Youth programme will help Rangers develop Champions League players says Craig Mulholland

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Craig Mulholland believes lifting youngsters out of their comfort zone will improve Rangers ’ chances of developing Champions League quality players.

The Ibrox club are taking their development squad outside the Scottish academy system to play a series of friendlies at home and abroad.

Graeme Murty’s side claimed a 5-2 win at Brentford B on Sunday with the Bees making the move to scrap their academy in 2016 in favour of having their development side playing against higher-profile outfits and working closer with the first team.

That being said, an academy is usually judged on players coming through to the first team and Mulholland believes the club now has the ingredients to bring players from the training ground at Auchenhowie to the first XI.

The Rangers development squad at Brentford

Speaking exclusively to Record Sport , the head of academy said: “We wanted to take them out and try something new. Scottish football is doing really well at younger age groups but we need to do something in that transition phase.

“We’re playing the Feyenoords, Man Citys and the game against Brentford at the weekend. It’s been a really challenging experience for the boys and it’s worked really well.

“We were playing PSV U23s and our centre halves were facing nobody as the striker goes deep really early. You see our centre halves thinking, ‘what do we do?’ as it’s something they’ve never faced it in Scottish football.

“So if we’re going to produce a Champions League calibre player – and that’s what we’re trying to do – we need them to not have them playing against that level when we’re in the Champions League. We need to have them used to it all the way through the system.”

Kenny Miller signs autographs after the game at Brentford

Mulholland insists the whole club hierarchy has bought into the plan, from the top down.

He said: “Luck plays a part in a player breaking through, of course it does, but for me it has to be within the DNA of the club.

“What I mean by that is your board of directors buys into it, your director of football buys into it, your manager needs to be selected on the basis he plays young players.

Pedro Caixinha and Mark Allen have bought into the plan
Pedro Caixinha with director of football Mark Allen

“If you leave it to chance, it won’t happen. You need to do it by design so at Rangers, for example, our director of football is Mark Allen who was the academy director at Manchester City for nine years.

“He believes in it. Our board believes in it and, probably for the first time at Rangers, we all believe in developing talent.

“If you look at the top European academies who have done it time and time again, they believe in it from top to bottom and that’s the fundamental bit. A young player will have a pathway to get through.”

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