MARK WARBURTON has added his support to Head Development Squad Coach Graeme Murty’s desire to see a Rangers ‘colt’ team playing in a professional league.

In an extensive interview with last week, Murty was forthright in his view that a team made up of young Rangers players competing against experienced professionals on a week-to-week basis with regular challenges against the very best teams at their own age groups would be highly beneficial to their development.

Warburton also reiterated his desire to see as many Academy graduates percolate through to his first team as possible, but he again insisted they must be better than any other players that may be available to him.

Speaking exclusively this week to, he explained: “I look at the games at under-20 level, and there is the same problem down south. I don’t think those challenges are preparing the players for the transition to the first team, and the gulf from there to first-team level I think is enormous.

“We want to help those young players make that transition, and we don’t do it with that level of match. We have to offer them different types of challenges and different experiences to take them out of their comfort zone and prepare them.

“If it’s a colt route, then you’re playing games that really matter – games where the guy you are playing against needs to win to pay his mortgage etc., and that type of situation. If we can link that to European-type challenges, then that is really important for us to give these boys that variety they need.

“They are trying to make Rangers’ first-team – that’s why we have an Academy. We have it to produce players who are good enough and are armed with the attributes to impact our first team, and have no doubts nothing gives us more pleasure than bringing through young players. But, they have to be better than what we can get or better than what we already have – we have to pick the best team available for Rangers Football Club.

“It has to be right, and I’m saying that as yes, the professional environment is a new challenge for them, and is somewhere where every game matters. That’s an important part of their education, and what’s also important is making sure there is a variety of challenge – going overseas, dealing with hotels, playing a different style of football and playing technically gifted players who keep the ball for X period of time and understanding that.

“It can’t be right that the first time a young centre-half comes up against a Sergio Aguero or Alexis Sanchez-type player is in the first team. He should have played against that type of player in tournaments etc. at 16,17,18 and 19 year-old – right the way through, and by the time he reaches the first-team, he should be experienced in knowing how to deal and cope with that.

“We can’t expose him for the first time at first-team level – our job is to prepare him better than that, and if we can do it, and offer that variety and quality of challenge, then we are hoping that transition will be all the quicker.”

The Rangers under-17s last week travelled to take on Southampton’s side at that age-group, and turned in an excellent performance, more than earning their 0-0 draw in a game the Light Blues dominated.

That’s the sort of challenge Warburton want the young players to have, and on that, he added: “It was a very good performance, and Southampton are one of the top Academies in the country, undoubtedly, and they produce so many high-quality players. They have magnificent staff and facilities, so it is great for our players to have the challenge of going down there.

“It’s not about the result, it is about the result, if that makes sense. It is about the players learning how to win, but it is also about them learning how to lose when things don’t go right, and how they respond it. It is about us going down there and really pushing the brand of football and philosophy we want the young players to have.

“That’s to understand the desire to get on the ball, the fearlessness to get on the ball, to be brave in their decision-making and to have the technical attributes to deal with the football in tight areas.

“If we can do that, and get it right throughout the Academy we will be in a good place.”

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