written by – John McIntosh
The questioning of Rangers management with regards to their signing policy & more specifically, the lack of youngsters progressing through the youth system is certainly nothing new. Whether you are on forums, social media sites or at Ibrox it is impossible to escape the frustration of fans on these issues.
Back in 2012, when Rangers were demoted to the fourth tier of Scottish football, many Rangers fans saw this as the perfect opportunity to integrate a large number of promising youngsters from our youth side into the first team. Consequently by the time they got back to the top flight, there would have many youngsters having played 80 plus first team games at a very young age.
Ally McCoist famously said he wanted Rangers to have the youth development model of Ajax & Porto. Due to the restrictions in Scottish football, it is clear that this was the vision the club should have embraced & it still should be the club’s philosophy. Disappointingly, Ally certainly has not followed through with his stated “vision” for the club.
Instead, Rangers are the dad’s army of Scottish football.
Due to their terrible signing policy, the club seems to only sign former players who are 30 years old or over – how very inspiring.
If we look at youngsters who have broken through into the first team – we are talking only about Lewis Macleod & Fraser Aird. Both are highly talented youngsters with the former possessing so much ability & potential it excites many fans yet McCoist consistently play him out wide out of position.
I am not advocating for Rangers to play eleven teenagers, week in week out, as you do need the right blend of youth & experience. However the fact only two young players have broken through & had consistent games is a disgrace – particularly at the level we are playing at.
Many U20 youngsters are currently becoming very frustrated & angry at the lack of chances to progress into the first team. It doesn’t matter how well they perform – they are consistently overlooked for experienced pros who can go weeks or even months in bad form, yet retain their place.
I know a youngster who plays for St. Mirren’s U20s who has faced Rangers on many occasions. He is a diehard Rangers fan yet he would most likely turn down the chance to sign for his boyhood heroes if the chance arose due to our terrible youth development policy.
This is where a bigger problem lies, Rangers Football Club have already started to gain a dreary reputation for their youth development & if they continue on the same path then Rangers will miss out on many top prospects. For a younger player to choose among the likes of Dundee United, Hearts or Rangers – he will most likely turn Rangers down. Anyone who has nfluence over him, his parents & coaches, are best to advise him against a move to Ibrox.
When news broke that Rangers had signed Lee Robinson – your first response was likely – “Who?!” Then you remembered him as the 28-year old goalkeeper Rangers released in 2009 due to him not being good enough. He also admitted to not working hard enough and wasting five years at our club. Therefore he was brought back for another chance. What an embarrassment.
What must the very talented U20 keeper Liam Kelly think now that he is the fourth choice goalie – when he is easily the second most talented keeper at the club. Now Rangers need to realize that they are in a very real danger of losing Kelly.
McCoist’s rationale for the decision was – “We couldn’t take the chance of not having cover should Steve Simonsen get injured & we felt that it wouldn’t have been fair on young Robbie and Liam the two younger goalkeepers, so we felt we had to bring somebody in.”
That is an utter disgrace & a slap in the face to Liam Kelly. He is the number one keeper for Scotland’s U19s & very competent to be second choice, never mind third or fourth.
That sort of condescending message will be noted by the team’s youngsters too & they simply won’t be happy with these pathetic sound bites. It would not be a surprise if half of the U20 side that won the Youth Cup last season are instructing their agents to find them new clubs.
Rangers also lost a very bright youngster in Charlie Telfer this summer due to him not being given the chance to develop in the first team. This was another disgraceful handling of a talented prospect.
Upon his leaving Rangers, Telfer explained – “I have watched how the younger players at United are allowed to develop in the first team, that has been a big reason in my decision to join the club, the opportunity to play in the Scottish Premiership next season was also something I could not turn down.”
This is a clear indication of a player who was not happy at Rangers seemingly non-existent youth progression.
What has become of Calum Gallagher & Barrie McKay? Both have been dropped to the U20s even though McCoist still claimed Gallagher had been promoted to the first team (feel free to laugh). Now both need to be loaned out again in order to play first team football?
If Rangers continue down this path of youth progression, not only is Murray Park being wasted, in the long term they will inevitably struggle to attract the top quality youngsters to the club.
The model of bringing through youngsters from the youth sides should be a top priority, especially given the league Rangers are in. This is a clear way to vastly improve the side in terms of performances & in the future selling them on once you develop them for a significant fee.
Considering the financial constraints of Scottish football it’s also the best way to do business.