Archive for April, 2020

Youth Cup 1994 And 1995

April 30, 2020

After a bit of thought I’ve decided the SFA Youth Cup could be a good topic for a post or two on the blog. In recent years there has been plenty of coverage of these finals including live broadcasts. That wasn’t the case in the early days and even basic information is hard to come by. So this is a wee look at Rangers first two Youth Cup winning sides in back to back years of 1994 and 1995

The SFA Youth Cup started in 1983/84 season but it took Rangers until 1993/94 season before recording a win. Youth football was very different back in the early days and a youth cup tie would provide a rare sight of a Rangers youth team. I remember being at Ibrox watching us lose to Queens Park and Clydebank in early rounds, in the case of the Clydebank game I remember their goalkeeper was Colin Scott who I think was about 15 at the time and on loan from Rangers !!

Airdie 3 Rangers 5

The final took place at Broomfield on 27th April 1994 and I remember it well. Rangers progress to the final saw them over come Raith Rovers at Starks Park and goals from Neil Caldwell, Kevin Fotheringham, Craig Moore and Charlie Miller secured a 4-1 win. Another away tie followed with a short trip to Firhill, a shutout and goals from Scott McCulloch and Stuart Ayton saw Rangers through.

The next round saw another 2-0 away win this time at Meadow Park the home of Threave Rovers, the goals coming from Brian McGinty and Paul McKnight. This took Rangers to the quarter final stage and a comfortable 4-0 home win over St.Mirren. Kevin Foteringham, a Lee Dair double, one being from the penalty spot and Brian McGinty were the scorers. Rangers reached the final with a home draw and a 3-2 win over Celtic at Ibrox thanks to a Charlie Miller double and a Greg Shields strike.

Details of the Airdrie team are hard to come by but a name that sticks in my mind is Gordon Connolly, mainly because he had been a Rangers ‘S’ form. I’m sure he was part of the Airdrie team that raced to a three goal lead with Kevin Fotheringham reducing the deficit just before the break. Charlie Miller talks about the game in his autobiography “The Proper Charlie”, in particular the appearance of Walter Smith in the dressing room at half-time and the team getting Walter’s version of the “hairdryer treatment”.

Rangers turned the game around after the break with a further three Kevin Fotheringham goals and a Charlie Miller single. For me the player that changed the game was half-time substitute Steven Boyack who was outstanding.

The Rangers team was as follows:-

1994 Youth Cup 2

Back Row:- Craig Moore, Scott Wilson, Iain Nicolson. Front Row:- Greg Shields, Neil Caldwell, Michael Rae, Kevin Fotheringham, Stuart Ayton, Charlie Miller, Brian McGinty, Donnie Chisholm, Steven Boyack. Roddy Kerr is not in the picture.

 

 

Michael Rae:- Highlander Michael never made a first team appearance at Rangers and on leaving the club played for a variety of Highland League Clubs including Brora Rangers, Forres Mechanics, Nairn County and Fort William.

Greg Shields:- A product of Gairdoch United, Greg made a total of eleven appearances for Rangers, including Champions League ties against Ajax and AJ Auxerre. He was transferred to Dunfermline Athletic in 1997 and after seventy plus appearances he moved to Charlton Athletic for around £600,000. Injury hampered his time at the London club but he peaked with four Premier League appearances in 2000/01 season. A spell at Kilmarnock was followed by a return to Dunfermline to take his appearance total for the club to over 200.  The USA was calling and he spent four years playing for Carolina RailHawks with a short loan spell at Partick Thistle in the middle. He then moved into coaching and brought his U14/15 Capital Area RailHawks to Rangers training ground in March 2015, Rangers winning 4-0. In January 2019 he returned to Scotland to take up a first team coaching position at Dunfermline.

Roddy Kerr:- Roddy was at Rangers with his brother Ross, I think they were twins but neither progressed after leaving Rangers. Although East Stirling and Stirling Albion come to mind both left senior football early.

Craig Moore:- Aussie Craig needs no introduction to most Rangers fans becoming a first team regular winning 5 League Titles, 4 Scottish Cups and 3 League Cups. His Rangers career was split with a season at Crystal Palace, he also had two seasons in the Premiership with Newcastle United. Before playing in Germany (Broussia Munchengladbach), Australia (Brisbane Roar) and Greece (Kavala). During his career he gained 53 caps for Australia scoring in friendlies against Hungary and France and a goal at the 2006 World Cup in Australia’s 2-2 draw with Croatia. 

Scott Wilson:- Scott never quite made a first team place at Rangers his own but he did make fifty plus appearances including three in the UEFA Champions League, starting against Ajax, and from the bench against Grasshoppers and AJ Auxerre. Following a brief loan spell at Portsmouth he joined Dunfermline Athletic and went on to play well over 200 games for the fife club. He also represented Scotland six times at Under 21 level.

Iain Nicolson:- Never made a breakthrough at Ibrox but played over 250 senior games at Partick Thistle, St.Mirren, Ayr United and Alloa Athletic. He then dropped in the Juniors playing for Bathgate Thistle and Renfrew. Iain suffered a stroke in April 2015 but returned to the pitch eight months later in a friendly for Renfrew FC against Cumnock.

Brian McGinty:- Made his first team debut in January 1995 away to Partick Thistle but his only other top team games came the following season in away games at Hearts and Hibernian. On leaving Rangers he had a decent couple of season at Hull City, in an injury hit six years at St.Mirren he still managed to make close to 140 appearances. He also played for Scarborough, Airdrie, Portadown and Dumbarton. Having spent 2000/01 in the junior ranks at Cumnock, on leaving St.Mirren he returned to Junior Football playing for Irvine Meadow, Pollok and Bellshill Athletic. When I decided to take in a random pre-season game this season to watch Ashfield play Irvine Meadow, Brian was in the dugout as Irvine Meadow’s manager.

Neil Caldwell:- Played in midfield but was more known as a full back, he made his only top team appearance against Partick Thistle at Ibrox in May 1995. On leaving Rangers he had a short spell at Dundee United making five appearances and scoring in a Challenge Cup tie against Cowdenbeath. He briefly dropped in to the juniors with spells at Petershill and Rutherglen Glencairn before retiring from the game.

Donnie Chisholm:- Perhaps a surprise starter in the final as his only appearance in previous rounds was as a sub in the semi-final. Never progressed at Rangers but if memory serves me right I think Bishopbriggs boy Donnie played junior locally maybe with Petershill or Rossvale.

Charlie Miller:- Four League titles, a League Cup win, a Norwegian Cup win, Scottish PFA Young Player of the Year, A-League Foreign Player of the Year. Yet a common response when you mention Charlie Miller is “what might have been”. That really is a testament to his natural talent. He made close to 100 Rangers appearances and after a brief loan spell at Leicester City, he left Rangers to join Watford for £450,000, he was only 23. Following Watford he had a relatively stable period playing regularly at Dundee United, SK Brann in Norway and Lierse in Belgium. His next adventure was to Australia and spells with Brisbane Roar and Gold Coast United. He terminated his career back in Scotland with a handful of games for Clyde. Charlie gained ONE cap for Scotland, a sad statistic that a player of such talent never progressed beyond that game against Poland in 2001.

Kevin Fotheringham:- Never quite made the Rangers top team but had a career in the lower leagues, playing for eleven different clubs and over 350 games. Most notably at Raith Rovers, Brechin City and East Fife, he also had a brief spell in Iceland with UMF Víkingur Ólafsvík. Then it was back to the Juniors and he is now manager at Dundonald Bluebell with a former Rangers youth team mate Lee Dair as his assistant.

Steven Boyack:- A surprise omission from the starting lineup, but a half-time sub and in my opinion he really was the catalyst for the second half turn around. A player that I thought had a real chance but only made one substitute appearance, away to Hibernian in October 1996 a game Rangers lost 2-1. He moved to Dundee in February 1999 for a fee of  £125,000, after playing around fifty games for the Dens Park club, he was transferred to Hearts in January 2001.  The highlight of his time at Tynecastle would be appearing in their UEFA Cup home win FK Zeljeznicar Sarajevo. His career then started to wane and limited appearances at Livingston, Boston United, Blackpool and Stirling Albion saw him drop into the juniors. Last saw him play when he made an appearance in his brother John’s testimonial when Rangers provided the opposition at Shotts Bon Accord in July 2011.

Stuart Ayton:- Stuart actually made his only top flight appearance in the same game that Neil Caldwell made his. Rangers v Partick Thistle on 13th May 1995, but in Stuart’s case he was in Thistle colours. Released by Rangers he signed on at Firhill at the start of that season, unfortunately that was his only appearance and he joined the junior ranks with Rutherglen Glencairn where he spent seven seasons.

 

Rangers 2 St.Johnstone 0

This final was played at Hampden on 18th April 1995, in contrast to the previous year’s final, with Rangers winning comfortably and St.Johnstone pretty much on the back foot, the goals being scored by Brian McGinty and Paul McShane. The nucleus of the side had played in the previous year’s final, so I will focus on those that didn’t.

Rangers route to the final started with an away tie at Berwick Rangers and goals from Paul McShane and Steven Boyack without reply meant progress to a home tie with Brechin City. The game was played at Prestonfield the home of Linlithgow Rose, another shutout, a Lee Dair double and single strikes from Barry Ferguson and Paul McShane setup a quarter final home tie against Dundee United.

In the game at Ibrox Rangers did lose a goal but hit five in reply, the scorers being two from Paul McShane, Barry Ferguson, Lee Dair and Brian McGinty. The Semi-Final saw Rangers back on the road with a trip to Pittodrie, goals from Lee Dair, Steven Boyack and Barry Ferguson secured their final spot at Hampden.

Rangers Lineup for the final was :- Michael Rae, Greg Shields, Roddy Kerr, Scott Wilson Andy Galloway, Iain Nicolson, Brian McGinty, Barry Ferguson, Paul McKnight, Paul McShane, Steven Boyack.

Sub:- Lee Dair

Andy Galloway:- Centre back Andy never got close to the first team at Rangers, but he did make six appearances for Raith Rovers in 1998. I don’t know what happened to him after that.

boyack galloway

Andy Galloway on the right, with Steven Boyack

Barry Ferguson:- There is little point in trying to describe a club legend in a paragraph, so I won’t even try. The first time I saw Barry play was at a young age in a final at Hannah Park, Shotts for Rangers SABC. He was by far the smallest player on the pitch but you see he could play. It took a while for him to develop physically and was over looked for Scotland youth squads, but as they say the rest is history.

Paul McKnight:- Former Northern Ireland Under 21 international made one substitute appearance for Rangers. In that same Rangers v Partick Thistle game that featured Neil Caldwell and Stuart Ayton. A product of Belfast’s St.Andrews Boys Club Paul was a regular visitor to Rangers and Manchester United before signing for Rangers at 16. A serious hip injury halted his progress and he joined St.Mirren in 2000. He made over twenty appearances in an injury hit two years in Paisley and left for Linfield in 2002. He played in about half the games that season but briefly returned to St.Mirren the following season, further injury problems restricted him to three appearances and he went back to Northern Ireland  to Glenavon. After over fifty games the pain became too much and retired from football.

paul_mcknight

Paul McKinight

Paul McShane:- Highly rated as a youngster never quite made Rangers first team and on leaving Rangers made a career in Icelandic football. Playing for nine clubs before retiring at the age of 41. Career highlights would be European ties against Czech side Sigma Olomouc and FC Karnten of Austria. Paul son Hilmar has appeared as a trialist in Rangers youth teams on a couple of occasions.

paul_mcshane_has_spent_eleven_years_in_iceland

Paul McShane playing for Fram in Iceland

Lee Dair:- Nephew of Jim Baxter, Lee never made a first team appearance at Rangers and left for Raith Rovers just missing his brother who had been transferred to Millwall. Spells at Partick Thistle, East Fife and Cowdenbeath followed but by 2003 he was carving a career out in Junior football. Playing for five different clubs and as mentioned above is now assistant manager to youth team mate Kevin Fotheringham at Dundonald Bluebell.

lee dair

Lee Dair at Cwdenbeath

 

 

 

Youth Players From Across Europe

April 19, 2020

Following on from the recent post on trialists it was suggested that I look at youth players from various European countries, some would have only appeared on trial and others would have progressed to a contract. I have only included players I have seen play for Rangers, I would say we manage to identity about 50% of trialists. Therefore there are loads of other players to potentially fill in the gaps and of course there are the games I wasn’t at. Thanks to Gordy for helping me fill in a couple of blanks.

Albania – Albert Rachi – Although London born Albert was an Albania youth international and had just been released from Tottenham Hotspur. He featured in a friendly in July 2019 at the training ground against a very poor Huddersfield Town side in a game Rangers won 9-1.

Albert Rachi

Albert Rachi

There was loads of chatter on social media and message boards about this “highly rated” youngster. Rangers didn’t follow up their interest and Albert signed for Potton United of The Spartan South Midlands Premier Divison.

Austria – Alex Hauser – It was claimed Rangers beat of a host of top clubs to capture the signature of the Austrian U18 Internationalist midfielder from FC Tirol in 2000. He was a regular in the youth league lineups in 2000/2001 season with the highlight being scoring a double against Hearts. Appearances were limited the following season I think he suffered from injury a bit.

Alex Hauser

Alex Hauser

He left Rangers at the end of that season and signed for SW Bergenz back in his homeland. Playing for eight different clubs he made close to 200 games in the Austrian Bundesliga and a similar number in the second tier. He captained FC Wacker Innsbruck on a regular basis during 2012/2013 season and he is now a youth coach at that club.

Belgium – Jeroen Van Den Broeck – The most difficult paragraph to write as Jeroen passed away in November 2017 at the age of only 28. Jeroen joined Rangers from the youth setup of Belgian club KFC Verbroedering Geel in 2006.

Jeroen Van Den Broeck

Jeroen Van Den Broeck

For two seasons he made sporadic appearances at reserve and youth level. He never quite nailed down a regular spot in the youth team, he was a great lad and his father made the trip from Belgium for an amazing number of his games. On leaving Rangers he joined Dutch club AGOW Apeldoorn, this would be the peak of his football career, making four appearances in the Dutch second tier. He went on to play for six lower league Belgian clubs before his tragic death. RIP Jeroen.

Bosnia & Herzegovina – Stefan Stojicic – A winger from Borac Banja Luka academy who made an appearance in a Under 18 friendly against Morton in October 2018. It would appear he is still a youth player at that club.

Bulgaria – Dani Kiki – I am pretty sure we have had quite a few Bulgarian players on trial over the years, but have been unable to identify most of them. Midfielder Dani Kiki is one I was able to identify, from Lokomotiv Plovdiv, he came on as a sub in a reserve friendly in against Bradford City in July 2006.

Dani Kiki

Dani Kiki

A game noted for the fact that Kris Boyd scored all the goals in a 6-0 win. Dani’s career seems to have peaked in the current season at the age of 32 with 13 appearances and one goal for Cherno More Varna in the Bulgarian top league.

Cyprus – Georgios Efrem – An entry that most Rangers fans will be familiar with, Georgios signed for Rangers on his release from Arsenal in 2007. Although he never made a first team appearance he was a regular in the successful youth side, culminating in the 2008 Youth Cup Final win over Celtic.

Georgios Efrem

Georgios Efrem

He also had a brief spell on loan at Dundee, scoring twice in eight appearances. He returned to Cyprus  in 2009 joining Omonia where he stayed for five years before moving to APOEL. He has regularly featured in European competition and now has close to fifty caps for his country scoring five goals including one against Scotland.

Czechia (Czech Republic) – Krystof Hampl – A recent recruit to the club he was signed from FK Pardubice last summer.

0_Krystof-Hampl

Krystof Hampl

I believe he came to Rangers attention when he played against them in the U17 Albim Cup and was included in the Rangers squad that traveled to Russia to compete in the Spartak Cup. Krystof had previously been on trial at Benfica and Machester United, he has had a stuttering start to his Rangers career due to injury.

Denmark – Nicolaj Kohlert – There were a few options from Denmark but I chose Nicolaj Kohlert as he had a the highest profile. He arrived on trial from Liverpool  in July 2011 and after a couple of uninspiring appearances against Stirling Albion and Huddersfield Town I was very surprised to hear Rangers had agreed to take on the final year of his Liverpool contract. Another master stroke from Sinky. He was a bit part player in the youth team and left Rangers in January 2012 with six months remaining on his contract, to sign for Silkeborg IF back in Denmark. He did reasonably well in his first couple of years making quite a few appearances in the Danish Superligaen, but as his career waned he had spells in Faroe Islands and Iceland before retiring in 2018 at Danish lower league club Brabrand IF.

Faroe Islands – Ingi Hojsted – Back in July 2004 Arsenal youngster Ingi appeared in a Rangers shirt in a friendly at Ardrossan Winton Rovers.

Ingi Hojsted

Ingi Hojsted

I know I was definitely at the game but can’t say I remember much about Ingi’s performance or the game in general. His Faroe Islands club was B36 Torshavn and that is where he spent his career apart from a six month spell at Birmingham City in 2006/2006. He gained six caps for his country.

Finland – Jukka Santala – There are a few options from Finland and after a bit of thought I chose Jukka. He joined Rangers back in 2004 as a centre-back from HJK Helsinki but grabbed the headlines playing as a striker in a six month loan spell at Partick Thistle, scoring eleven goals.

Jukka Santala

Jukka Santala

On leaving Rangers in 2006 he joined Danish side FC Nordsjaelland then Mjallby AIF in Sweden before returning home to FC Haka. He went on to play for a further five clubs in Finland.

France – Dany N’Guessan – France had perhaps the greatest number to pick from. I have gone for the graduate of the Auxerre academy who joined Rangers in 2004. He never quite made the first team but made his professional debut while on loan at Boston United.

dany_nguessan

Dany N’Guessan

On leaving Rangers he joined Lincoln City where he made the PFA League Two Team Of The Year in 2008/09 which earned him a move to Leicester City. He made over thirty appearances before a nomadic period at various English clubs, AEL in Greece and ending his career at IK Start in Norway.

Germany – Lars Babich – Players from Germany are surprisingly rare and Lars Babich is the only one I can think of. The other unusual thing about goalkeeper Lars was that he was coming over from Germany at a young age, I think he was 14 the first time I saw him play. I remember briefly speaking to him and his dad outside Ibrox, having noticed his dad watching the game Lars played in that morning at the training ground. His career seems to have peaked as a youth player at Wuppertahler SV Under 19’s.

Hungary – Adam Dudas – Teenage ETO FC Gyor winger made an appearance in a Rangers shirt in a youth friendly against Queens Park. I believe he also trialed at Arsenal around the same time but ultimately returned to Gyor.

Adam Dudas

Adam Dudas

His highlight there would have been a Europa League Qualifying defeat against IFK Gothernburg where he played the full 90 minutes. He surpassed that in his loan spell at Spartak Moscow in 2007, featuring in their UEFA Cup group stage win over FC Zurich.

Iceland – Asgeir Sigurvinsson – I have gone back a bit in time for my choice of Icelandic player, there has been a few. One thing is certain, Asheir is the best player on this list and it just so happens I did a piece on him a few years ago.

Ásgeir Sigurvinsson – One That Got Away

Ireland – Alan Smith – There has been a few academy trialists from Ireland in the last couple of years, including three in the same game recently. But goalkeeper Alan was a ground breaker when he signed for Rangers from Crumlin United in 2010.

Alan Smith

Alan Smith

He was the regular Under 19 keeper during 2011/12 season. On leaving Rangers he had a couple of years at Cork City but now appears to be out of the senior game.

Italy – Daniele Fortunato – Another nation we have few to pick from, but in true Blue Peter fashion “here’s one I did earlier”. A piece on Daniele I put together in 2013.

Daniele Fortunato

 

Latvia – Arturs Vaiculis – A Surprising signing from St.Mirren for a £20,000 development fee. I don’t mean any disrespect to Arturs but another example of a Sinky failure.

arturs vaiculis

Arturs Vaiculis

In my opinion Arturs was never going to be any more than an academy player, so in effect we rented an Under 19 keeper for £10,000 a season. Cyprus was his destination on leaving Rangers playing for three clubs there, before finishing his career back in the Baltics with clubs in Latvia and Lithuania.

Malta – Myles Beerman – A player that will be familiar to most Rangers fans, Myles first appearance in a Rangers jersey was at Ibrox, but was a youth friendly against Hibs. Myles who was on Manchester City’s books was one of three trialists along with Michael Kelly (Leicester City) and Euan McPherson (Queens Park),  he impressed playing as a left winger.

Myles Beerman

Myles Beerman

On signing for Rangers he converted to full-back and broke into the first team, reaching double figures in appearances. He made a similar number of appearances in a loan spell at Queen of the South. Loan spells back in Malta followed before a permanent move to Hibernians FC (Malta) at the start of this season. It would appear that in all but one game he has either came off the bench or been an unused sub.

Netherlands – Nacer Barazite – Like Germany there have been few trialists at Rangers from Holland, a bit of surprise considering the number of Dutch players we have had. At The Oval in Belfast in August 2010 Arsenal’s youngster Nacer Barazite turned out for Rangers against Glentoran with a view to a season long loan.

nacer-barazite

Nacer Barazite

For whatever reason it didn’t happen and he spent the season at Vitesse Arnhem. Spells at Austria Vienna, AS Monaco and FC Utrecht followed. He then moved a bit further afield for his contracts playing in Turkey, UAE and now in Thailand with Buriram United.

North Macedonia – Bajram Fetai – Although he represented Denmark at youth level he was born in Macedonia and ultimately played for his country of birth at full international level. Joined Rangers in 2004 from Boldklub 93, making one first team appearance against Dunfermline Athletic. The name Scott McDonald is synonymous with “Helicopter Sunday” but had things gone the other way it could have been Bajram Fetai.

Bajram Fetai

Bajram Fetai

On loan at Inverness Caley Thistle from Rangers the club omitted to insert a clause to prevent him playing against Rangers. On 5th March 2005 he was instrumental in setting up the highlanders late equaliser at Ibrox. He left Rangers for Silkeborg IF at the end of that season and his career was mainly in the Danish top league, apart from a two year spell at Denizlispor. He is currently an academy coach at FC Nordsjaelland. Barjam became a youtube sensation with controversial his goal celebration.

Bajram Fetai’s Goal Celebration

Norway – Thomas Kind Bendiksen – A bit a qualified success but ultimately a disappointment. Signed from Harstad IL and wrongly reported as a £1,000,000 fee in some quarters, when in fact it was 1,000,000 Norwegian Krone, around £90,000. Missing almost two complete seasons through injury and returning to action impressed at the end of that season.

Thomas Kind

Thomas Kind Bendiksen

Further injury problems saw him given a six month contract in July 2011, a goal and an impressive display in a friendly against SV Hamburg saw him enter the first team picture. A contract extension was offered but declined and he moved back to Norway with Tromso IL in January 2012. After a few seasons in the Norwegian top division he is now playing third tier football with Tromsdalen UIL.

Poland – Kamil Wiktorski – Joining Rangers after a successful trial period from the Zawisza Bydgoszcz academy in 2009.

Kamil Wikorski

Kamil Wiktorski

He was a regular in the youth team for a couple of seasons without threatening to make the breakthrough. Since leaving Rangers he has played with eight different Polish clubs, predominately in the second division, his current club being Chojniczanka Chojnice.

Portugal – Umaro Balde – Recent recruit from the Sporting Lisbon academy the holding midfielder has settled in well and established in the Under 18’s squad.

Umaro Balde

Umaro Balde

It is rumoured there is in clause in his release from Sporting that prevented him joining Benfica or Porto.

Russia – Sergey Kundik – Sergey featured in my last post on trialists so its a simple cut and paste job for me.

In February 2013 Russian-Portuguese attacker Sergey Kundik arrived on trial, born in Russia he moved to Portugal at the age of 9 and had been in the youth setups of Porto, Boavista and Spartak Moscow before arriving on trial at Rangers. He featured in three youth friendlies aganist Hearts, St. Johnstone and Dunfermline Athletic. I am pretty sure these were the only games he played in despite what it says on Wikipedia. He then joined the youth academy at Braga before playing lower league in Portugal, Cyprus and Greece. He is currently with GAS Ialysos 1948 in the Greek third tier.

Serbia – Nikola Vujadinovic – Some may remember him playing for Aberdeen in 2010/11 season on loan from Udinese, but his first foray into Scottish football was in a Rangers jersey as an 18 year old in a friendly at Selkirk in July 2004. He had just left the academy of Red Star Belgrade and with Rangers not following up any interest he started the season at Rad Belgrade.

Nikola Vujadinovic

Nikola Vujadinovic

He then played in Montenegro and back to Serbia before signing for CSKA Sofia. Udinese then secured his services from the Bulgarian club for a reported €1,000,000, but he never made a top team appearance. He then became a bit of a football nomad playing for clubs in Romania, Scotland, Austria, Spain, China and Poland before arriving at his current club NK Domzale in Slovenia. Could have been an entry for Montenegro who he has represented at U21 level.

Slovakia – Dominik Martisiak – Another covered in the previous post. Slovakian youth international attacker Dominik Martisiak made an appearance in December 2015 against Dundee United. His club at the time was FK Senica who were willing to sell. Rangers didn’t follow up and has since moved Banik Ostrava in Czech Republic, still only 19 he is on loan at second tier club MFK Vitkovice.

Spain – Borja Lazaro – The striker had previously been at Atletico Madrid’s academy and appeared as a trialist in youth friendly 3-3 draw with Sunderland in August 2007. He did enough over his trial period to win a contract and was at Rangers for that season, he played sporadically in the reserve team scoring a handful of goals.

Borja Lazaro

Borja Lozaro

On leaving Rangers he joined Sporting Gijon B, since then he has been at an incredible twelve clubs in Spain. Two highlights stand out, he played in both legs of the LaLiga Promotion Playoff Semi Finals for SD Huesca when they lost out to Getafe CF in June 2017. In September 2014 playing for CD Leganes in a LaLiga 2 game against RCD Mallorca he grabbed a hat-trick scoring all the goals in his side’s 3-1 win. He is currently with third tier side Algeciras CF who he joined in January.

Sweden – Max Olsson – The Swedish youth International grabbed a hat-trick for Rangers Under 16’s in a 7-2 win over Partick Thistle in February 2016. I have to say I thought I would see the Malmo academy player at Rangers training ground again, but it wasn’t to be.

Max Olsson

Max Olsson

He left Malmo two years later and had a spell at second tier club IFK Varnamo in 2018 but is now at third tier side IF Sylvia.

Switzerland – Kevin Mbabu – One of the “Newcastle Five” he never made a first team appearance but played in reserve games and featured in the 2015 Youth Cup Final. Never really impressed in his time at the club and in my opinion looked a bit overweight. He joined Newcastle United in 2013 from Servette FC for an undisclosed fee.

Kevin Mbabu

Kevin Mbabu

He left Newcastle for Young Boys initially on loan, it took him a couple of months to break into the starting eleven, but by the end of the season he was established and the move became permanent.  His career then took off and he really became an established player culminating in a transfer to Vfl Wolfsburg in April 2019 for a reported €8,000,000. He has six caps for Switzerland.

Turkey – Isa Bagci – Born in Sweden and signed from Swedish club BK Hacken Isa represented Turkey at Under 19 level. Showed enough as a trialist to prompt a transfer and a contract, he was a fairly regular in the youth team but seemed a bit temperamental and his confidence and attitude could be up and down.

isa bağcı

Isa Bagci

He was transferred to Bursaspor in August 2009 for an Undisclosed fee. He played with a variety of clubs in Turkey and Scandanavia hitting his peak with almost thirty Swedish second tier games at Qviding FIF in 2011. Hasn’t been in senior football since leaving Vastra Frolunda IF in January 2017.

Well just a snapshot in reserve/youth players from across the continent, there are a few countries I could have made a different choice and highlighted someone else. Some big countries not on this list, Croatia is a big surprise considering our recent links with players from that country. Also Greece, Slovenia and Ukraine, lots of former eastern block countries and of course Europe’s minnows, Andorra and Lichtenstein for example.

I am sure a lot of these blanks could be filled in, as I said around 50% of the trialists I have watched remain unknown and there are lots of games I didn’t attend. I hope you have found this of some interest.

Rangers Trialists

April 16, 2020

Along with just about everything else the blog has been in lockdown and I have been trying to find inspiration for a post to keep things ticking over. Over the years I have seen well over 1000 players in Rangers youth games, included in this number would be 100 + trialists. Now technically every Rangers academy player has been a trialist at some time, but as I only really start watching teams when they have moved to 11-a side. I’m really talking about trialists at the older age groups.

Trialists come on the scene in a variety of ways, some are scouted, some are recommended,  a fair number come from agents and sometimes a family connection can lead to a trial. In the latter group an example earlier in the season was Cameron Gascoigne nephew of Paul.  Cameron was being released by Newcastle United and played for a Rangers XI against Partick Thistle. There was a late change to the make up of the opposition with Thistle fielding a younger team than was expected, so he played against much younger players. Despite social media claims “he was running riot” and scoring an excellent goal in truth he was fairly ordinary on the day. This has been pretty much confirmed by the fact he is still without a club.

There are another couple who come into this category and were more impressive in their trial periods but never lead to a contract with Rangers. Kyle Hendry son of former Ranger Colin Hendry made a few appearances in early 2009/2010 season following his release from Blackburn Rovers, he was a striker and unlike his father he was slightly built. I thought he did reasonably well and scored a double in a friendly against Stirling Albion. He disappeared from senior football before appearing in Malta in 2015 with brief spells at Sliema Wanderers and Lija Athletic.

hilmar

Hilmar McShane

The son of a lesser known Rangers player, Paul McShane also impressed on trial. On leaving Rangers in January 1998 Paul spent his whole career in the Icelandic Leagues before retiring at the end of 2018/19 season at the age of 41. Paul’s son Hilmar McShane came over from Iceland a few times, the last being in September 2015. He is a midfield player and I thought it was one Rangers may have followed up, I believe he was also on trial at Newcastle United around the same time. Hilmar is now 20 and playing for UMF Grindavik in the Iceland second tier.

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Brandon John

Playing well against Rangers is another way that can lead to a trial. An impressive Ontario select team’s performance at the training ground lead to trials and contracts for Fraser Aird and Luca Gasparotto. There was a third member of that group who came over on trial, centre-back Brandon John. I believe Rangers were keen but unlike the other two he didn’t have access to a Euorpean passport. Brandon signed for German club Erzgerbirge Aue, but he only made the B team. He has since played in lower league football in USA and Canada and is currently with Atletico Ottawa.

Back in June 2011 Rangers took on top North East  Boys club Newcastle City at the training ground, although Rangers won the game 4-1 two of the opposition were invited up for a trial. Defender Connor Thomson and midfielder Dean Briggs came back in January 2012 and featured in U17 CAS Fixture against Hearts and a friendly against Crusaders. Rangers didn’t follow up their interest and Connor Thomson signed for Carlisle United before moving to Blackburn Rovers in 2014. He currently plays for Gateshead in the National League. Dean Briggs signed for Gateshead before a spell in Australia with Holland Park Hawks and Peninsula Power, he now plays for Consett FC in the Northern League.

An important source of trialists is from the work done by Rangers scout in Northern Ireland Phil Cowen. There is a steady stream of players from the province and in recent years a few from ROI. Three who first played as trialists are now youth players at the club, Chris McKee, Ross McAusland and Lewis Mackinnon. There are also two at the club across the city who played as trialists for Rangers. Ben Wylie was a regular with Chris McKee, but Rangers chose not to offer him a contract and he opted to sign for Celtic. The other is goalkeeper Conor Hazard, who was one of two Northern Irish keepers on trial at that time, the other being Tom McDermott. I’m not sure if Rangers pursued an interest in any of the two as they were the same age group as Robbie McCrorie. Hazard of course signed for Celtic while McDermott signed for Spurs, he has since played for Derry City, Ballymena and is now at Finn Harps.

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A Northern Ireland youth squad which includes Rangers players Ross McAusland, Lewis Mackinnon and Charlie Lindsay. Charlie Allen of Linfield who played for Rangers in Alkass Cup is also there.

A few others from Northern Ireland worth a mention are Alberto Balde (Middleborough), Brad Lyons (Blackburn Rovers), Chris Johns (Colraine via Southampton), Josh Carson (Colraine via Ipswich Town) and Jamie Harney (Clifftonville via West Ham). I really liked Josh Carson in the games he played on trial.

A few other trialists out of the many are worth a mention. In February 2007 an agent brought in German based Ghanian Kofi Appiah, allegedly a relation of former Juventus player Stephen Appiah and he had a German passport. He played in games against Gretna and Hibernian, when Rangers decided to take things further it became apparent he did not have a German passport. Depsite his agent promising to find “a German girl to marry him” Rangers ceased their interest.

In April 2011 Rangers had a “play on the pitch” U17 game against Dunfermline Athletic at Ibrox which featured striker Omar Bogle about to be released by Birmingham City,  he was an older player by a year but scored both goals in Rangers 2-1 and the club were keen but were gazumped by Celtic and he went there. He left Celtic after a year and spent a few years non league but was scoring a goal a game at Solihull Moors and Grimsby Town he earned a big money move to Wigan Athletic before moving to Cardiff City for £700,000. Still on Cardiff’s books he has spent the last three years out on loan and is currently at ADO Den Haag.

sergey kundik

Sergey Kundik

In February 2013 Russian-Portuguese attacker Sergey Kundik arrived on trial, born in Russia he moved to Portugal at the age of 9 and had been in the youth setups of Porto, Boavista and Spartak Moscow before arriving on trial at Rangers. He featured in three youth friendlies aganist Hearts, St. Johnstone and Dunfermline Athletic. I am pretty sure these were the only games he played in despite what it says on Wikipedia. He then joined the youth academy at Braga before playing lower league in Portugal, Cyprus and Greece. He is currently with GAS Ialysos 1948 in the Greek third tier.

Polish goalkeeper Tomasz Kucz made an appearance against St Johnstone in December 2013, I believe he was in the Polonia Warsaw academy at the time. He subsequently moved to Bayer Leverkusen, although he never made a first team appearance his highlight would be nine Champions Youth League games against the likes of Barcelona, Roma, Spurs and Monaco. He then had a loan spell at Dunajska Streda in the Slovak league where he made in one appearance in a 4-3 defeat. He is still only 20 and is now in Portugal with Vitoria Guimaraes B.

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Faisu Sangare in action at The SUpercup NI

In July 2017 Rangers U16’s were heading to the Supercup NI (Milk Cup) and were maybe a bit light in the striking department, so Oldham Athletic striker Faisu Sangare arrived on trial. He featured in an U17 game against Partick Thistle and an U16 game against Morton which secured his inclusion in the squad for Northern Ireland. Her scored in all Rangers three games against County Armagh, Colina and First Choice Scoccer. Rangers were intending to “monitor his progress” but I see he is now a youth player at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Slovakian youth international attacker Dominik Martisiak made an appearance in December 2015 against Dundee United. His club at the time was FK Senica who were willing to sell. Rangers didn’t follow up and has since moved Banik Ostrava in Czech Republic, still only 19 he is on loan at second tier club MFK Vitkovice.

I have only scratched the surface on trialists I have seen, some just disappear others pop up somewhere down the line. Hopefully we will have some form of football back sometime soon.