RHYS Breen may be something of an unknown prospect to Rangers supporters, but two things are clear.
The first is that the Light Blues must rate him highly and see a bright future for him to stick by the defender during three years out of action.
And the second is that he has the strength of character to succeed at Ibrox after battling back from an injury that could have ended his career rather just curtail his progress.
If Breen goes on to make a name for himself with Rangers, he will certainly have done it the hard way.
That is the ultimate ambition for the 19-year-old. His future was once bleak, now he hopes it is bright.
“I was out for the best part of three seasons due to a hip injury and then when I was coming back I had slight niggles and strains,” Breen, part of the Rangers group that won the Reserve League title last week, said.
“That has been two months that I have been pain free and I have been enjoying my football again. It has been amazing to come in here and do my work without any setbacks.
“It is definitely tough mentally and you need the right support behind you in terms of your family, your friends and the club.
“They all play a huge part. It is down to yourself as well, because sometimes you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and you are in a dark place. It is hard to push through it. It is unbelievable to come back after all that I have been through.
“The past is behind me now and when you come back and win the league, after something that has been so brutal in my career, it means a lot.”
The challenge of recovering from three years on the sidelines is a daunting one for any player, never mind one still in their formative stage.
Rangers have kept their faith in Breen, though, and a new contract that was signed in March has tied him to Ibrox until next summer.
The backing of Head of Academy Craig Mulholland and Under-20s boss Graeme Murty has been invaluable. Breen’s resilience is admirable.
“Coming in and listening is a big thing, you really need to take on board what is being said and it comes down to your work ethic,” he said. “That is in here and out of here, all your life and your lifestyle has to be revolved around football.
“I had to have surgery at Christmas two years ago and since then it has just been working my way back.
“It felt like a slow process, but you jump over small barriers and work towards the finishing line. When you are back, it is all worth it.
“With rehab, you can’t just rush into it, there are small processes that you need to go through and once you start overcoming them your objectives get bigger until the point you are training with the first team.
“The physios have been great with me and the staff have had a lot of faith in me and stood by me. That has meant a lot and I’m grateful for that.
“I have spoken to Craig and Murts and they have got high expectations for me. So I just need to go and work as hard as I can to repay that.”
As he took one step forward and two back on the road to recovery, it would have been natural if Breen lost his faith and fell out of love with football. His patience has paid off.
The physical ailments that held him back for so long don’t stifle his progress these days. He never feared he would be forced out of the game or have to give up on his dream.
“No, definitely not,” Breen said. “Although you would imagine that anyone that had an injury like that would think of the worst.
“You might think ‘Am I going to be as good when I get back?’ or ‘Will I be able to play as well as I used to and get in the team?’ Wee thoughts do go through your head, but I never thought it was over for me.
“Don McNaughton comes in and speaks to us if we have any doubts in our heads and I spoke with him to help me overcome that.
“The injury is sometimes more mental than physical and that can be the biggest challenge to overcome.
“You have to do the hours in the gym, go through the rehab and that can be tough. But it is all worth it when you get back on the pitch so you need to have the faith in yourself.”
Having backed himself to return to full fitness, Breen had no doubt in his team-mates last Monday.
The stopper pulled Murty’s side level at the Falkirk Stadium before Andy Dallas hit a double to clinch the win and the league title.
For Breen, it was a moment to savour and an afternoon to remember. It had been some time coming.
“It was unbelievable to go out, there was a big expectation, and win the league,” he said. “There were about 1000 fans there and the boys had to respond in the right manner after losing to Celtic in the Glasgow Cup. We knew we had to go out with a big performance and that is what we done, which was good.
“It was different to walk out and see and hear the fans and it does put a bit of pressure on you, but you settle into the game quite easily. It was amazing seeing all the fans.
“It has been crazy for me because I have just come back from injury recently. To be doing nothing and then be playing in cup finals and winning leagues was really good. To go out and win like that was great.”
*Rangers Academy defender Rhys Breen is pictured promoting the Rangers Youth Development Company.
Since 2002, RYDC profits have been directed to Rangers Football Club’s youth programme – with almost £8 million provided so far.
And in January, Academy Head Craig Mulholland and youth graduate Glenn Middleton accepted an RYDC donation of £400,000.
For full details on RYDC’s growing portfolio of products – the re-launched Rangers Pools, Rangers Lotto, Rising Stars, Scratchcards, Stadium Bricks and the Youth Members Club – visit www.rydc.co.uk or call 0141 427 4914.