DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH
Houston desperate to break into Ibrox side
A JOURNEY that started on the street could culminate at Ibrox. Jordan Houston was once a Diamond, but now he hopes to shine for Rangers.
The defender has spent more than a decade in Light Blue as he attempts to rise all the way through the ranks and realise his boyhood dream.
A regular feature of the Under-20 squad that is managed by Graeme Murty, Houston is one of a handful of Gers proteges that are now just one step away from first-team action.
It was his dad, Iain, that was his first boss when he started out as a kid, falling in love with the game as he played with friends from his area. It is Steven Gerrard that he must impress now, though, as he sets his sights on Ibrox.
“A few of the boys on the street were roughly the same age as me and we were playing down the local park,” Houston told SportTimes. “One day my dad decided that we were going to start a team and we got involved.
“We played as Boys Club and started a team called EK Diamonds. It was just boys from the street and then we got others from East Kilbride joining. Eventually, a few of us moved on. It was great that my dad came up with the idea and I think everyone in the area appreciated it at that time because it got us all started and got us all involved.
“We got more competitive when we started playing other teams and it was great to be part of a league and play games where there was that edge on winning.
“I think it has helped me massively and it is only later you realise how much those times when you are young benefit you and how much of an impact they have on you.
“You learn football but you learn about life as well and I think all the boys on the street learned a lot through it.”
That thirst for victory that was honed at a young age will certainly stand Houston in good stead as he tries to forge a career for himself with Rangers.
Those formative years helped shape Houston as a player and a person. At the Hummel Training Centre, he is improving on and off the park every day.
“I don’t think anyone else is playing at the level I am unfortunately,” he said. “A few of them didn’t quite get through, which was
a shame. I am fortunate to have the opportunity that I have and it just shows you what can happen when a chance arises. You have to make the most of every chance.
“You never know who is there watching you or keeping an eye on your games. I was taken by surprise the day that I found out clubs were interested in me at a young age.
“I have been here for so long now, it is 11 years now, so hopefully that next step is first team football. Hopefully I can progress as quickly as possible because that is what I have dreamt of since I came to the club.”
The ambition of playing at the highest level is one that Houston has had since he took his first steps in the Rangers Academy system all those years ago.
He signed a new contract in July that will keep him at Ibrox until the summer of 2020 as his progress and potential were rewarded.
And the versatile defender is confident he can continue to make the necessary strides that will ultimately lead him to a place in Gerrard’s plans.
“I am delighted with the way things are going for me personally and with the way things are going at the club,” Houston said. “It is good to be playing just now so hopefully I can keep that up.
“The games we played last year were brilliant and it was a good eye-opener for us and this season I am looking to build on that. It was good to play against European opposition and teams from the UK
as well so there were a lot of benefits.
“Day to day, I am just trying to get better and that will hopefully see me progress season on season and get that first team opportunity.
“It is a great incentive when you see the young boys go round and get given their chance to show the manager what they can do.
“It has been shown that if you do well for the 20s then you will get that first team opportunity. That is great to know as young players.” The task of making the jump from the Under-20s to the first team is a daunting one for any young player and the belief from a manager is crucial if they are to do it successfully. Houston’s job is arguably more difficult than many of his peers, however. The man whose jersey he is looking to take just happens to be Gerrard’s captain, James Tavernier. Houston said: “If I could hold it down, I would say right-back is my best position and I like to get forward from deep. “I am fortunate that I can play a number of positions and I am a utility player so I can fill in.
“That might help me in the long run because I can play either right-back or left-back. I will just keep pushing.
“There is no pressure on me competing with the captain! He is a great player and he is doing really well just now.
“He has got great qualities and I think we are similar in terms of what we look to do on the pitch. It will be difficult for me to move anyone out of the team, never mind the captain, but you need to have that will to do it because you want their jersey. “He has got a great style of play, especially his forward attributes, and there are certainly things that I can implement into my game.”
Houston in action for Gers U20s
Jordan Houston (inset) is hoping to seize his chance in the Gers first team when the opportunity arises