Speaking to the Evening Times, Johnstone - who netted 132 goals for the club in an illustrious career - believes that Hardie’s emergence will guarantee no slipping standards from the senior Rangers stars.
He said: “Ryan and the other colts will give great encouragement to the lads coming through the youth ranks at Murray Park. They will see that if they do well they will be handed a chance in the first team. I am sure it will spur them on.
“That, in turn, will ensure the players in possession of a top-team jersey will maintain their standards. They know if they fail to perform then a youngster will be waiting to take their place.”
Hardie came into the first-team due to an injury to Kenny Miller, and it is hard to deny that he should keep his place in the starting XI, despite Miller’s return to fitness. The 18-year-old netted twice in the 3-1 victory over Dumbarton, and that is surely enough to warrant a place in Stuart McCall’s plans as the Light Blues take on Falkirk this weekend.
If Miller intends to reclaim his place in the starting XI, he will have to prove he is still good enough to warrant selection over his young rival, rather than going by his name.
Goals have been hard to come by for the Gers this term, and the lack of a consistent goal scorer is one of the reasons that the club have not seriously mounted a challenge for automatic promotion.
Hardie could be that player, and Johnstone is right to suggest that his breakthrough could spur on the fellow academy prospects to the first-team.
If a number of other youngsters make a case for themselves to be included at first-team, it might not just be Miller who is fearing for his place in McCall’s plans, and maybe his entire Rangers career altogether - with his contract expiring this summer.