CHANGE never stops in the Rangers Academy, and with one successful season at an end, planning is already well underway for making things even better next season and beyond.
Their head, Craig Mulholland. firstly discussed the material changes they are looking to make in and around the club’s training base at Auchenhowie.
He said: “Firstly the imagery around the Academy has changed as we want it to be a positive learning environment.
“We changed all that last summer with a secondary gym area being created within the indoor pitch, so there is more strength and conditioning work getting done and we can then do much more individual work.
“We’ve got the new stand getting built with the support of the Rangers Fans Fighting Fund but it’s not about a stand.
“It’s about four dressing rooms and a new education base which means again more players getting more time with a ball and we are currently looking at the possibility of a full-size indoor dome at the training ground as well to make sure we are getting maximum capacity out of the winter months.
“So as well as all the changes in football infrastructure and culture and the actual provision around the players, we are making sure the physical environment is right and every day we must get better at what we do if we are going to achieve our ambitious plans.”
On the field, following the conclusion of the Games Programme, there has been much discussion around where the Development Squad will be playing their football next season.
Mulholland continued: “It’s been an interesting debate this one because we have been working hard and we believe that B teams are really important parts of our pathway.
“So we’ve seen our teams this year and you’ve seen the results. The 17s and 19s go and beat Europe’s top players and be every bit as competent as them technically and tactically, but we must make sure we get the transition to the first team bit right.
“So in an ideal world we would have a B team where we were exposing our players to real men’s football, 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon with Rangers supporters coming to watch them, but we’ve not quite got there with that yet. That’s still something politically that we are working on in the background.
“In the interim we will continue with our European Games Programme for part of the programme but there is also a new Reserve League as well, so the Reserve League will give us that competitive football. There will be first-team players playing in that.
“The Glasgow Cup will now move to that Reserve age group and we will also have the Challenge Cup, so what we are actually combining is the innovation of the European Games Programme we’ve had, with actually some really competitive football domestically in Scotland which, until we get to our B team concept, will hopefully give us a real good challenge for our players.”
Beyond the Development Squad, work is already underway creating the programme for the younger age groups, with Mulholland continuing: “Well, we have got quite a few review days at the end of the season and we’ve got a lot of review days before the players come back.
“I think what it is reviewing our strategy and looking at what we have done well, what have we not done well and every day in here we want to get better.
“The environment is about self-analysis and asking, how can I be better in my job? How can all the coaches be better in their jobs?
“So I think we have identified two or three key areas – our individual player planning is going to be key for us and we move forward with that, our content on the pitch and actually getting more age specificity around the curriculum is going to be really important and indeed also just building on the many successes we have had so far.
“But I think the thing for Rangers now is never standing still, it’s about innovation, it’s about challenging practise and making sure we are absolutely the best in the business to become one of Europe’s best academies.”