BILLY Kirkwood is urging his Under 17s to seize the opportunity to make an impression in the Glasgow Cup Final.
The young Gers will battle it out with Celtic, behind closed doors at Ibrox, for the trophy and their manager thinks it will help educate his players in their preparations for first-team football.
With three 17s players involved with the first-team this season Kirkwood knows just how important the game is for these players to shine against their city rivals.
“It is a good education getting to the final but also a bigger education playing in the final.”
“We always like our lads to learn how to be professional football players – how to start a game of football, how to conduct themselves when they come on as a sub, come off the pitch as a sub, how to conduct themselves when they lose a game of football and how to conduct themselves when winning a game.
“It is a very high profile trophy, it gets a lot of publicity, sometimes not for the best reasons over the past few years, but it is a big tournament.
“It has always been tough games, they have had it in different formats and ourselves and Celtic have always managed to get to the final and that in itself is a big game in itself for the lads.”
“Myself and Alan Boyd starting working together at the start of the season and we said to the boys that the most important thing was to get the ones who were part-time to be full-time contracts and get them through to improve as players and get them into the Under 20s.
“It has been a great education because some of them have even got themselves into the first-team squad.”
“Liam Burt has trained and played, Jamie Barjonas has been around training and Jack Thompson has trained and been on the bench too.
“That has been fantastic and the overall academy objective is to get these lads through and going up the ladder into the 20s and the pathway into the first-team.”
In the eight years since the Glasgow Cup became a permanent competition in the youth timetable Rangers have won four and so have Celtic.
The past two years have seen Gers rivals lift the title but Kirkwood is confident in his current crop of Under 17s can overturn that.
He said: “We have high hopes for this group, firstly to get them improved contracts and then getting them under the manager and Davie’s eyes and hopefully they catch that eye to get them in with the first-team.
“The boys don’t get the opportunity to play at Ibrox and it is a cup final against Celtic too so fingers crossed.
“I think we have played really well in the games we have played Celtic this season and hopefully they turn up on the night and put on a good show.”
“It has been a tough route to the final this season, we started off very well and then we had a hiccup result against Queens Park when we lost 4-1.
“That put ourselves and Celtic on the back foot going into the last game because Queens Park had put themselves into a very good position.
“We managed to come through unscathed against Thistle and Celtic were fortunate to come through against Queens Park, scoring three goals in the last few minutes and after seven minutes injury time.
“I think the lads are looking forward to playing Celtic and it’s at Ibrox as well.”