GRAEME MURTY believes the players in Rangers’ Development Squad benefited greatly from taking on Southampton and Feyenoord in August as part of the club’s ground-breaking games programme.
And with more exciting fixtures against English Premier League opposition Brighton, Manchester City and Leicester City coming up this month, the Light Blue starlets will again be able to test themselves against the best young footballers from south of the border.
Murty expects to take a lot of positives and negatives from each match but insists this is all part of the learning curve for the talented teens at Auchenhowie as they attempt to force their way into Pedro Caixinha’s first-team plans.
The 2-2 draw with Feyenoord in Rotterdam on August 26 saw Rangers go two goals up with Andrew Dallas and Jamie Barjonas on target, before the hosts battled back to level the score.
Reflecting on this 90 minutes and Feyenoord’s style of play, Murty told RangersTV: “The main thing the players would say is that the Dutch guys took the ball in tight spaces better than we did and they are more comfortable.
“They are better able to rest in possession so they understand the transition between keeping the ball for keeping the ball’s sake and then really changing the tempo.
Their varied tempo is very good; it’s nice and calm, it’s nice and composed, you can see their body language is really relaxed, and then they up the tempo and it’s very stark.
“So that’s one thing the players have said is really noticable with continental teams, that they do that better than anyone they’ve seen so far, which is all to the good because that’s something our guys are going to have to get better at doing and it’s something they’ve brought in to their training in the last couple of weeks as well.”
Taking the Rangers players out of their comfort zone is one of the main objectives of the games programme as it will be different from playing Scottish opposition week in, week out.
Murty hopes that the players will be able to assess their own performances and also the team’s displays so that constant improvements can be made and worked on at the training ground.
He said: “We have to make sure that they see it as such, they don’t actually get a bit stroppy and teenager-ish, that they just accept that this is a different challenge.
“We had a session today in training where they had to come up with a different tactic to frustrate the opposition.
“I took one team and Billy Kirkwood took another, they then came up with the tactics, they implemented it, they evaluated it and we gave them rewards if it worked or not.
It was great to actually take a backwards step and look at the young men start to come forward and actually dominate the training session, take the training session and put their own tactics into play.
“We like nothing better as coaches than to be shocked a little bit by the players and what they know, because I think when you look at young people now they have access to so much stuff.
“They know more about football than I did at that age, they all think they’re Gary Neville with the smart board and moving it around!
“So we have to give them free rein to go and do that and today was a good occasion to do it, and some of the stuff they came up with was fantastic.
“Some of it didn’t work, some had no chance in hell of working, but it was great and they have to see it fail to analyse and be self-critical and then go and implement something that does work.
“Today was a really good day where they had some personal growth as well as the tactical and technical elements that we try to get in.
“They had some real good growth in themselves figuring out their own problems. It was great.”