Ross McCausland made the trip back across the water last summer as a Rangers player in name only. This time, he was the star attraction in Antrim.

The Northern Irishman held a question and answer session for the Massereene RSC at the end of June. His father, Alan, is a familiar face at the club and McCausland was presented with an honorary membership to mark his rise into the Rangers first team. Life on and off the park is now very different for McCausland.

The Rangers Review charted McCausland’s career from Chimney Corner FC to his boyhood heroes last season. The winger’s former coaches told of his formative years on the pitches of Allen Park and his move to Linfield. It was back in those familiar surroundings where McCausland was put through his paces by his father ahead of a campaign that he knew was make-or-break for him at Ibrox.

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The rest, as they say, is history. McCausland took questions from the punters as a League Cup winner and a Northern Ireland international, as an established member of Philippe Clement’s squad and a player who has been tipped to have a bright future for his country.

“It’s nice of course to get that recognition from the place you’re from,” McCausland says. “The Q&A I did was at a supporters club that my dad is a member of. They asked if I’d mind going along and of course, I was never going to say no.

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"They had wee kids attending, their parents, even people I went to school with. To have them asking me questions and me being able to answer them and see how happy they were just to have me sitting there was amazing.

“That was once me sitting there in that situation, looking up at all the players, admiring them as my idols. So to now be some of these wee kids’ idols myself and look up to me is such a nice feeling.”

The return to Antrim was a rare night off for McCausland. The 21-year-old had few of them last term as he rose to prominence after being given his opportunity by compatriot Steven Davis in the matches with Aris Limassol and St Mirren. The faith that Philippe Clement then put in him was repaid as a new contract was signed and award nominations were earned.

As he chats outside the team hotel at Rangers’ pre-season base in the Netherlands, McCausland reflects on those whirlwind months. It was a campaign that ended in the worst possible manner as Clement’s side were beaten in the Scottish Cup final just days after their Premiership dreams had turned into a nightmare.

A break with his girlfriend offered the briefest of chances to recharge. A run-out in a friendly defeat to Spain and another in a 2-0 victory over Andorra were the final matches that McCausland played last term.

He has had moments to reflect on where he has come from and the journey he has been on. Once again, he pulled on his boots in the community where he first showed the required aptitude and attitude for the game.

“It has been different this time round, more so because I had international games,” McCausland adds. “We were away for the guts of 13 days off the back of our last game, so it has been different from last summer in that I haven’t really stopped. I’ve done bits and bobs when I was back home after my second holiday. So It has been different but good as well.

“It’s been crazy. I’ve gone back to where I started kicking a ball, to where my dad coached me when I was younger. I trained as a kid in a similar place to where I was doing all my running this summer.

“To go back to where I started and be able to look at how far I’ve come is pretty special. Now I want to be able to continue doing well and playing for this amazing club. It is great to be able to look back at where I started and reflect on it.”

Many of the questions that McCausland would have fielded in front of friends and family would have concerned what he had done to date. Ultimately, it is what he does next that is the most important aspect for his career. McCausland is no longer a potential Rangers player, he is an established one.

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He recognises that distinction himself and doesn’t shy away from it. He knows the standards of the club and the demands of the supporters and speaks of Clement’s side starting strong and looking good as he turns a query about the Hampden heartache into a look to the future.

“Yeah, definitely,” McCausland says when asked if he wanted to give those supporters something to celebrate this season. “Last season was my breakthrough year but this season I now really want to kick on and cement my place in the team and maybe not be looked as a young player anymore.

“I hope that from now on I can just be viewed as a regular first-team player now. Obviously, that will be a wee bit different for me. I’ll be judged in a different way.

“I’m not going to be viewed as a youngster any longer having had that six months where I probably did get away with a few more mistakes as I was classed as a kid. Now I just want to kick on and really nail down my place."

The contract that McCausland signed last November saw him commit himself to Rangers until the summer of 2027. His affection for the club and desire to succeed at Ibrox had never been in question, and the deal was an affirmation of Clement’s view of him. Over the coming months, McCausland will have different questions to answer.

A breakthrough term of almost 40 matches, four goals and five assists gave an insight into McCausland’s potential. He must step it up once again but will not alter his approach heading into his follow-up season as Clement continues to recruit and add strength and depth to his options in the final third.

“No, not necessarily,” McCausland adds on the subject of asking for advice about making an impact second time around. “It is obviously going to be a different sort of season for me in terms of not being a young player anymore, but I am not going to treat it any differently, I am just going to be going out and playing fearless, like I was when I had my first ever game for Rangers. I am not going to look at it any differently or treat it any differently.

“Football is a competitive game. I am quite grateful that I have had my spell to show what I can do. If somebody come in, that almost makes the challenge better, makes you work a wee bit harder. That is the challenge I would want to face.”

McCausland has been given an insight into the new arrivals over the last fortnight. Six players have been added to squad so far and supporters will watch Clement’s side in action for the first time when they face Ajax in a friendly fixture on Saturday.

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The trip to the continent is important for both the time on the pitch and the time off it for Clement as he builds a squad and a team spirit. On both accounts, McCausland is encouraged by what he has seen.

“They have hit the ground running and all of them are gelling well,” McCausland says. “The fact that we are away now, it is a good chance for everyone to get to know each other. The new boys have come in and just gelled together. They are getting to know each other and that is one of the main things so that when the season starts we already have a month together.

“Even on the training pitch, it is knowing how your teammates are playing. If you see our goal the other day, Jefte ran down the line and give it into the back post and I was there. Things like that, you see in training and it goes into the games.”