for some time and having watched plenty of footage and spoken to fellow coaches and players about him, he’s going to be a good addition who strengthens our attacking options.”
“We’re getting him at the right age and have beaten some competition for his signature.”
Hardie is excited for the challenge that awaits him at Bloomfield Road. In an interview with Blackpool’s website, he remarked; “It’s exciting times and I’m looking forward to hopefully pushing the club up the table and seeing how far we can go.
“It’s a new challenge coming down here and it’s obviously going to be different playing conditions, a different way to play and a different style of play. I’m looking forward to challenging myself and seeing how I deal with it.”
What does Hardie offer Blackpool?
Despite only featuring 17 times for Rangers, Hardie has proven to be a goal scorer when given chances elsewhere. He's a quick striker who can produce something out of nothing whether that be with his head, from long range, or with his natural poacher's instinct.
He likes to get in behind defenders with his blistering pace, but is also comfortable with his back to goal and can bring others into play with flick-ons or by holding the ball up.
The 22-year old’s appearances for the Gers usually came from the bench, with little time to impress, but when given regular game time, the forward has shown he can be a handful for defenders.
He featured 34 times over two loan spells with Raith Rovers, in which he netted on 14 occasions in the Scottish Championship.
Despite an unsuccessful loan move to St Mirren in between his Raith spells, Hardie also caught the eye at Livingston over an 18-month period, where his goals were vital in the club’s promotion to the Scottish Premiership.
With eight goals in just 16 league games during the second half of his first season with the Lions, the poacher finished the campaign as joint-top goal scorer.
As Livi got promoted, Hardie joined on loan again, this time for a full season. An injury hindered his goal tally, but the Stranraer-born striker still managed to net seven goals in 21 Premiership matches.
Future Scotland star?
With the absence of Leigh Griffiths from the national team at the moment, and the lack of prolific centre forwards, Hardie could close to a potential Scotland call-up if he impresses at Blackpool.
He turns 23 next year, so has plenty of time to improve as a player, but he’ll want to adapt to English football as quickly as possible, and start banging in goals when given his chance.
With the likes of Jermain Defoe, Alfredo Morelos and Kyle Lafferty at Rangers, Hardie would’ve been left out of Gerrard’s squad most weeks, but now with the chance to get more regular game time, he could really kick on and become Scotland’s number nine in the future.