LOAN Ranger Josh McPake will cap a successful spell at League 2 side Harrogate Town by appearing at Wembley on Monday when his side face Concord Rangers in the FA Trophy Final.
The Covid-19 pandemic meant the game was postponed last season and it now goes ahead on Monday at 5pm, sadly with no supporters in attendance due to the ongoing restrictions, but Josh is relishing the prospect of featuring at one of the world’s great football venues in a cup final.
The 19-year-old winger, who was on loan at Dundee and Morton before joining the English club in January, has loved every second of his time south of the border and believes he will return a better player for the experience.
Before that, he has an important game to look forward to and will do all he can to help Harrogate win silverware at the Wembley showpiece.
Josh, speaking as he helped promote The Rangers Youth Development Company – who have provided more than £9 million to the Rangers Academy since 2002 - said: “I have this cup final at Wembley and I can’t wait to play there. The game was postponed from last season but now goes ahead on Monday and that will be a great experience for all of us.
“It will be amazing to play at such a famous stadium and it would be great for the Harrogate Town supporters if we could win it for them.
“It will be strange to play with no fans at such a big stadium. The club had hoped to change the date and get fans in but it couldn’t be moved so I was a bit gutted about that. It would have been some experience to play in front of a crowd at Wembley but we will do all we can to try and get a positive result.
“I moved here in January after being at Morton for the first half of the season and I have loved the experience.
“I have definitely grown as a person during this loan spell. This is the first time I have moved away from home so this experience has helped me a lot.
“The club have really looked after me, they have been brilliant with me since I joined to be honest and are always asking if they can do anything to help me and check on how I am doing each day.
“Unfortunately I picked up an injury when on loan at Dundee and that cut my spell there short but I then went to Morton and really enjoyed it. I loved it there and it was great to play competitive games.
“I then got the chance to move to England on loan and continue my development. I have enjoyed the physicality and speed of the game down here, it suits my game and the move has worked out really well.
“The standard of football has been really good and there are a lot of good players in this league. Playing regular competitive games has been important and I was ready to go on loan. It has definitely been the right decision.
“The fans have really taken to me and I have had a lot of supportive comments on Twitter. I think I am getting a statue built down here!
“I have scored a few goals and even scored against Bradford the other week which was important so I definitely feel I have helped them.
“The plan was for Harrogate to stay up as this was their first season in league football and we have done that.
“My team-mates really helped me settle when I first joined and there are some good players here. Guys like striker Jon Stead have played in the English Premier League and he has helped me with my finishing.
“He is a quality player, I knew who he was and I could see his quality on the ball from the first training session so it is great to learn from players like that.
“I have played every game almost the full 90 minutes on the left wing since I came here. I think that is my natural position now, cutting in from the left on to my right foot and using my skills to create chances and I have scored a few goals which has been great.”
Josh made his first-team debut for Rangers in July 2019 when he made a substitute appearance against St Joseph’s in a Europa League qualifier at Ibrox. He has watched ex-Academy team-mate Nathan Patterson make an impact at right back throughout 2020/21 and says he can be an inspiration to other young players at the club.
The young winger said: “Nathan has had a brilliant season. When Tav got injured he came into the team and started a few games and he has looked really good.
“Tav’s goals and assist are incredible and Nathan can learn from him too. When he has played, even in the recent Old Firm game at Ibrox, he looked the part and I am so pleased for him.
“It is always great to see Academy players getting a chance in the first team. I, and other players at the club, can take inspiration from Nathan and what he has achieved. It is great to see one of your mates, and a player who I have played with since I joined Rangers, working hard, progressing so well and now being a full-time member of the first-team squad.
“I joined Rangers from Hibs when I was 14 and I have loved my time at the Rangers Academy. I won the reserve league, the cup and the 18s league and Academy player of the Year at Rangers in 2018/19 and they have always taken very good care of me. I owe them for sure.
“I know RYDC has given the Academy more than £9 million and that money helps players like me develop. They do so much good work to try and help the youth department and I know I am very fortunate to have had the chance to learn from the coaching staff and use the excellent facilities at Rangers. So to see players like Nathan getting a chance in the first team is great for everyone.
“I think I have done really well down here but I want to return flying for pre-season with Rangers and take it from there. Another loan might be an option and I will see what the club thinks is best for my development.
“Billy Kirkwood, the Rangers Loans Manager, has been in touch with me almost every day to check on me. He is always texting and phoning me to check on how I am and it is good to have someone like that checking on me daily. The club are really good at that.
“I feel I have become more confident as a player and to play every week, make an impact and score a few goals has been good for my development.
“I couldn’t have asked for more to be honest.
“I was glad to get the opportunity to play a European game for Rangers at Ibrox in the past but it was important for me to go out on loan.
“I am glad I did it and hopefully when I come back people can see a difference in me.
“It was also great to see Rangers win the league. They have done so well this season and I have watched all the games.
“The team has played some great football this season and I have enjoyed watching Ryan Kent. He plays on the left like me so it is good to watch how he plays and try and pick up some tips.”
Everyone at Rangers wishes Josh and Harrogate Town the best of luck for Monday’s cup final at Wembley.
Annual Rangers Youth Development Company donations make a positive difference to players like Josh and Nathan Patterson. More than £9 million has been provided and the latest donation was another £450,000 in January.
For full details on RYDC and their products - which include Rangers Lotto, Rangers Pools, Rangers Quiz, The Union Jackpot, Scratchcards and Stadium Bricks - visit www.rydc.co.uk or call 0141 427 4914.