Mati Zata's switch can show Billy Gilmour why he should have stayed at Rangers

A general view of Ibrox Stadium is seen ahead of the EURO 2016 Qualifier match between Scotland and Georgia at Ibrox Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Billy Gilmour faces a tough test breaking into Chelsea's first-team after departing Rangers in the summer.

Mark Hill of Celtic vies with Billy Gilmour of Rangers during The Scottish FA Youth Cup Final between Celtic and Rangers at Hampden Park on April 26, 2017 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Two of Rangers brightest prospects departed Ibrox this summer, but in very different circumstances.

While 15-year-old wonderkid Billy Gilmour (above) swapped Glasgow for the bright lights of Chelsea against the advice of countless former pros, his former youth-team colleague Mati Zata has joined non-league East Kilbride on a development loan until January.

And it’s a credit to Zata, two years Gilmour’s senior, that he does not see a temporary stint at a semi-professional club with a stadium holding 660 people as a negative – exactly the opposite in fact.

K Park Training academy, the home ground of East Kilbride FC who play in the Lowland League on July 15, 2017 in East Kilbride, Scotland.

“People will be thinking that coming to the Lowland League is a step down but I see it as a chance to test myself in a team that wants to win and knows how to win,” highly-rated Zata, who made his debut in a 1-1 draw with Stirling University at the weekend, told the Daily Record.

“I don’t just expect to walk into the team because I’ve come from Rangers. I want to earn my way in by impressing the manager. I’m here to gain experience against older players. I’m playing against men in this league and I feel I have coped well so far.”

Long-term benefits

Some say that testing yourself against fully-grown, physical players in the harsh reality of the lower leagues is far more beneficial to a youngster’s development than the sanitised world of academy football.

And Zata has an opportunity to add weight to the theory during his four-month spell in the Lowland league. If the teenager impresses, he is far more likely to find first-team football easier to come by than Gilmour.

A general view of Ibrox Stadium is seen ahead of the EURO 2016 Qualifier match between Scotland and Georgia at Ibrox Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Gilmour may have scored twice on his Chelsea Under-23 debut against Southend in July but it goes without saying that young players aren’t exactly blessed with countless opportunities at Stamford Bridge.

Zata played alongside Gilmour at youth level and it will be interesting to see who benefits more long-term from leaving Rangers in the summer.

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