There’s been a wind of change around Ibrox featuring some high-profile arrivals this summer with Michael Beale revamping his squad. Early indications suggest his first addition of the window could prove to be one of the best.

The recent arrival of Brazilian striker Danilo has, understandably, sparked huge excitement but Kieran Dowell’s acquisition almost slipped under the radar back in May. 

Dowell’s signature was announced before last season finished with the midfielder in attendance during the final home game against Hearts.

It’s injudicious to draw conclusions based on pre-season performances, or results, but Dowell has impressed in recent weeks, building a strong case for a start on the opening day against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.

Beale’s determination to recruit hybrid players is well-documented and Dowell is capable of performing a variety of roles in midfield. The impending addition of Jose Cifuentes will add further competition in a well-stacked area of the pitch but Dowell’s pre-season performances have provided food for thought. 

The midfielder was highly rated as he progressed through the youth ranks at Everton and started as England won their biggest international title since 1966, claiming the Under-20 World Cup in 2017. 

He idolised former Rangers midfielder Mikel Arteta as a youngster at Everton and made his Premier League debut at the club before embarking on a maiden loan spell at Nottingham Forest. At the City Ground, he worked under another individual with Ibrox connections.

"At Nottingham Forest, we had a relationship with Everton taking their kids on loan. Kieran was one of those,” former manager Mark Warburton tells the Rangers Review.

“We knew the kids had good character and good work ethic. Kieran had a sweet left foot and came through the England youth set-up. He was highly thought of within the England camp by senior people there and was a really good guy to work with. 

“He had a good attitude, a good desire to do well for the team and pushed on from there. He's had a couple of loan moves now and this is a big challenge for him. Rangers are getting a very technically gifted player who is a good size. Kieran moves well, is a good athlete and he's got a change of pace as well. This is definitely a step up and a challenge for him and I hope very much it's one he can embrace.

"I worked with Kieran some years ago now, before I was at QPR, but he's got that eye for a pass, has tight technical skill and can maintain close control of the ball. He's got a sweet left foot and has scored some wonderful goals. 

“He's a very talented boy and I hope this move can kickstart the next stage of his career, with the demands of Rangers and the expectations of the fans. That will be something quite new to him.

"He will know Todd Cantwell from Norwich and will have seen his impact and I'm sure Kieran will be as excited to embrace the challenge. He's got to go there and prove himself to the Rangers fans, Michael [Beale] and his staff.”

Dowell rose to prominence during the first half of the 2017-18 season under the tutelage of Warburton and showcased his ability in the notoriously unforgiving English Championship. A hat-trick against Hull City that October highlighted his goalscoring ability from midfield and despite falling out of favour when Aitor Karanka replaced Warburton in December, Dowell still finished as Forrest’s top goalscorer that season with ten in all competitions. 

"Kieran likes playing,” Warburton adds. “I always look for people who enjoy football. There are a lot of boys, believe it or not, who don't like the game. That's not Kieran. 

“He loves playing football. He scored good goals and a variety of goals for me. I'm delighted for him, it's a huge club. I wish him well and I hope the Rangers fans get to see the player I know is in there.” 

The intense pressure managers are subjected to in the English Premier League means academy graduates are often overlooked with the focus on short-term results, as opposed to long-term gains. Dowell failed to make the breakthrough into Everton’s first-team under Ronald Koeman and Marco Silva with Wayne Rooney, Fabian Delph, Andre Gomes and Idrissa Gueye, amongst others, providing competition. 

Further English Championship loan spells followed with Sheffield United and Derby County, before a move to Wigan Athletic, where he played alongside former Rangers midfielder Lewis Macleod. 

READ MORE: Meet Danilo, Rangers' new arrival according to his ex-manager

“He was a player that everybody knew about. Before I played with him at Wigan, I’d heard his name and he was well-known within football circles. You knew that he was a good player and he had a really good reputation," Macleod tells the Rangers Review.

“Everybody knew that he was really technical and a ball player. When I started training with him, I could see that he was a really good player with an excellent left foot. While he was really good technically, he also had a bit of a dig and wasn’t afraid to put in a tackle or trackback. That’s really important for a midfielder to have that because you need to be good off the ball and not just when you have possession.” 

It was during a three-year spell at Norwich City that Dowell added consistency to his natural talent and also learned more about Rangers from two die-hard fans, Billy Gilmour and Kenny McLean. Ankle surgery deprived him of four months of the 2020-21 season, but Dowell still made 24 appearances as Norwich won the Championship title and he dovetailed impressively with Todd Cantwell after regaining his starting place towards the end of the campaign. 

Cantwell’s career stagnated at Norwich but it was invigorated by his move up north and Dowell sought his former teammate’s recommendation on life in Glasgow when interest from Rangers emerged. Suffice to say, the feedback received was glowing. 

“I think he will probably be surprised about how demanding it is at Rangers,” Macleod adds.

“But there’s no doubt that Kieran has the ability to cope with that and hopefully, he does really well this season - I have no doubt that he will.”

Dowell arrives at Rangers with almost 150 senior appearances under his belt and an ambition to make a real impact reaching the prime years of his career. The Rangers Review understands that he's settled quickly into the group and impressed in training. 

Beale has experimented with different tactical approaches ahead of the new season, but the expectation is that he will deploy a preferred 4-3-1-2 against Kilmarnock. With Cifuentes not in contention to start, Dowell will compete with John Lundstram and Ryan Jack to feature alongside Nicolas Raskin and Todd Cantwell. A strong case can be made that the summer arrival deserves the nod and flexibility will allow Dowell to perform a number of roles in midfield as the season develops.  

“I would always play him as a No.10, but that’s not the most common position these days. You want to get him on the half-turn and facing up to defences," Macleod says.

“Kieran has got all the attributes to play centre-midfield; he’s good at receiving the ball, a strong passer and defensively sound too. One thing that I know he’s excellent at is taking the ball with his back to goal and he’d have no problem playing in a deeper role.  

“He will always want the ball, even if he’s under pressure and in any position. It was noticeable from playing with him that he’d be happy to take the ball with a defender tight on him. That’s one reason why he was excellent to play alongside in midfield because you knew that you could always give him the ball.” 

The beauty of football is that different people will have different opinions, even those with inside knowledge. On Dowell’s best role, Warburton offers an opposing view.

"If Michael is playing a 4-2-3-1 then you see him coming in from wide into the inside pocket," he says on the midfielder's best position. 

"I'm showing my age but if you look at those old inside right and left positions, that inside channel is an area he can operate, come off the flank and get into those tight areas where he can express himself. That's where I would see him. 

"Defensively he's not rugged by any means, he's not a defensive midfielder but I think in the old-fashioned inside right is his home. He's a gifted player that will have played under a lot of managers now for a relatively young player and will have met many demands in terms of formations and I hope very much that stands him in good stead."

Ultimately, Beale’s opinion matters most and an insight into his thinking will arrive with the teamsheets at 4:15pm on Saturday. 

Dowell's early promise is reinforced by those who've managed and played alongside him. It's now up to Beale's quiet summer arrival to deliver.