Don Cowie saw Sheyi Ojo’s talent shine through during training at Wigan only to see it suffocated on a matchday as the club fought a Championship relegation battle.
But the former Scotland midfielder reckons the Liverpool winger could flourish at Rangers as Steven Gerrard looks to make him his latest Anfield loan signing.
Cowie played with Ojo when he was sent on the first of his four loan moves away from the Reds after moving to Merseyside from MK Dons when he was a schoolboy.
Chelsea were even reportedly willing to pay £2million for the then 14-year-old but Liverpool won the race for the signature of a player most recently on loan at French side Reims.
Cowie spotted glimpses of his potential when they were at the Latics but it wasn’t enough to stop Wigan dropping into League One.And the Ross County midfielder says the style of football needed in a relegation scrap wasn’t conducive to a player of his style.
But Cowie believes Ojo could shine at Ibrox in the same way as Ryan Kent and the Staggies star could be up against his old team-mate after winning the Championship with
The 36-year-old said: “I played with Sheyi four years ago at Wigan and he was still very young at the time – just 18 – but a very talented player.
“It was tough at the time because Wigan were involved in a relegation battle so it wasn’t an easy time to come in and play but you could see in training and glimpses in games that he had loads of ability.
“On a day to day basis you could see he was a real talent and despite us being in a perilous position at the time, and playing in pressure games, he always wanted to get on the ball because that’s what he’s all about.“He’s very tricky, strong and fast. He won’t hide, he wants the ball all the time. But it was tough because there wasn’t an awful lot of football being played in our games at that time so it wasn’t ideal for him. When you’re a Liverpool player at that age and going on loan to a Championship team, it proves there’s an awful lot of ability there.
“And knowing the circumstances we were in at the time, for Wigan to be confident to take a young player like that in suggests they had done their homework and had every faith in his ability.
“It must be quite daunting for a teenager going into a new dressing room but he took it in his stride and if he goes to Rangers I hope it works out for him.
“He’s a winger who is very direct and wants to be on the ball and get at full backs. He’s similar to Ryan Kent who we’d all agree took a bit of time to settle in but as the season went on he went from strength to strength.
“I’m sure Sheyi would be the same because it’s different and you need to get used to that pressure of playing for one half of the Old Firm.“I would be intrigued to see how he handles Scottish football because you have to remember how young he was when I played with him – you can mature a lot mentally and physically in that period of time.
“But purely going on the basis of what I seen and the ability he’s got then if he has improved since then he could be a very good player for Rangers.”
Cowie expected Ojo to force his way into the Liverpool first team when he left Wigan four years ago but instead he was sent out on loan again to Wolves and Fulham before his spell in Ligue 1 this season.
He has featured for the first team on a handful of occasions and Jurgen Klopp is set to reward him with a long term deal before rubber stamping his move to Ibrox.
And Cowie said: “The fact Liverpool have kept him then speaks volumes for how highly they rate him and it suggests they see a real player.
“This would be the next step in his ladder for progression. I didn’t encounter him again after he left Wigan as I returned to Scotland shortly after that but it would be funny if I came up against him next season.“I thought he might have gone back and broke through at Anfield but when you’re trying to break into a Liverpool team with the players they’ve got then it can’t be easy.
“He was a confident lad and a great boy to have around the dressing room. I spoke a lot to him and tried to find out a bit about him because of the Liverpool connection and I was desperate for him to go back and do well.
“It hasn’t quite worked out, he’s had quite a few loan spells since then, but if he is a player Rangers sign then he’s definitely one who would get fans off their seats.”