CRAIG MULHOLLAND believes that loan moves can be hugely beneficial for the young Academy players at Rangers as they try to make the big jump up to the first-team squad – but he also knows that a poorly selected loan can be detrimental.
This afternoon it was confirmed that Light Blues midfielder Jamie Barjonas has joined English League Two club Bury until January, with the 19-year-old midfielder looking to gain more first-team experience having made nine senior appearances for Rangers, the last of which was against Motherwell in December 2017.
Mulholland is confident the Shakers, who are managed by Ryan Lowe, a close friend of Steven Gerrard, will provide Barjonas with a great challenge at this crucial transition stage of his career.
He said: “We are delighted that Jamie has joined Bury on loan as the EFL will provide a different stimulus for him, achieving first-team minutes to better equip him to come back and compete for a place in the Rangers team.
“Mark Allen and the manager, Steven Gerrard, have really good contacts at Bury and if it is successful for Jamie then we could build a relationship which may see other Academy players move there in the future.
“Having revamped our Children’s Academy, Intermediate Academy – with the addition of our own school at Boclair Academy where the kids do 18 hours of contact time each week – and created a ‘best v best’ games programme for our Senior Academy and Development Squad, it is critical we get the first-team transition phase at the top end of our player pathway correct.
“This will include loans, such as this one for Jamie, and pushing strongly for our ongoing desire to have a Rangers ‘B’ Team in the lower league in Scotland.
Of course, a loan is not the answer for every player, in fact a poorly selected loan can be detrimental rather than beneficial, and some players like Glenn Middleton will go from the Academy to the first team without the need for a loan.
“It is important that we view every player as an individual project and manage each one based on their development needs at that time and ultimately decide upon the route that will best equip them as an individual to reach the first team.
“A loan is only one option in this process, and it is not right for all. It is a process we will invest our time and energy in to get right for each player given the critical stage their career is at.
“Given the importance of this transition phase we will be more creative in our use of loans and ensure that all of the development needs of our loan players are being met.
“Billy Kirkwood, in addition to his role assisting the Reserve group, has taken on the role of Loans Manager and will monitor all aspects of a player’s development while they are away from the club.
“It is important that we select the right clubs at the correct levels for players and, in addition to using the Scottish loan market, we look at options in England, as we have done with Jamie.
Peter Lovenkrands and I were in Denmark last week to visit a club with a view to placing players in the Danish Superliga, so we must think differently during this crucial phase.
“It can be challenging for the coaches. For example Graeme Murty, Billy Kirkwood and Peter Lovenkrands were preparing for the Challenge Cup tie with Falkirk with Jamie in their group and lost him at the last minute.
“This is difficult for the coaches who would always want to field their strongest team, but every one of us in the Academy understands that player development comes first and that it is our job to provide players for a winning Rangers first team, even if that makes us slightly less competitive at Academy level.
“We firmly believe in this strategy. In the last week we have put Scott Gray out to Albion Rovers, Kieran Wright out to Raith Rovers, Aidan Wilson out to Forfar and now Jamie to Bury – and there will be more in the coming days. We wish all the boys well during their loan spells.”