CRAIG MULHOLLAND has lauded the contribution of the host of former Rangers players he appointed to the club’s Academy this season.
Mulholland made the move to bring in former Ibrox stars at a variety of levels throughout the youth department, and while having many benefits for the players at the club, he believes strongly it benefits them as coaches too.
He told RangersTV: “I think it has been great. Peter Lovenkrands, Kevin Thomson, Brian Gilmour, Stephen Wright, all these guys, have contributed something quite significantly.
“Bringing Gregory Vignal as well to the Academy, I think they can speak about their time playing in the Champions League and their time playing international football, but most importantly, they want to learn as well.
“They fit with our culture, they understand what we are trying to achieve, and they understand our goals and ambitions.
“They are not here just because they are ex-Rangers players, they are here because they are talented coaches and I think they have brought something new.
“If you look at Ajax over the years there was a deliberate decision there to bring in former players.
“We’ve done the same but it needs to be the right type of former players and I think the guys have contributed massively and the players, importantly, look up to them and love working with them.”
Another arrival at the club over the last year has been Director of Football Mark Allen, with Mulholland building a very strong relationship with him.
He continued: “Mark Allen’s arrival has been great for me personally as he was great for me personally as he was nine years as Academy director at Manchester City and achieved a lot of success there.
“From my point of view, the learnings I can get from Mark to help me in my job and help everyone in the Academy is great, but Mark understands the need to have a top Academy and to have a pathway to the first team.
“Our outcomes must be based on the first-team and I thin Mark’s contribution to that will be critical along with the new manager who has a background in developing talent at Liverpool.
“So I think if you are an Academy player at Rangers or a member of staff, it is an exciting time as not only have we created an environment where the provision is excellent, we now have a pathway where if you are good enough, and obsessed to get there which is the key bit, then you will get a chance.”
The way the Academy recruits players has also changed, with Mulholland explaining: “David Stevenson has now come in as our Head of Academy Recruitment, working in Andy Scoulding’s department, and almost from the top to the bottom, our 8-year-olds right through to the first team, there is one new recruitment department being created by Mark [Allen] and his team.
“I think from that point of view we’ve got a consistency with player characteristics. Any player that comes through these gates must be desperate to play for Rangers and young players particularly must be obsessed. Every minute of the day they must be thinking about being a footballer.
“I think there was one day this season and I usually come in at about 8.30am in the morning but I came in at 7.30am and the lights were on in the gym, the music was on and I went in to see who was there.
“Five or six Rangers players, Under-20 players, were in doing extra and that same night I’m sitting in my office about 7.30pm and seven or eight Rangers players walk past.
“I asked the guys what they were doing and they had been away with the analysts looking at their clips. So we have got players coming in from half past seven in the morning until half past seven or 8 o’clock by their own choice to become better.
“So when we recruit players they must have that desire, they must have that drive and when you see things like that we know we are heading in the right direction in terms of our culture.”