RANGERS under-20s will next season embark on a brand new programme of games instead of playing in the SPFL Development League.
The young Light Blues will take on a number of top clubs from England and the continent on top of their SFA Youth Cup and Irn Bru Cup commitments, while they will also experience playing against Scottish League One and League Two sides.
Rangers’ Head of Academy Craig Mulholland explained: “It’s innovative, it’s different and it’s designed to challenge our young players. We have been going on for a long time about challenging our players and taking them out of their comfort zone, and what will basically happen is we won’t enter the SPFL Development League next year.
“Instead, we will create a games programme where we will play the best clubs in England and the best clubs in Europe and it’s really designed to deal with the transition from the under-17s through to the first team. It’s a massive issue for Scottish football but we are excited with this. It’s something we have been working on for well over a year and we hope this club are leading the way in terms of player development at that age and stage.
“We will play the best Premier League clubs and the best clubs from throughout Europe in Spain and Italy etc., and what we are trying to do is say our young Scottish players at age 17 we think are as good as the best players in these nations.
“What we are then going to do is take them and challenge them on a weekly basis. It will be a struggle initially, but I think to play Manchester United’s, Manchester City’s, Southampton’s etc. in England and then go and play Sporting Lisbon, Leipzig and teams like that, it will take our Rangers players right out of their comfort zone and it’s a really innovative project.
“We must play first team players as quickly as we can, so they must play against men. What we will do is go and play three of the top European teams at their own age group maybe in week one, week two and week three, and then in the fourth week of the month we’ll go and play Annan or Stenhousemuir or someone who we have spoken to and we will encourage Rangers fans to be there.
“We want a Rangers crowd which will put a bit of pressure on them and, again, they will get the experience of playing against men which they need if they are going to make it to the Rangers first team.”
The ultimate aim is to produce players who are able to handle playing at the very top level, and as part of that, Mulholland is hoping to play a number of the games in front of a crowd.
On that, he added: “The objective is we want to get back to the Champions League. If we are going to produce young players we want to play at that level, they shouldn’t be playing against a top player in Europe the first time they run out in a Rangers jersey at Ibrox.
“We should be equipping them to say ‘I have played against them two or three times’ and therefore they will hopefully be much more equipped when this club is, hopefully, back where it can go to go and play in Rangers’ first team.
“With this project, hopefully if we have our under-19s or 20s playing against say Manchester City or Barcelona or someone like that, we can maybe get the game at Ibrox or a different stadium and have a Rangers crowd coming along.
“We must replicate as best we can the first team environment for them and hopefully this project will do that.”