MARK Warburton believes Rangers inclusion of an under 20 side in this year’s Challenge Cup will help produce more first team players.

The Gers manager stressed how important it is that the youngsters are playing competitive football to push them onto the next level.

Rangers’ Under 20s got off to a flyer last week, brushing aside Stirling Uni with a convincing 4-0 win and Stenhousemuir are up next for them on Wednesday evening.

Speaking to Rangers TV, Warburton said: “They need a competitive challenge, they have to understand what it means to lose a game of football or to win a game, what’s at stake and hopefully they can benefit from that.

“I hope them playing in this competition accelerates their education; it is all about transition from where they are to the first team.

“Too many times you watch under 20 games up north or under 21 games down south where there is no real competitive or physical challenge.

“They are technically outstanding but a million miles away from first-team football, so we have to close that gap and to do that we have to offer them a challenge.

“We say it week in and week out and talk in cheap, it is about giving them the challenges and finding ways to give them that challenge.

“Whether it is overseas or domestically, whether it is B teams here or playing at Ibrox, whatever it is we must find that challenge.”

The academy team have enjoyed pre-season trips to play in tournaments globally, meaning even their preparations for the campaign have taken place in a competitive environment.

A number of the age group have been loaned out including Jordan Thompson to Raith Rovers and Ryan Hardie to St Mirren, both of whom were allowed to play in the side’s first game of the Irn Bru Cup.

The manager continued:

“You look at where the 19s have been in South Africa and Holland, playing those types of competitive games and they are really important.

“It is about the loan players as well and making sure we get it right.  So for example Jordan Thompson going out and whether he comes back and plays in the Challenge Cup games because it is important to get the loading right with the young players.”

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