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Thursday, 04 June 2020 15:01

Man United, to Brazil, to Clyde - the Career of John Rankin Featured

Written by  Matthew Muir
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The path to the top is often full of twists and turns, and no one knows that better than current Clyde midfielder and Hearts youth coach John Rankin.

The 36-year-old ex-Dundee United captain currently juggles playing for the League One outfit alongside coaching the Jambos’ under-18s, as well as assisting with the reserves.

His role at both clubs sees him dishing out advice to youngsters – albeit with slightly more responsibility at Riccarton.

“I don’t see it any different from when I was a player anywhere else,” he said of his squad status at Broadwood. “Obviously, I’m a bit more experienced here than what I was in previous years. It’s a young squad and I take that responsibility quite easily, there are a lot of arising young players. 

“When out on the pitch, I help the manager out and I might move boys here and there, maybe a wee five or ten yards. I always try and help them, but as I said it’s not any different from where I’ve been in the past few years and I’ve been a captain over the past 7-8 years at various clubs and I don’t see it any different here. Although I may not be club captain, I still do my bit.”

It is not the end to the season that Rankin would have wanted. Having returned from two ankle operations – having broken it during the final game of last season – ‘Ranks’ came back to make seven appearances and even score.

His never-say-die attitude is sure to be rubbing off on his young apprentices at the Oriam – and it’s something that the Bellshill-born midfielder had to pick up early in his career.

He joined Manchester United as a teen, during the height of their triumphs, but soon found himself living in the real heart of world football – Brazil.

“Being 16 and signing for the European Champions, I mean that’s a massive, massive thing, being at Manchester United at that age.

“I was there when I was 16, I left my family and was away for four years and I enjoyed my time there. It was more the experience, than anything else, and as I said earlier, to have that opportunity to sign for the European Champions, is something that I’d probably kick myself if I hadn’t done. 

“The big highlight was being captain of the under-15’s, under-17’s and reserves before I left, which we won the reserve league in 2001-2002, which was massive at that time.”

During his time with the Red Devils, Rankin, alongside fellow youth player Ben Muirhead, were sent to Brazil, by Sir Alex Ferguson on loan to Corinthians. However, it wasn’t all pannas in paradise.

“I didn’t really enjoy being over there as such, didn’t really take to the culture and being the only person who spoke English, which was really difficult for a young boy from Scotland, who only took French as a modern language. 

“It was poverty-stricken as well, there were four-to-five-year-old kids flinging sweeties over wing-mirrors and begging, pretty much to make their mums and dads live, basically. 

“It was very difficult to watch. The experience was good, but not one I’d say I liked best. Being a 16-17-year-old going over there, seeing what I saw, it was hard.”

He was released in 2003 and after a few trials, went north to Dingwall to sign for Ross County.

“Becoming a pro at Ross County and playing a game, it means something on a Saturday, when you’re playing for the three points and playing in the Scottish Cup and League Cup final and even though we lost both games, it’s a massive highlight. 

“A particular moment I enjoyed in my career to date was the semi-final at Ibrox, when I was captain of Dundee United and the Scottish Cup Final.”

Now, Rankin is in charge of the under-18 side at Tynecastle - a big change from his days on the green side of Edinburgh. He is assisted by Donald Park, former Scotland under-19 manager and well-known face on the youth circuit.

As well as that, Rankin assisted Andy Kirk as the Jambos' reserve side won the Reserve Cup in the 18-19 season.

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