Nathan Patterson


Blair Newman

January 3, 2022

Nathan Patterson playing for Scotland

This profile was originally published in the twelth edition of the Scouted Football Handbook, available here.

Who is Nathan Patterson?

Last season, Nathan Patterson developed into an important member of the Rangers squad, earning significant minutes at right-back while esteemed club captain and key starter, James Tavernier, was injured or rested. 

At 19 years old, he played in a number of Europa League games – includ­ing both legs of the knock-out tie with Slavia Praha – and started in the 2-0 Old Firm derby win against Celtic in the Scottish Cup.

He also scored his first goal for Rangers in a win over Roy­al Antwerp in February. Coming on at half-time, he found the net just 16 seconds later after an excellent run in be­hind, followed up by a decisive finish. A few months later he made his debut for Scotland, then appeared as a substi­tute in the Euro 2020 group stage clash with Croatia.

Having made his first senior international start in a recent win over Moldova in World Cup qualifying, Patterson is seen as Scotland’s obvious solution to the problemat­ic right-back position. There are many fans who believe he deserves the role right now. With more game time for Rangers, it is almost certain he will become his country’s first-choice full-back on that side in the coming year or two, if not months.

At the time of writing, Patterson has yet to establish him­self as a regular starter at club level, owning to the status of Tavernier, though the 19-year-old’s potential is absolutely undeniable. 

Everton were attributed with significant inter­est in him during the summer transfer window, with Rang­ers manager Steven Gerrard describing their reported £5 million bid as something ‘out of a joke book’.  With a start­ing role for Scotland in the pipeline, genuine interest from a few Premier League clubs and a new contract extending his Ibrox stay to 2024, the future is bright for Patterson.

Nathan Patterson playing for Rangers

Nathan Patterson's style of play

Rangers play in a 4-3-3 shape with a fluid front three that rotate positions and occupy the central areas. In this attacking system, full-backs are responsible for providing the width. Patterson, an outstanding athlete, is able to maraud the right flank all by himself, causing problems with his forward runs and pace. 

His favourite move is the give-and-go, playing the ball inside to a team-mate before sprinting beyond his opponent on the outside and running onto the return pass. There are few left-backs that can turn and keep up with him in these situations, so it is a good way for him to get past his opponent. 

It could be argued that Patterson is a little too reliant on support inside him – he rarely goes it alone and takes on his man. Perhaps this is due to a lack of strength to go shoulder-to-shoulder with a defender who can match his initial burst of pace. This may develop in time, though a shorter-term solution would be to incorporate more feints to deceive opponents.

Patterson is almost more effective when faced up by two defenders. He is clever at using the uncertainty in these moments to his advantage, exploiting the gap between de­fenders as an exit route. He will move as if to continue steadily down the outside, then shift direction quickly to cut inside, through the gap, and accelerate away.

Off-the-ball work is arguably just as important as dribbling skill for modern full-backs. Andrew Robertson – another Scotland international – is one example of a full-back who attacks space brilliantly. Patterson is in a similar mould. 

His movement, especially when he chooses to attack the channel between centre-back and full-back, can be effec­tive in dragging defenders out and creating more space for team-mates centrally. It can also get him into good posi­tions of his own, to cross low and hard, cut back or finish.

His goal against Royal Antwerp last season was a good demonstration of this. As Rangers built play down the right, he took advantage of an opponent trying to play for offside. 

As soon as striker Alfredo Morelos received the ball facing goal, Patterson made his move on the blind side of Antwerp left-back Jordan Lukaku. Timing his run per­fectly, he latched onto the through pass, raced into the pen­alty box, and tucked the ball into the far corner.

"Nathan Patterson is a full-back who always wants to get behind the opponent, through combinations or smart runs. He is highly effective when there is space to be attacked."

Patterson is a full-back who always wants to get behind the opponent, through combinations or smart runs. He is highly effective when there is space to be attacked, though when that space is not there he does need to work on his delivery from outside of the penalty box. 

Rangers come up against plenty of stubborn low blocks, and in these games they need their full-backs to provide pinpoint crossing for the forwards and midfielders to attack. Patterson has oly recorded one assist in first-team football, primarily because he too often fails to beat the first man with his cross.

Nonetheless, he remains an effective attacking player. His pace is a big weapon, and it is also useful defensively, helping him to win loose balls, close down opponents and recover position quickly. Sometimes he can be guilty of diving in or getting his position wrong, but his speed al­lows him to rectify that and makes him a difficult full-back to beat one-on-one.

Forecasting Nathan Patterson's future

There are high expectations of Patterson at Rangers. It has been a long time since a home-grown player established himself in the starting line-up, and fans are increasingly impatient seeing him on the substitutes’ bench. 

This, along with the fact that Tavernier’s shoes will be important but difficult to fill, means a lot of pressure has been placed on the teenager. If Patterson can handle that, he can handle almost anything the remainder of his career throws at him.

He could not ask for a better coach to guide him through that process than the one he has at Rangers. Gerrard was himself a highly-rated youth team player who captured the local imagination at a huge club. He will no doubt have some pearls of wisdom as Patterson transitions from pros­pect to key player, and has already praised the 19-year-old’s attitude.

Editor’s note: Nathan Patterson is now on the verge of completing a transfer to Everton in the Premier League.

Patterson is an aggressive runner from deeper positions that is especially adept at attacking open spaces and getting behind defences, through quick combinations and intelligent runs. He is also an outstanding athlete for his age, which enables him to run the right flank like he does.

Nathan Patterson needs to work on his delivery from outside of the penalty box, especially when faced with lower defensive blocks. He can also be too reliant on support inside to create attacking opportunities for himself.

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