MARK ALLEN has lauded the ‘fantastic work’ done in the Rangers Academy, with the Director of Football keen to see players prepared as best as possible for top-team action.

One aspect of that has seen Billy Kirkwood appointed as Loans Manager, meaning he will look after both first-team and Academy players who have been sent to other clubs, as well as having a major role in the development of those younger loan players.

Another is to continue the Games Programme in the Academy in which those players are tested against top European teams in order to give them a taste of what to expect in the future.

Speaking to RangersTV, Allen explained: “There is some fantastic work which has been done in the Academy and I am delighted with that.

“This role Billy will take on will augment that great work. But when you think of a players’ development, and especially a Rangers player, we all love the European nights, and we have to prepare our boys for that.

“The only way to prepare them is to play against European opposition, so we have to put a domestic and a European programme in place for those players to get that experience so the first time they turn up on a Thursday night it isn’t new to them.

“Yes, the environment and the crowd will be significantly different, but the experience of playing European opposition will not be alien to them.”

Rangers’ Academy Games Programme continues next week away to Spartak Moscow, having faced the Russians at Forthbank last week.

And, Allen believes the trip to be massively beneficial to the youngsters, adding: “They need to understand changing timezones, perhaps eating different food and recovering from a trip where you have a five hour flight and then maybe another game at the weekend.

“That tells you a lot about the individual – can they cope with it? Is it new to them and do they need to learn from it?

“There are so many avenues that we will un-tap. The Academy world is about that learning environment – they have got to understand it and get used to it.”

Away from the Academy, and Allen gave an update on some of the developments to be expected inside Ibrox for players in the coming period, adding: “I am a great believer your environment is a vital part of what you stand for and what you are – your standards, your values and the look and feel of your environment is equally as important as signing the right players, but you have to give them the right environment in which to perform.

“I think we have started here at the Hummel Training Centre first with the pitches and some of the canteen facilities, which everyone is aware of.

“The next phase is to fine-tune some of the stuff at Ibrox so the matchday experience for the players is right and proper for what you would expect in an elite environment.

“There will be a dining area put in for players to have their prematch meals there, there will be a players’ lounge and there will be a little gym area for the players to get ready for games.

“The manager will move a little bit and become closer to the first-team changing room, and we will create that elite environment so the players go from the [Hummel Training Centre] to the ground, and it should be seamless.

“It is all part of the bigger picture – it is about players, it is about the manager and it is about the team but it is also about the environment.”

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