PAT SCULLION has tipped Luke Rankin to succeed in League One after coaching the youngster last year.

The Alloa striker spent last season on loan at neighbours East Stirlingshire, netting an impressive 23 goals and assisting seven during his time there.

Returning to Alloa, the 19-year-old has been a standout during pre-season friendlies and had previously said his aim this season is to break into the team.

So far, he has scored Alloa’s only goal against Livingston, twice during the win over Clyde and Alloa’s second goal against Falkirk.

Despite not being on the scoresheet, his performance against Greenock Morton garnered praise.

Now, his manager at East Stirlingshire has looked back on his time at East Stirling and has high hopes for him this season.

Scullion said: “Physically, he’ll need to develop but ability wise, he definitely has the ability.

“There have been times when his form has been at such a high level and at times it’s come down but that happens with young players.

“If he gets time and people are patient with him, I think he can certainly do well in League One.

“He’ll need time to develop – there’s no two ways around it, the step up from Lowland League to League One is a big step up.

“I can’t speak higher of Luke has a lad, he’s been excellent to work with. He has a really good mentality and remains level-headed especially when he’s been scoring a lot of goals.

“Regardless of what level you’re playing at, that kind of goal return is excellent.

“Young players will give their all. If people are patient with him, there could definitely be a player there for Alloa.

“It’s all about being patient with him because he’s young but he certainly has the ability to go and succeed in League One.”

Rankin went out on loan to East Stirlingshire near the start of last season, after making two appearances against Stirling and Ayr in the League Cup.

With opportunities for game time limited at Alloa, especially after the Wasps would go on to sign Bobby Wales and Ally Roy, the club began to look for a loan move for Rankin.

Former Wasp Scullion had contacted Andy Graham to ask about a striker, with the soon-to-be Alloa manager fully recommending Rankin.

(Image: Ashleigh Maitland)

Then manager Brian Rice signed off on the move and the deal was done, Rankin was an East Stirlingshire player.

Scullion continued: “I was in the same squad as Andy Graham in 2016-17 and we kept in touch and I’d been chatting to him saying that we had had quite a difficult start to the season.

“We’d had a complete rebuild and told Andy we needed a bit of help in the forward areas and he suggested that Luke could do a job for us.

“At that time, Brian Rice was the manager so we spoke to him and we got his loan approved and his first game was around 10 games in to the season.

“He came in with a really good attitude and Rice said that he needed the opportunity to play men’s football.

“He scored a really good goal, he’s got two decent feet, he’s really quick – in terms of physicality, he’s not fully developed yet but he’s making progress.”

Rankin’s physicality has been something of note recently, with Scullion seeing good progress from the youngster’s time at East Stirlingshire.

Alloa captain Scott Taggart previously said he had filled out again and took his goal well, with his time on loan proving instrumental to his progress.

Rankin would also go onto pick up East Stirlingshire POTY and finish as the second highest goalscorer in the Lowland League.

(Image: Ashleigh Maitland)

Scullion had been instructing Rankin to remain within the width of the box, rather than floating out on the wings.

Scullion said: “Around February time, there was a bit of a dip in confidence and a dip in form and we were having discussions with him about doing something different.

“I was wanting him to stay within the width of the box, I felt he was drifting out to the wings too much.

“He was eager to be involved in the play, strikers will do that but I felt he could occupy the centre backs a bit more, with his pace, he could cause them issues.

“The quality around him improved as the season went on so the balls coming his way got better and he’s a really good finisher.

“This shows from his number of goals and assists in just around 24 games.”

Rankin’s own mentality and attitude were also praised by Scullion, who said the striker came with an eagerness to learn.

This was exemplified by his approaching senior players to ask for advice, which elder players were more than happy to give.

Back at Alloa, Rankin will now be coached by Andy Graham but will also have the likes of Conor Sammon to learn from.

Bobby Wales had previously hailed Sammon’s influence as instrumental in his development as a young striker, which Rankin will look to emulate.

Scullion added: “He’s a really good lad, he settled in around the dressing room, the players took to him because he came in with a willing attitude.

“Some of the other senior lads like Matty Flynn has managed to spend time with him after training, working with him one-to-one on his game which I think has massively benefitted him.

“He went to Matty and asked to speak to him for 10, 15 minutes after training and that has really helped him.

“We can only give him the opportunity and it’s up to him to take it and he has taken that opportunity really well.

“When we put a young player in, it’s down to them to go and work hard and Luke has done that this season.”