WHILE the first-team enjoy working in the sunshine of Tenerife, Rangers’ under-18s have also jetted out to sunnier climes for a winter training camp in Turkey.
A similar trip to that undertaken by the under-16 squad to Turkey last April, the camp has been funded by the European Erasmus programme, with the young players experiencing more than just football whilst abroad.
But the training and matches being played by the under-18 squad are all geared towards a strong second half of the season, which kicks-off with a home tie against Cove Rangers in the Scottish Youth Cup.
Leading the party in Turkey is coach David McCallum, who explained: “It’s a European-funded trip through Erasmus, so basically, we apply for funding and we have got to justify what we are going to do.
“It’s an opportunity for football, but it’s not just football, there’s other learning involved too where we go out to a different country to live their way, try learn a bit about their culture, try to learn a bit of their language and effectively live their lives for two weeks.
“It benefits us as well as, ideally, it should be a warmer climate for us but it has been a bit hit and miss for us so far! But the pitches are tremendous and the facilities are very good as well.
“It is a break in our season before we come back in to play a Scottish Youth Cup game the week after we return.
“So to get out there and reinforce some of the messages we have had over the last year or two is great, and with the facility we have, we can take out time to go through things while we’re not out in the wind and the rain.
“So from that point of view, it has been very beneficial, and also, integrating one or two of the younger lads into the group has been great.”
The mixture of age groups in Turkey was in part caused by a number of under-18 players being involved at the Mercedes-Benz Youth Cup in Stuttgart over the weekend, but their loss wasn’t felt yesterday, in an excellent 4-0 win over Alanyaspor.
Arron Lyall, Chris McKee, Harris O’Connor and John Balde grabbed the goals in the win, with McCallum adding: “The squad that we have out, it’s a bit of a mixture. It is predominantly meant to be an under-18s squad, but a number of them were in Germany at the weekend, so we have supplemented this group of the remainder of the 18s with some 16 and 17 year-olds.
“So yesterday we played the game, but we had picked up some illnesses in the early part of the week as well, so we went in with only 14 players available.
“So we played against a team who were slightly older and our performance was very, very good in terms of how we asked them to play and given they were a mixture of a group and not the team that has been playing together.
“I think it is testament to the Academy that all the players are trying to play the same way and when they come together from different age groups and play in the same team, you can see the benefits of it.”