Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Rangers V Blackburn 10 Years On

August 2, 2020

Ten years ago this week a Rangers youth side took on Blackburn Rovers at the Training Ground which Rangers won 3-2 with goals from Kal Naismith, Christiano Kisuka and Robbie Crawford. I don’t always get details of the opposition lineup but on this occasion I did. So I thought it would be interesting to see what happened to the players from both lineups.

Match report on the link below

https://rfcyouths.wordpress.com/2010/08/07/youths-hit-late-winner/

Looking at it both clubs look to have had a very similar outcome, none are at the really top level but a few are making a decent income from football. Its difficult to compare non league with Scottish juniors and the Irish Leagues. Rangers had more that made first team appearances but that is without doubt due to the fact the club were forced down the leagues.

RANGERS

Wayne Drummond – A free transfer from Millwall, seemed strange at the time but it was at a time when strange recruitment at the academy was not unusual. After a year at Rangers he returned to Northern Ireland and turned out for Ballymena, Crusaders and Colaraine. Now appears to be out the game.

Wayne Drummond

Adam Hunter – Adam came through the age groups and played either at full back or in midfield. On leaving Rangers he played for Ayr United and Arbroath before dropping into the juniors with Cumnock. Adam moved his current club Shotts Bon Accord in 2019.

Chris Hegarty – Another Northern Irish player who joined on a free transfer from Millwall. Centre Back Chris was a regular in Rangers season in League Two, but was limited to two appearances the following season. Returned to Northern Ireland with Linfield and has since played for Dungannon Swifts and his current club Crusaders. He gained two Northern Ireland Under 21 caps.

Darren Cole – Made is debut in a Champions League group match against Bursaspor in Turkey. Failed to build on that and a loan spell at Thistle and a couple further first team games was as good as it got. His Rangers contract was terminated when he failed to turn up for a pre-season friendly against Cambuslang Rangers in August 2013. A season at Morton and Livingston followed before dropping into the Juniors with Broxburn Athletic. He moved back into senior football in 2017 with Derry City and he is still with the League of Ireland club.

Darren Cole now at Derry City

Steven Hetherington – Signed for Rangers after being spotted at an FA Exit Trial having been released by Hartlepool. On his release from Rangers in 2011 he signed for Motherwell, during his two years at Fir Park he made three appearances with a further fourteen on a loan spell at Airdrie United. A spell in English non league with Celtic Nation and Crook Town followed before returning to Scotland and Alloa Athletic where he is now entering his seventh season.

Robbie Crawford – Robbie benefited from Rangers drop to the bottom league and made close to fifty first team appearances. He also had loan spells at Morton and Alloa Athletic, on leaving Rangers he joined Raith Rovers but left without playing a game. Three games for East Kilbride followed, scoring twice in those games. Since then he has played for FH in Iceland, IFK Mariehamn in Finland and his current club Charleston Battery in the US.

Andy Mitchell – Andy joined Rangers in July 2010 on a free transfer from Man City who he joined from Greenisland Boys Club. He made his Rangers debut in a Premiership game against Dundee United in 2011/12. Played a few games the following season in League Two before moving to Annan Athletic for 2013/14 season, with the move made permanent in January 2014. A move to Southport followed before returning to Annan on loan. On leaving Annan he returned home and signed for Crusaders and has since played for Linfield and now Larne.

Kamil Wiktorski – Polish recruit Kamil joined from Zawisa Bydgoszcz in July 2009 after a successful trial. On his release from Rangers he returned home and has since turned out for six clubs in Poland. He now has around 100 appearances in the Polish second tier where he plays for current club Chojniczanka Chocjnice.

Kamil Wiktorski back playing in Poland

Rhys McCabe – Made nine first team appearances but opted to move to Sheffield Wednesday when Rangers were demoted to the second division. Only made around thirty appearances in three seasons and returned to Scotland with Dunfermline Athletic. After that it was on to the League of Ireland where he turned out for St. Patrick’s Athletic and Sligo Rovers. He signed for Brechin City in January this year. He gained three Scotland Under 21 caps.

Kyle McAusland – Joined the club as a striker at a young age from Ayr United, a club he returned to on loan on no fewer that three occasions. As he moved up through the age groups he reverted to defence. When Rangers were competing in League Two Kyle was turning out in the division above for Ayr United. He made a handful of first team appearances for Rangers the following season before returning to Ayr United on loan. He also had a loan spell at Brechin City and on leaving Rangers he signed for Dunfermline Athletic, he also played for Alloa Athletic and has spent the last three season in the Juniors with Cummnock.

Kal Naismith – My memories of Kal was of a very talented skilful player but one that had his own ideas about the game and a great frustration to coaches. Close to twenty first team appearances and loan spells at Cowdenbeath and Thistle while at Rangers. On his release from Rangers he signed for Accrington Stanley and during his time in England he has progressed via Portsmouth to current club Wigan Athletic.

Wigan Athletic’s Kal Naismith

Ewan McNeill – Ewan came up through the age groups when he was recruited from St. Mirren Boys Club. During his five and a half year spell at Rangers he spent three months on loan at Airdrie where he made nine appearances. On his release from Rangers he was scouted and signed by Norwich City and spent two season at Carrow Road. He then returned to Scotland and turned out for Brechin City, Berwick Rangers, Clyde, Stirling Albion and was last seen at Pollok 2018/19 season.

Christiano Kisuka – Christiano had been on the books of Aberdeen and Queens Park before he joined Rangers. On leaving the club he had a spell at Beith Juniors before turning out for Syrianska IF in Sweden. It appears he was last seen in Junior football with East Kilbride Thistle.

Max Wright – Max was a prolific goalscorer coming up through the age groups. but the breakthrough never came. He has been a regular in the lower league since playing for Alloa Athletic, Stranraer, East Stirling, Annan Athletic, Clyde and Stirling Albion. Still see him regularly, at the horseracing as he represents Weldspec Glasgow in the parade ring an on occasions in the winners spot.

Michael Noble – Left back Michael joined Rangers from Hutchison Vale Boys Club, joined Dundee United on his release from Rangers. He has played for a variety of East of Scotland clubs since, Craigroyston, Haddington, Musselburgh Athletic and Newtongrange Star.

BLACKBURN ROVERS

Matthew Urwin – Goalkeeper – Currently at Chorley in the National League North Matthew never made a football league appearance despite being on the books of Bradford City and Fleetwood Town after leaving Blackburn. Although he did make a League Cup appearance against MK Dons for Bradford. Also turned out for Stalybridge Celtic and Fylde in the National League North.

Peter Wylie – Defender – Was named in Blackburn’s 25 man squad for that season’s Premiership but never played in the first team. He left the club in 2013 and after a trial at Norwich City he moved to non league with Skelmersdale, his time at the club was interrupted by a period at Stalybridge Celtic. He then played for Marine and is now at Runcorn Linnets who play in The Northern Premier League Division One North West.

Anthony O’Connor – Defender – A player that should be familiar to Scottish football fans due to his two year spell at Aberdeen who he joined from Burton Albion and also played for Plymouth Argyle. Currently plying his trade in League Two with Bradford City, he never played a first team game at Blackburn. He has eight Republic of Ireland Under 21 caps.

Anthony O’Connor at Aberdeen

Ryan Edwards Defender – Never made a first breakthrough at Blackburn but after five loan spells at different clubs he signed for Morcambe in 2014. He made over 100 appearances there before moving to Plymouth Argyle. In two years at Home Park he made over sixty appearances before moving to his current club Blackpool in 2017.

Alex Billington – Left Back – Moved to Preston North End while still a youth player, then took up a scholarship in America. Had a spell with FA Euro New York before giving up the game due to injury.

Robbie Cotton – Midfield – Joined Blackburn from Sheffield United and on leaving the club he turned out for Sheffield FC, last seen at Goole Town. Robbie was one of Blackburn’s scorers on the day.

Robbie Cotton signing for Blackburn

Hugo Fernandez Molina – Defender – Spanish defender Hugo was recruited from third tier club UE Cornella. Never made the first team and returned to Spain and turned out for minor clubs AE Cultural Manllue, UE Sant Andreu and FC Martinenc before retiring in 2017.

Andy Parry – Midfield – Another that didn’t make the breakthrough but has had a career in non league football including a spell at Luton Town when they were in the National League. Returned to Southport in 2018 for his third spell at the club.

John O’Sullivan – Right Winger – Joined from Dublin boys club Belvedere he made his Blackburn debut as a substitute against Birmingham City in the final game of the 2012/13 season. Six appearances and six loan spells followed before being released and signing for Carlisle United. He moved on to Blackpool and while there had a spell on loan at Dundee in January 2019. Joined his current club Morecambe when his contract at Blackpool expired. He has four Ireland Under 21 caps.

John O’Sullivan at Dundee

Osayamen Osawe – Striker – The striker was on Man City’s books before joining Blackburn. He only appeared for the first team in a pre-season friendly and moved to Southport on his release. After a successful trial he moved to Germany and Hallescher FC in 2014. He has since played for 1.FC Kaiserslautern, FC Ingolstadt and joined his current club KFC Uerdingen in January 2019.

Micah Evans – Winger – Another whose first team involvement was restricted to friendlies. Loan spells at Accrington Stanley, Chesterfield and Macclesfield Town followed and on his Blackburn release he signed for Burnley. Again he never made the breakthrough and when he signed for FC United of Manchester in 2017 it was his ninth non league club, but he left without making an appearance.

Will James – Defender – The Welsh youth international defender was still an academy player when he moved to Carlisle United. Didn’t make an impact at the Cumbrian club and joined Clitheroe FC on his release, seems to have disappeared from the game soon after.

Cameron Lindsay – Midfielder – New Zealander Cameron joined Blackburn from Tasman United. Never made the step up at Blackburn and turned out for Rangers as a trialist in January 2012 in a game against Scottish Schools Under 18’s. Returned to his native New Zealand where his has appeared for six different clubs and is currently with Wairarapa United. He gained one full cap for New Zealand in a 2-0 win over the Solomon Islands in a World Cup Qualifier in March 2013.

Former Rangers Trialist Cameron Lindsay

Jaden Hall – Left Winger – Blackburn’s second goalscorer on the day joined Stoke City on his release, before moving to Burnley. During his spell at Turf Moor he made a few appearances in the National League in a loan spell at Chester. On his release he joined Welsh club Flint Town United in August 2015, but now appears to be out of the game.

Chris DiloGoalkeeper – Joined Blackburn on his release by PSG, spent a season at St.Mirren on his release from Blackburn. Since then he has mainly played for French B teams such as Rennes, Dijon, Sochaux and Paris FC leaving the latter club in July.

Chris Dilo

Remembering David Hagen

July 25, 2020

Sad news hearing about the death of David Hagen at the age of 47 after a battle with Motor Neurone Disease. Couldn’t say how many times I watched David play, certainly over fifty and maybe closer to a hundred. David joined Rangers from Grahamston Boys Club, he first came to prominence as a member of the Scotland U16 Squad that lost on penalties to Saudi Arabia in the 1989 World Championship at Hampden.

Scotland Under 16’s 1989 – David is on the extreme right front row

A regular in Rangers reserve and youth teams he was a member of the Glasgow Cup winning side of 1992, who beat Celtic 1-0 at Firhill on 15th January. He made his first team debut as a substitute against Hearts at Ibrox in September 1992 a game Rangers won 2-0.

He went on to make around twenty competitive appearances for Rangers, scoring three goals, against Hibs (March 1993), Partick Thistle (April 1993) and Hearts (August 1993). The highlight of his Rangers career would have been his late substitute appearance, replacing Ian Durrant, in Rangers 2-1 Champions League group stage win over Bruges at Ibrox on 17th March 1993.

David at Rangers

On leaving Rangers he joined Hearts where he made around thirty appearances scoring four goals. His home town club Falkirk followed with almost 150 games. David scored the only goal in Falkirk’s 1997 Challenge Cup win over Queen of the South at Fir Park.

Kevin McAllister, Alex Totten, David Hagen and Walter Kidd celebrate Falkirk’s 1997 Challenge Cup win.

A further 150 games followed for Livingston, Clyde and Peterhead. In 2006/2007 season he played his final season in the Junior ranks with Boness United before retiring.

He gained seven Scotland Under 21 caps.

Falkirk announced in July 2018 that David was suffering from MND. David’s “Last Game” was a testimonial on 21st October 2018, when a Rangers XI took on a Falkirk/Hearts select at The Falkirk Stadium. It was a disappointing turnout for the 4pm kick-off. Rangers played a league game at Hamilton on the same day, kicking off at 1.30pm. I felt the clubs could have found a more suitable date and time for the game.

David with Cammy Palmer at his benefit game.

A quick dash from New Douglas Park got us to The Falkirk Stadium in time for the kick-off and you can read my report on the game below.

https://rfcyouths.wordpress.com/david-hagen-benefit-match/

RIP David.

I Need Football Back

July 21, 2020

I really need football back, any football, professional, academy , boys club. By this time of year I really should have games to go to, closed door TV games doesn’t do it for me. It’s also a struggle to keep the blog ticking over.

So I looked back to this day in 2018 we were half-way through the King’s Lynn tournament, although with Rangers playing their games on 20th and 22nd July, it was a filler watching Mansfield Town v Sheffield United on this day. Two years earlier it was a trip to Newcastle United’s academy with a total mismatch of a game age wise with Rangers 3-0 up after eight minutes.

But I have decided to go back to the game ten years ago today where Rangers Under 19’s beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-1 in their season opener, match report on the link below.

https://rfcyouths.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/youths-win-pre-season-opener/

So I thought I would have a look at where the players are now, unfortunately I never managed to get the Wolves lineup or the name of the trialist Rangers had in their ranks that day.

Alan Smith – Alan signed for Rangers in July 2010 from Leinster Senior League side Crumlin United and was the regular youth goalkeeper for a couple of years. When he was released at the end of the 2012/13 season he seemed to have a break from football before signing for Cork City in January 2015. His career seems to have ended following a three year stint at Cork City.

Ewan McNeillEwan came up through the age groups when he was recruited from St. Mirren Boys Club. During his five and a half year spell at Rangers he spent three months on loan at Airdrie where he made nine appearances. On his release from Rangers he was scouted and signed by Norwich City and spent two season at Carrow Road. He then returned to Scotland and turned out for Brechin City, Berwick Rangers, Clyde, Stirling Albion and was last seen at Pollok 2018/19 season.

Ewan McNeil at Norwich City

Chris HegartyJoined Rangers on a free transfer from Millwall in July 2010, Rangers drop to the fourth tier saw him break into the first team and play regularly in League Two. The following season saw his first team involvement drop to just two appearances. He left Rangers at the end of 2013/14 season and signed for Linfield, he has since spent a couple of years at his first club Dungannon and is now at Crusaders.

Chris Scott – Centre back Chris joined Rangers as a thirteen year old, after signing a professional contract he decided football was not for him and left to work as a kitchen porter. After a six month sabbatical washing dishes he got a second chance and returned to the club. Not sure when he finally left the club but doesn’t appear to have been involved in professional football since.

Steven Hetherington – Signed for Rangers after being spotted at an FA Exit Trial having been released by Hartlepool. On his release from Rangers in 2011 he signed for Motherwell, during his two years at Fir Park he made three appearances with a further fourteen on a loan spell at Airdrie United. A spell in English non league with Celtic Nation and Crook Town followed before returning to Scotland and Alloa Athletic where he is now entering his seventh season.

Alloa’s Steven Hetherington

Dylan McGeouchRangers paid Celtic a development fee when he was fourteen and arguably the best player in the country at his age group. A top performer in the youth team Rangers allowed his contract to run down and he signed a pre-contract with Celtic in January 2011. He now has over 150 senior appearances at Celtic, Coventry City, Hibernian, Sunderland and now Aberdeen. He was capped twice by Scotland in 2018.

Andy MitchellAndy joined Rangers in July 2010 on a free transfer from Man City who he joined from Greenisland Boys Club. He made his Rangers debut in a Premiership game against Dundee United in 2011/12. Played a few games the following season in League Two before moving to Annan Athletic for 2013/14 season, with the move made permanent in January 2014. A move to Southport followed before returning to Annan on loan. On leaving Annan he returned home and signed for Crusaders and has since played for Linfield and now Larne.

Gordon DickAnother who came through the academy age groups joining the club from Mill United. Midfielder Gordon joined Albion Rovers on his release from Rangers in July 2012. Stints in the Juniors with Cambuslang Rangers and Wishaw followed but now appears to be out of the game.

Gordon Dick

Kamil WiktorskiPolish recruit Kamil joined from Zawisa Bydgoszcz in July 2009 after a successful trial. On his release from Rangers he returned home and has since turned out for six clubs in Poland. He now has around 100 appearances in the Polish second tier where he plays for current club Chojniczanka Chocjnice.

Christiano KisukaChristiano had been on the books of Aberdeen and Queens Park before he joined Rangers. On leaving the club he had a spell at Beith Juniors before turning out for Syrianska IF in Sweden. It appears he was last seen in Junior football with East Kilbride Thistle.

Christiano Kisuka joins EK Thistle

Anthony MarenghiJoined Rangers from Celtic at the same time as Dylan McGeouch but no development fee was paid in this case. A skilful left sided player who I thought was better than his game time in the youth team suggested. Joined Ayr United on leaving Rangers and with stints at Stranraer and Stenhousemuir he was close to 100 senior games. Last seen at Lowland League club East Kilbride in 2016/17 season.

Nicky MainUnfortunately Nicky was in the headlines for non football reasons when diagnosed with a brain tumor and retired from football at the age of 19. Son of former St.Johnstone and Dundee United keeper Alan Main he faced a long battle to over come the illness. His progress was such that he returned to the football pitch with Lossiemouth United in 2014.

Kyle McAuslandJoined the club as a striker at a young age from Ayr United, a club he returned to on loan on no fewer that three occasions. As he moved up through the age groups he reverted to defence. When Rangers were competing in League Two Kyle was turning out in the division above for Ayr United. He made a handful of first team appearances for Rangers the following season before returning to Ayr United on loan. He also had a loan spell at Brechin City and on leaving Rangers he signed for Dunfermline Athletic, he also played for Alloa Athletic and has spent the last three season in the Juniors with Cummnock.

I can’t remember too much about the game or indeed the trialist, but I know he wore the number 9 so I assume he was part of a front two with Christiano Kisuka.

Project Brave, Performance Schools Etc

July 1, 2020

Following on from my recent posts I was asked my opinion on Project Brave, Performance Schools, Club Schools and player development.

Quite a complicated subject for someone who is essentially on the outside looking in but I will give it a go

Project Brave

SFA’s first Performance Director Mark Wotte

Instigated a couple of years ago it was a project to look at the academy structure from U11’s through to U16’s. There were a number of reasons put forward for the change, with around 2300 players across 29 academies it was felt it was far too big and the available funding was spread too thinly. The plan was to cut this to a maximum of 16 academies and clubs were invited to apply for either Elite or Progressive Performance level.

Clubs outwith these two groupings would still be able to run academies or community outreach schemes. With a commitment to receive the same level of funding for three years. The three years have just passed, I’m not sure what impact that has had on the funding now.

Clubs needed to submit a three-year business plan to show that their academy is financially viable, has enough support staff and coaches and good enough facilities. The additional full time staff required meant a few clubs felt the Elite status wasn’t financially viable.

The main stumbling block to clubs was the requirement to have six full-time academy posts.

  • Head Of Academy
  • Head of Youth
  • Head of Children’s Programmes
  • Head of Player Recruitment
  • Head of Academy Football Science and Medicine
  • Head of Academy Performance Analysis (This had to be in place in the second year)

As a consequence Dundee United, St. Mirren and Partick Thistle did not apply for the Elite status.

Thistle’s Gerry Britton opts not to apply for Elite status

There was a couple of changes to the structure with the season moving to a calendar year, from March to November. There was also a change to the number of players allowed, it had been a maximum of 20 per age group and was changed to 110 over the six age groups, so cut by 10. Although in reality very few groups at any club would have had the maximum 20 players, you have to leave space just in case the next Messi turns up at your door.

By launch we had the 16 academies and a wee bit extra. With a few tweaks the state play last season was as follows.

Elite

  • Rangers
  • Aberdeen
  • Celtic
  • Hamilton Accies
  • Hearts
  • Hibernian
  • Kilmarnock
  • Motherwell

Progressive

  • Ayr United
  • Dundee United
  • Greenock Morton
  • Inverness Caley Thistle
  • Partick Thistle
  • Ross County
  • St. Johnstone
  • St. Mirren

Performance (This is the wee bit extra)

  • Dundee
  • Fife Elite
  • Queens Park

From U11’s through to U16’s the Elite clubs play each other three times and the other 11 clubs once. At U16’s this is done through two cup competitions and a league campaign. With the change to a calendar year season the U16’s have a few months in limbo as they change to a conventional season at U18’s. This is addressed by the second cup competition which runs from March till June.

Malky Mackay trying to explain how the U18 League works.

The structure sort of runs through to U18’s with two leagues, Elite & Performance. This is where it gets a wee bit bizarre, Elite clubs play each other twice and they play the performance clubs once, for league points. So when Rangers drew 1-1 with Dundee United in February they got a point each for their respective leagues. Makes looking at the league table hard to get your head round.

But it doesn’t end there, below this there is another level.

Advanced Youth Level

  • Airdrie
  • Alloa Athletic
  • Elgin City
  • Montrose
  • Queen of the South
  • Stirling Albion

I think these six clubs only meet Elite clubs in the U16 cups.

So has it worked ? Well I think this is only part of the issue and has to be looked along side Performance Schools, Club Schools and what happens beyond U16’s. I don’t think you can argue with an increase in full time professionals in these posts at clubs but in any profession some will be better than others.

I think it has had an negative impact on some clubs and was a significant factor on the demise of decent academies at Livingston and Falkirk/Forth Valley. Of those still around Queens Park were probably were the biggest losers, now finding themselves in the third tier.

Best v Best Rangers v Atletico Madrid

It is supposed to bring in more games of best v best which brings a smile to my face. Rangers v Celtic would come into that category but they have a tendency to avoid each other. Above under 16’s they were due to meet in the U18 League, Glasgow Cup and the semi official six team best v best tournament. By the time the season was curtailed they had met once, a Glasgow Cup tie in February. They of course blame each other when the games are cancelled.

Rangers have made a lot of effort in arranging best v best games but I have seen a few against teams such as Liverpool, Man City, Newcastle and Huddersfield that have been rendered meaningless due to a mismatch in the age profile of the teams.

Performance & Clubs Schools

The main idea behind both the SFA Perfrormance Schools and Rangers & Celtic in house schools programmes is to increase coaching time, with an estimated 10,000 hours Elite coaching at the end of their schooling.

I’m not so sure its any kind of magic bullet, all kids are different and have different personalities, so some will benefit and for some it will be an environment that hinders them. I know one high profile Rangers player who along with his family decided to leave the SFA Performance School and go back to their local school.

First Performance School graduate to play first team football

The programmes poster boys seem to be Billy Gilmour, Kieran Freeman and Dean Campbell, but does anybody really believe the Performance Schools were a big factor in them achieving what they have so far. Having seen a fair bit of these players over the years I’m pretty sure the major factor was their natural ability.

There are seven SFA performance Schools which have been in operation since 2012, the schools are.

  • Holyrood Secondary, Glasgow
  • Graeme High School, Falkirk
  • Grange Academy, Kilmarnock
  • Braidhurst High School, Motherwell
  • Hazlehead Academy, Aberdeen
  • St.John’s RC High School, Dundee
  • Broughton High School, Edinburgh

Selection is made from trial games involving recommended Primary 7 players, I would think SFA scouts probably watch CAS fixtures as well. There are also places for girls and players from grassroots (boys clubs) players, seems a wee bit of tokenism in my opinion.

Celtic started their link up at St. Ninian’s three years earlier, they pretty much want all their players attending the school and I have heard of some making significant daily journeys. Has it been a success ? Looking at the age profiles Kieran Tierney may have attended the school and qualified successes Michael Johnston and Tony Ralston probably did. Recent debutants Scott Robertson and Karamoko Dembele did attend the school.

I’ve been told by people at Celtic that a consequence of having so many at the school they have probably kept on players they would have other wise released because they are at the school.

They had a major issue at the school recently but details were kept from the public domain to avoid identifying the school and those involved.

Rangers link up with Boclair Academy is much more recent only starting in 2016. The club said from the outset that it would be “selected” players, I could see that being an issue as most parents would see their kid as being in that group. Logistics don’t suit everyone, so some have declined and attend either their local school or one of the SFA performances schools.

I have always had a question on these schools, what if…… ? A player at 12 can be totally different at 14, I have already touched on the fact that Celtic may have kept players on they wanted to release. I don’t know what is in place at Celtic or the Performance schools if a boy’s football hasn’t progressed. Rangers programme is in its infancy but I believe that if a player at the school is released they have the option to remain at the school and to continue to be coached.

How do you measure if they have been a success ? The SFA Schools claim 36 graduates across the seven schools since Dean Campbell made his debut, from Chelsea’s Billy Gilmour to lower league players Thomas Halleran & Marky Monro (Stenhousemuir), Gavin Scott (Stranraer), David Wilson (Elgin City) and Kyle Sneddon (Cowdenbeath). How many of these players would have graduated to first team anyway ?

A very young Lewis McGrattan, Stephen Kelly and keeper Darren Montgomery selected for SFA Performance School Holyrood Secondary

Interestingly eight of those “graduates” were Rangers players while they were at the Performance Schools. Billy Gilmour (Grange), Josh McPake (Braidhurst), Zak Rudden (Broughton), Kai Kennedy, Dapo Mebude, Stephen Kelly, Niyah Joseph and Lewis McGrattan (Holyrood). I think Nathan Patterson also attended Holyrood.

Development Beyond Academy Teams

That is the $64,000 question.

In my opinion you only improve by playing against better or physically stronger players. Which kinda underpins the best v best mantra.

Ironically Malky Mackay sums it up in a paragraph talking about Project Brave.

“We are setting the bar high because it has to be the elite players we’re focusing on. It’s the 19-21 age group where the whole thing breaks down and we need to get them into first teams.”

Rangers are well aware that this is a problem and have been pushing for Colt teams in the lower leagues for the past couple of years. Unfortunately its not going to happen any time soon, not one league 1 or 2 team backed the proposal when it was voted on a couple of years ago. Only Albion Rovers backed Colt teams entering the Lowland League.

From a selfish point of view I would love to see a Rangers Colts team in the lower leagues but I can understand the other point of view.

Josh McPake at Dundee

That leaves loan deals which you have less control over and as shown by Josh McPake’s spell at Dundee is a bit of a gamble. Or our own best v best arrangements but I feel a friendly is a friendly no matter what you call it.

With around fifty non first team players that is a lot of best v best games to arrange. All tournaments from U18 League, Glasgow Cup, Challenge Cup and even Champions Youth League have doubts hanging over them so game time will be a big challenge. Some players will go out on loan but with almost thirty U18 players and rumours of a couple of academies being mothballed, it is far too many to provide adequate game time for.

So looking at things overall if we cant resolve this third issue then Project Brave and Performance Schools will lose much of any benefit. Its probably too early to pass judgement on the three year Project Brave and Performance schools whose oldest “graduates” are only turning 19 this year.

Part 4, The Rest & A Few Rangers Youths

June 13, 2020

Well this will be the fourth and final part where I will look at the non “Elite Academy” club’s players I have noticed. I have already covered Dundee United who are due to joint the Elite group in the coming season. I will also highlight ten players I thought may have made a first team breakthrough at Rangers but didn’t.

There has been talk of St.Mirren moving into the Elite group and they would be a good addition, although its not happening this season. One area where they have capitalised is picking up and developing players Rangers have released. There was a period where our decisions on who we released really surprised me, and in Kenny McLean, Lewis Morgan, Kyle McAllister and Jack Baird St. Mirren benefited. Thomas Reilly and Sean Kelly maybe didn’t stand out at Rangers but were good youth players at St. Mirren.

Outwith these former ‘Gers two standouts for me were Simon Lappin, Stevie Mallon and Andy Stirling. Left sided player Lappin won a move to Norwich City and played over a hundred games, later turning out for Cardiff City, Motherwell, Sheffield United and St.Johnstone and is still player coach at Eastern Counties League wide Wroxham. A move to Barnsley didn’t quite work out for Mallan but got back on track with a return to Scotland with Hibs. Andy Stirling has been a a few clubs including a short spell in America, he most recently played against us for Stranraer.

Simon Lappin

Marc McAusland, Ally Love, Mark Lamont, and Jason Naismith were all decent youth players and from the current crop Cammy McPherson and Kyle Magennis are making their way in the game.

Under the radar, has to be John McGinn, I remember him as a young player but never seen him being a Premiership player of the future.

Partick Thistle competed in the semi official Youth League in the late 70’s early 80’s, Rangers didn’t so I took in a couple of Thistle’s games and their strike force was Maurice Johnston and Kenny McDowall, I wonder what happened to them.

Generally speaking as a club they have disappointed since, with the players that caught my eye like Neil McLaughlin, Kevin Nisbet and David Wilson not really getting established at Thistle. Only Nisbet’s career has taken an upward curve with an exceptional season at Dunfermline, while Wilson is at Stirling Albion and McLaughlin in the Lowland League at Caledonia Braves (formerly Edusport). The only success I can think of is full back James Penrice who has become an established first team player.

Neil McLaughlin

In recent times only Liam Lindsay stood out and is now at Stoke City after initially moving south to Barnsley.

I’ll take Inverness CT and Ross County as a package, as they operate in the same limited catchment area. They have both made great strides since they first entered the youth scene, the biggest score I have witnessed at a youth game was a Rangers side beating Ross County 26-1, with Ross County playing the last half-hour period with fourteen players !! There is still a gap, especially at the younger age groups where Rangers tend to move the teams up a year when playing these clubs.

The one standout at Ross County was Gary Mackay-Steven, moving from the Highlands to Liverpool. Alex Cooper, son of former Rangers Neale was a talented young player but never fulfilled his promise. Inverness have fared slightly better with Ryan Christie being the real standout. I also thought Shane Sutherland, Liam Polworth and Nick Ross were promising.

Alex Cooper

Queens Park have a great setup but as there is no pathway into full-time football, their better players have usually moved on by the age of 16 and make their break through elsewhere. Nathan Blockley, Owen Ronald, Ryan McGeever and Aiden Connolly impressed as youths but their careers never really took off. After failing to impress Jimmy Sinclair on his extended trial at Rangers, Laurence Shankland caught the attention of Aberdeen playing at Queens Park. That move didn’t work out but he has thrived since.

Robertson, Shankland and Connolly

I don’t remember Andy Robertson as a Celtic youth player but he stood out for Queens in the League 2 games against Rangers in 2012/13 season. I don’t think anyone could have predicted his meteoric rise since.

Of the other youth academies Robbie Crawford and Alan Forrest have been the Ayr United players that caught the eye. The one Morton player that springs to mind is Mark Russell, made is debut at seventeen and well over a hundred appearances. I don’t know what a happened but he is now at Finn Harps in Donegal and still only twenty-four.

Mark Russell now at Finn Harps

Going back a while Danny Griffin was a youth player at St.Johnstone I admired, he maybe suffered being a centre back that was probably deemed small at 5′ 11″. Pretty sure he came over to Rangers as a kid as a former St. Andrew’s Boys Club player. Over three hundred career appearances and twenty-nine caps for Northern Ireland. Keeper Zander Clark who was at Celtic, Rangers and Hamilton Accies before ending up at St.Johnstone and Stevie May were in the same youth team. Chris Kane is still considered promising but is now twenty-five. They have made a real effort in recent years and with Ali McCann and Jason Kerr established first team players it is bearing fruit. Rangers have tried to tempt a couple of players from the Perth club in recent times, succeeding in signing a 2005 in January.

Danny Griffin

Dundee have really been pretty disappointing and I think have kind of gave up on occasions, especially when their near neighbours seemed to succeed in poaching their best players, Paul Dixon and Scott Robertson for example. Kevin McDonald and Craig Forsyth both moved south in 2008 and 2011 respectively which promised a revival. Pickings have been poor since with Kyle Benedictus, Leigton McIntosh, Cammy Kerr and Craig Wighton not living up to early promise.

Leighton McIntosh played at Ibrox this season for Wrexham

That leaves Fife Elite Academy, not sure of the make up these days, but it was dominated by Dunfermline Athletic in the early days. I know that Raith Rovers and Cowdenbeath are part of it, not sure if East Fife are involved. I can’t think of any recent players that have caught my eye, going back a bit there were a few. Lewis Martin and Ryan Williamson were two, but they had been released by Rangers and Celtic respectively. Lewis was a good player at Rangers who I was surprised to see released, He has been a first team regular for a while. A leg break set back Ryan Williamson a bit after receiving rave reviews when he broke through, he is now at Partick Thistle. Nick Phinn and Ryan Thomson were another two that caught the eye as youth players.

Former Ranger Lewis Martin

The intention of the next part was to look at Rangers players who didn’t quite make the first team. As I started to think back and write down names my list was getting bigger and bigger and was soon eighty plus.

I am often asked which players could play in the first team ? You may be surprised that more than half of my list did. After some thought I looked at the players and split them into five categories. At the top would be the obvious successes like Alan McGregor and Barry Ferguson. The second group I also consider to be successes but I know by reading online posts this group would split the Rangers support, this group would include the likes of Charlie Adam and Chris Burke.

Next would come players who played a decent number of games but most wouldn’t consider them a success at Rangers. Steven Pressley, Scott Wilson, Bob Malcolm, Maurice Ross and Stephen Hughes spring to mind. The fourth group would be those that made up to ten appearances. Some of these I knew straight away had played in the first team, John Morrow, Alan Lowing and Steven McLean for example. Others I had to double check, and Alex Walker, Bob Davidson and Darren Fitzgerald all did.

The last group is what I want to focus on, ones I thought had a chance of playing a first team game but didn’t for what ever reason. I have picked ten players in no particular order, this list could have been a lot bigger but I had to make a choice.

For the first player I have chosen you have to go back to the early eighties when John Greig sanctioned the setting up of an Official Rangers Boys Club under the auspices of Bobby Dinnie. At its peak they had teams in three different age groups. One group were undefeated for two years playing in the Scottish Amateur youth leagues, against the likes of Celtic Boys Club, Fir Park Boys Club and Eastercraigs. The front three of the group was John Spencer, Gary McSwegan and Eion Jess, although Jess coming from the north east only played occasionally. In midfield was a player who won’t be familiar to most Rangers fans, he seemed to dominate games and everything went through him, Scott Murray. Along with Spencer and McSwegan he joined Rangers as a youngster but for what ever reason didn’t progress and was away within a year. I think he was briefly at Hamilton Accies but disappeared from the game.

Joe Robertson was a skilful and typically gallus Glasgow teenager and from memory relished playing against Celtic. He left Rangers under a cloud with rumours of a whacky nature. Still made over two hundred appearances with Clydebank, Dumbarton and East Strling.

Roddy Kerr, Joe Robertson and Greg Shields

Another skilful winger and grandson of former Rangers player Ian McMillan, Iain Russell was a player I thought would make a break through. A Man of the Match performance in the 2000 Youth Cup Final despite being on the losing side. Rangers lost 3-5 to Hearts but those at the game would remember Iain’s performance and how he was targeted by a over physical Hearts side, a few picking up yellow cards for fouls on the Rangers winger. I don’t know what happened and why he never managed one game but he went on to play over 450 senior games with a number of clubs, The most significant spells being at Dumbarton, Livingston and Queen of the South. I saw him play and score most recently for Pollok in August.

Iain Russell now at Pollock

Another player who had a significant career in Scotland but injury probably prevented any chance of a first team appearance at Rangers was Peter MacDonald. I remember “Peaso” coming on as a sub in a West Reserve League game at Clydebank as a 14 year old in May 1995. Rangers said they were struggling to field a team and Ally Dawson, Terry Butcher and I think Gordon Smith all came out of retirement to play in the game. Rangers other sub on the night was scout Ewan Chester. He left Rangers for St.Johnstone with the Perth side paying Rangers a fee in excess of £100,000. He averaged around twenty games as season in his time there, which was probably the peak of his career. He is still playing in the Lowland League with East Stirling and is back at Rangers as an academy coach.

Peter MacDonald at Dundee

Stephen Dobbie’s career seemed to be going nowhere, overweight and just released by St.Johnstone, a continued slide down the leagues seemed inevitable. Something or someone instigated a change at Dumbarton and as a result he is closing in on five hundred senior games. I remember Stephen as a really skilful player and thought he had a chance. While at Rangers he had a short spell on loan at Northern Spirit, scoring a goal a game in his three appearances. His turn around at Dumbarton saw him move to Queen of The South and a scoring rate better than a goal every two games won him a move to Swansea City. This would be the peak making nine Premiership appearances for the Welsh club. Now back in Dumfries he has replicated that scoring rate in his second spell at the club.

Another goal for Stephen Dobbie

Cultured midfielder Paul McHale was another that I thought had a chance, after loan spells at St.Mirren and Cowdenbeath he was released and signed for Clyde. His performances their earned him a move to Dundee, three good seasons were brought to a halt with administration for the club and redundancy for Paul. A season each at Stirling Albion and Stenhousemuir followed before dropping out the senior game. He is still involved in football working as an agent.

Paul McHale at Stennie

As a sixteen year old midfielder Peter Leven was on the first team bench on a few occasions but never quite made it onto the pitch. A serious knee injury a year later saw him pretty much on the sidelines for the next two years. On leaving Rangers he joined Kilmarnock and established himself in the side before moving south and playing over 250 games for three clubs. He returned to Kilmarnock as assistant manager to Lee McCulloch and his latest coaching adventure took him to Dynamo Brest in Belarus, as Assistant Head coach, winning the Belarusian Premier League in 2019. He left the Belarusian club in March this year.

Peter Leven at Oxford United

Another who is back at the club as an academy coach but as a player never made the breakthrough is Brian Gilmour. As well as turning out for four Scottish clubs with Ayr United being his best period, Brian played in England with Lincoln City, Finland with FC Haka and Iceland with KA. His career highlight would probably be playing against Brondby in the UEFA Cup for FC Haka.

Coach Brian Gilmour

A favourite of mine at the time was striker Chris Craig, not the biggest and maybe not the quickest but he had a brilliant touch. Chris was from Anderson and I used to park my car in that area for work. I often seen Chris, sometimes in his Rangers training gear, on his own playing keepie uppie in the local swing park. His progress at Rangers was halted by injuries that saw him sidelined for a lengthy periods. After Rangers came brief spells at Dumbarton, Alloa Athletic and Airdrie United. Since then he has alternated between top amateur sides and the Juniors.

Chris Craig

The last of the ten really shouldn’t be featuring here but it is a quirk of the goalkeeping position that Liam Kelly never made a first team appearance. I have watched Liam since Under 13’s and as he got older I thought a first team appearance was inevitable. A loan spell at East Fife saw him win a League Two winners medal, another successful loan spell this time at Livingston followed but that first team debut never came. He moved to Livingston permanently in June 2018, a year later he invoked a release clause to join Queens Park Rangers. Showing initial patience he waited for his chance and is now established as first choice keeper. I have a feeling that Liam’s Rangers story isn’t over and he could be back at the club someday.

Liam Kelly

Once again all this is just my opinion and what I thought of these players as youngsters. Restricting it to the ten I picked was difficult, I could have included three of four times that number.

I feel we have a lot of talent across the age groups in the academy at present. The big question is ten or fifteen years down the line what category will these players find themselves in. In putting together this article I now realise even more how difficult that is to predict.

Opposition Youth Players Part 3

June 6, 2020

In part three I’ll look at players I have see from the four remaining “Elite Academys”, Hearts, Hibs, Kilmarnock and Motherwell. Remember I am writing this on what I remember as youth players and not what they went on to achieve and it is only my opinions.

Hearts:- Over the years I have always had an admiration for Hearts youth setup and Rangers must have agreed. The club took two Hearts players as guests to a youth tournament abroad in the mid 1980’s, Scott Crabbe and Alan McLaren. Both went on to play a significant number of games for Hearts and of course Alan played close to a hundred games for Rangers before injury cut his career short.

A young Scott Crabbe

In 1993 an impressive Hearts side came to Ibrox for the Youth Cup Final and recorded a comfortable win. I believe the starting XI all made at least one first team appearance at Hearts. It included goalkeeper Myles Hogarth dad of current academy goalkeepers Nicky & Jay Hogarth. For me the pick of the squad were Allan McManus, Gary Locke and Kevin Thomas.

Not Nicky or Jay but Myles

Although his defensive colleague Paul Ritchie went on to play for Rangers and Scotland, as youth players I thought Allan McManus was the better player. Although initially doing well at Tynecastle for whatever reason his career waned but he did make around four hundred senior appearances in Scotland. He is currently Head of Youth at St.Mirren.

For me Gary Locke was the pick of this squad but injuries were a major problem throughout his career. Without these injuries i think he could have become a really top player. Despite these career hampering injuries he still played over three hundred games.

Striker Kevin Thomas was the headline grabber and certainly didn’t lack confidence. On the night the Rangers defence struggled against him and he soon made the breakthrough into the Hearts first team. A torn cruciate ligament less than two years later saw him sidelined for two years. It was an injury he would never fully recover from, playing barely fifty senior games after that.

Ian Harty is a name that most won’t be familiar with, he is a couple of years younger than that Youth Cup winning squad. I don’t know Ian but I’m sure when he looks back at his career he must have regrets. An incredibly talented player who had a bit of a reputation and by all accounts not the most dedicated professional. Such was his talent he still made several hundred senior appearances with thirteen clubs as diverse as Albion Rovers and Darlington.

Ian Harty at Stranraer

Hearts were to clinch their second Youth Cup in 1998 with a 2-0 win over Dundee United at Tynecastle. I don’t think that squad was anywhere near as talented as the 1993 squad. The pick for me being current Dundee United manager and full-back Robbie Neilson. Robbie had been a Rangers ‘S’ form as a striker !! The other player a really rated as a youngster was Scott Severin, who went on to have a decent career gaining fifteen Scotland caps.

A physical Hearts side clinched their third Youth Cup win in 2000 with a 5-3 win over Rangers at Hampden. Anyone who was at the game will remember they seemed to target Ian Russell with a few picking up yellow cards for challenges on the Rangers winger. By far and away the pick of that Hearts squad as keeper Craig Gordon, he always looked a top prospect as youth player. Ironically it seems Hearts had their doubts due to his height, him being around 5′ 8″ at sixteen.

Since then there has been a steady stream of really good players coming through Hearts youth teams, Lee Wallace, Christoph Berra, Andy Driver, David Templeton, Callum Patterson, Sam Nicholson. Then there were two top players in the same age group in Jason Holt and Jamie Walker, both were excellent youth players but I felt Holt was a wee bit better.

A few names that I thought may have achieved more are Graham Weir, Gary Glen, Fraser Mullen and Jordan McGhee. Jordan may have suffered from a lack of inches for a centre back and is now at Dundee. Gary Glen did well initially but eventually struggled to establish himself as a regular. Full back Mullen broke into the Hearts team when he was nineteen but don’t think he reached double figures in appearances. On being released he signed for Hibs and made a couple of first team appearances there. Spells at Raith Rovers, East Fife and Cowdenbeath followed before drifting out of the senior game. Diminutive striker Weir was just shy of a goal every two games for Hearts. But he gradually drifted to the juniors via Queen of the South, Raith Rovers, Brechin City, and Stirling Albion.

Graham Weir

With Hearts current approach they won’t be winning another youth cup anytime soon, but that doesn’t concern them. The policy is to push players up the age groups and recently Aaron Hickey, Connor Smith, Connor Logan, Harry Cochrane, Tony McDonald, Chris Hamilton and Andy Irving (a favourite of mine) have played first team football. Former Ranger McKenzie Kirk would have been on the fringes of the U16’s at Rangers, at Hearts he regularly starts for the U18’s.

The bulk of the Hearts 1993 Youth Cup winning squad lost to Man Utd in the 1991 Milk Cup Final. I thought it would of interest to post the Man Utd team from that final.

????? Pollock, Gary Neville, John O’Kane, Colin Murdock, Steven Riley, Keith Gillespie, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Joe Roberts, Robbie Savage, Ben Thornley, Paul Scholes, Mark Rawlinson, K???? Brown.

Over 450 International caps between them.

Hibernian:- Generally speaking Hibs have been a wee bit in the shadow of their neigbours in terms of youth development, although they had a fair bit of success around the millenium with the likes of Scott Brown, Gary O’Connor, Derek Riordan, Steven Whittaker and Steven Fletcher. Yet they were pioneers in the late 70’s / early 80’s when their was a semi official Under 18 league (Rangers didn’t compete in it). They did win the Youth Cup in 1992 but their lineup doesn’t compare to Hearts a year later.

Only Darren Dods and substitute Kevin Harper went on to have extended senior careers. Although Graeme Love and Graeme Donald did make a first team breakthrough.

Kevin Harper

Before their next cup win Lewis Stevenson and Paul Hanlon who was an excellent player at youth level had emerged. Then in 2009 Hibs clinched league and cup double, beating Rangers 2-1 at Hampden with the winner coming in the last minute of injury time. That side included Ally Park released by Rangers and David Wotherspoon released by Celtic. But for me the standout players in the squad where Scott Smith, Callum Booth and Kurtis Byrne.

I thought all three would have achieved something in the game. Scott Smith being most disappointing playing one first team game and only around sixty in the senior game in total. Son of former Celtic player Paul Byrne, Kurtis has toured the Celtic nations, less than ten games at Hibs then spells at Dundalk, Linfield and The New Saints among others. Callum Booth being arguably the most successful playing around fifty games for Hibs and now back in the SPL with St.Johnstone.

Kurtis Byrne at Linfield

There have been a few very good youth players since all have disappointed. Striker Ross Caldwell has moved around and was last seen at a couple of years ago Brechin City. Winger Alex Harris and attacking midfielder Danny Handling are now both at Edinburgh City. Sam Stanton has fared a bit better, after leaving Hibs rallying to have a decent spell at Dundee United before moving to Phoenix Rising FC who play in the USL Championship.

Kilmarnock:- When I think of Kilmanock youth I go back to a game around 1997, it was before Rangers training ground opened and at the time Rangers used Lochburn Park the home of Maryhill Juniors for youth games. It alternated with U15’s one week and U16’s the next.

I cant remember if it was U15’s or U16’s but Kilmarnock beat Rangers 4-1 and three Killie players caught the eye. Firstly it wasn’t “a 4-1 game” due to the performance of Graeme Smith in the Kilmarnock goal. I knew a few scouts at the time and I overhead one asking a prominent Rangers scout “how are Rangers not going for him ?”, we wouldn’t have had to pay any development fee back then. His reply was we’ve got McGregor and Brown, of course referring to Alan McGregor and Mark Brown who were around the same age.

At the other end of the pitch Killie’s small striker ran the Rangers defence ragged scoring twice with the attacking midfielder adding the other two. The striker was Paul di Giacomo and the midfielder was Gary McDonald, I followed both players with interest and they had decent if not spectacular careers.

Well I get this under the radar one out of the way, Kris Boyd. Probably more to do with the fact that he was an out and out goalscorer, against Rangers through the age groups he probably didn’t get loads of chances. I believe he won top scorer/player of the tournament at the Milk Cup one year.

The best Kilmarnock player I have seen playing at youth level is Matthew Kennedy now of Aberdeen. Linked with Rangers he eventually won a move to Everton before returning to Scotland with St.Johnstone.

There are quite a few very good Killie youth players, I’ll start with those with a Rangers connection. Steven Naismith is the only player from Killie’s Youth Cup winning squad to achieve anything in the senior game. I wouldn’t have put him top draw, but was a nuisance and must have been a nightmare to play against even then.

Rory Loy and Barrie McKay, Rangers paid a development fee for Rory and I wouldn’t have argued with that as he looked a top prospect. Something showed in Barrie McKay’s medical that prompted Kilmarnock to withdraw the offer of a contract, anyone who watched his trial period at Rangers would know it was a no brainer to sign him.

Four players released by Rangers that looked really good players at youth level at both clubs in my opinion. They all have been released for being too small/slight. I loved watching winger Chris Johnston who seemed to glide past opponents. He had a good spell at Killie before drifting down the leagues and is now at Clyde. Greg Taylor generally played down a year at Rangers did really well at Kilmarnock before crossing to the dark side. I didn’t see Greg Kiltie or Adam Frizzell too often but enough to express my surprise at their release, both were good players in the Killie system.

Chris Johnston

There have been a few others, Rory McKenzie was always a decent player but grabbed the headlines scoring four of Kilmarnock’s goals in their 5-1 youth cup win over Rangers in November 2012. Neil McGregor was a centre-back on the smallish side who played in the lower leagues. Danny McKay brother of Barrie, never made the first team he played briefly for Ayr United and Arbroath before dropping into the juniors.

Danny McKay

Motherwell:- When Motherwell won the Youth Cup in 2016 it had morphed into an U20 tournament, my view is that to be called the “Youth Cup” it should be U18 max. In saying that there were a few players in that team who caught the eye coming up through the younger age groups. Chris Cadden was probably the pick for me and I was surprised that he didn’t move to a bigger club than Oxford United. Jake Hastie was a couple of years younger and came on as a sub in that final, he was regularly linked with the Old Firm as a young player. The one that came under the radar was David Turbull, I can’t say he caught the eye coming up through the age groups.

Jake Hastie

Another that sort of came under the radar and is arguably one of Motherwell’s best players was James McFadden. As a youngster with that daft wee ponytail he was always going to be noticed, but my early memories of him was as a left-back. Not really sure when the change of position came and what catapulted his career forward.

The other players I thought would a good chance go back as far as Stevie Hammill and Stephen Pearson. One got their big move and it didn’t quite happen for the other although he had a good career. A bit later came Mark Reynolds and Jamie Murphy, two really top academy players who progressed as I expected. More recently I was very impressed with James Scott who pretty quickly was transferred to Hull City.

Mark Reynolds

One player that must look back with a lot of regrets is Paul Slane, just before his move to Celtic I remember one game at Hannah Park, Shotts were he gave Rangers a particularly torrid time. On leaving Celtic a bender in Amsterdam was well documented and he was out of the game after brief spells at Ayr United and Clyde he was out the game.

Paul Slane at Clyde

There is a group of really decent youth players that all went to have careers of sorts. David Clarkson, Shaun Hutchinson, who went from Wallsend Boys Club to Motherwell and is now at Millwall, Lee Erwin, Craig Moore, Bob McHugh, Jack Leitch and Paul Quinn.

A couple of players that moved south early in their career which surprised me. Goalkeeper Alan Martin who was linked with Rangers, moved to Leeds United and centre back Fraser Kerr signed for Birmingham City as a 16 year old. I thought their was better players in their positions at other clubs at the time. Credit to both players as they are still in football, Martin at Global FC in the Philippines and Kerr at Hartlepool United in the National League.

Fraser Kerr

In Part 4 I’ll look at some players who were at clubs who are not in the Elite Academy structure and players at Rangers who I thought had good chance of being first team players but for whatever reason it didn’t happen.

Opposition Youth Players Part 2

May 30, 2020

Since part 1 was well received I am continuing with a look at youth players I have seen playing against Rangers over the years. As before I’ll name a few I thought were top prospects, some that were very good players, a few that I thought who may progress but didn’t, some I didn’t see the hype for and one or two that kinda slipped under the radar. As before all this is just my own opinions.

Dundee United:- Jim McLean’s Championship winning side back in 1983 was way before the talk of “Youth Academies”. Yet when you look at the twenty man squad from that season fifteen of them were at their first professional club.

Eamon Bannon cost £165,000 from Chelsea, Paul Hegarty was a £27,500 signing from Hamilton Accies, Gary McGinnis a free transfer from Celtic, Ian Britton and Iain Phillip were singed from Chelsea and Dundee respectively but I don’t know if there were any fees involved.

The “fifteen” included the likes of Richard Gough, Maurice Malpas, David Narey, Ralph Milne, Paul Sturrock and Davie Dodds as well as club stalwarts like John Clark, John Holt and Billy Kirkwood. This conveyor belt continued under McLean with the Raymond Stewart, Kevin Gallagher and Duncan Ferguson to name a few, having significant careers a wee bit later.

Coming back to the modern day academy years there are three players that would put above the other youth players.

First would be Ryan Gauld, he wasn’t tiny but was really slightly built and his jersey always seemed a bit too big but the kid could really play. I don’t know for sure but I would imagine Rangers won most of the games he played in but I always looked forward to seeing him. Became a bit of a trailblazer moving to Sporting Lisbon at the age of 19. For whatever reason he hasn’t quite progressed and at 24 now find himself with Farense in the Portuguese second division.

A young Ryan Gauld

The next player I would highlight is John Souttar, a year younger and like Ryan Gauld a product of Brechin City Boys Club. An elegant footballing centre back who made his debut at 16 and was soon attracting interest from the English Premiership and in January 2013 he turned down a move to Sunderland who had a £600,000 offer accepted. A few injuries followed which appeared to stall his progression, but Dundee United must have been in dire financial state to accept a rumoured £100,000 for his transfer to Hearts in February 2016. My initial reaction was “why were we not in the picture at that price ?”. He has performed well for Hearts and has become a player that is attracting transfer talk again, despite twice suffering a ruptured achilles.

I never had his brother Harry quite at the same level, perhaps at 6′ 6″ he was never going to look as elegant on the pitch as his brother. Yet it was Harry who got the Premiership move, transferring to Stoke City in September 2018. Having changed his International allegiance to Australia he is in the unique position of have scored four goals in his two World Cup appearances. Two each in qualifiers against Nepal and Chinese Taipei.

The third player may surprise some, its Sporting Kansas City striker Johnny Russell. A player that scored regularly against Rangers and always gave us problems through the age groups. Following a successful period in the United first team he moved to Derby County for £750,000 in June 2013. Moved to the MLS two years ago and has gained fourteen Scotland caps.

I could have put quite a few in the second list so it is a bit edited. Stuart Armstrong was very good although I didn’t really see him as a Premiership player. Kieran Freeman and Ali Coote moved south early, Scott Allan maybe had a bit of an attitude even back then, Scott Fraser was talented. Two players I thought would have made more progress are Ryan Ferguson and Ryan McCord.

Kieran Freeman moved to Southampton

Never really seen the hype of keeper Marc McCallum who was rumoured to be subject of interest from Manchester City among others as a youngster.Ryan Dow was another although he has gone on to have a decent career in Scotland.

The under the radar player is maybe a wee bit unfair as he is very recent and I just don’t remember/know if I have seen him. It is Scott Banks who moved to Crystal Palace after one first team appearance.

Following a few quiet years Dundee United’s academy seems to be on the rise again. Rangers have targeted four Dundee United players in the last couple of years, three have chosen to remain where they are, and the other moved to Celtic. One of the players still at Dundee United, Chris Mochrie became Dundee United’s youngest ever first team player, taking the record from John Souttar.

Quite a long piece there, but I make no apologies for that as I have always been an admirer of the Dundee United youth setup over the years.

Falkirk:- A club much missed from the pro youth scene, I felt the beginning of the end came when they were kinda pushed into the Forth Valley experiment, which was pretty much dominated by Falkirk. I don’t know the ins and outs of the details but the instigation of Project Brave cut their funding. There was also rumours that the manager at the time wanted the academy budget for the first team. I am pretty sure there must be some regret from people at the club at the demise of what was a reasonably successful academy.

I can’t really think of anyone that I would put in that really top bracket, but there was a period where they were taking Rangers cast offs and making significant money from them. Transferring four former Rangers academy players for reported fees of over £2 million.

I can’t comment on Jay Fulton, I believe he was at Rangers at a young age but I don’t think I seen him play in a Rangers jersey. My knowledge of Botti Biabi is a bit limited too, I seen him a couple of times when he was on an extended trial. On the evidence of those games I did expect Rangers to sign him as he was a Sinky type, big, strong powerful striker. Both earned moves to Swansea City and had contrasting fortunes there. Fulton playing nineteen Premiership games while Biabi failed to progress and signed for Stenhousemuir this season.

The progress of the other two players didn’t surprise me as I was really disappointed when Rangers released them. Centre back Murray Wallace was offered a one year “schoolboy” contract at sixteen, apparently he was deemed “too skinny”, while Falkirk were offering him a three year deal. Falkirk actually paid Rangers a development fee and he broke into the first team at eighteen. Around his nineteenth birthday he was transferred to Huddersfield for a fee that would reach £700, 000 with add ons. Now at Millwall he has played over 100 games in the Championship and over 300 senior appearances overall.

Murray Wallace at Falkirk

Connor McGradles was a bit different in that he was a wee bit younger when he left Rangers. Again I was surprised as he was a player I really rated. He broke into the Falkirk first team just after his seventeenth birthday, and was transferred to Norwich City before his nineteenth birthday for a reported fee of £1 million. He suffered a double leg fracture when back on loan at Falkirk in February 2016. He has since moved to MK Dons where he has played regularly for the past three seasons.

Quite a few in the second category including our own Scott Arfield who I sure we were linked with back then. We were certainly linked with cuurent Livingston player Craig Sibbald on a regular basis. Add to that Tony Gallcher and Stephen Kingsley who moved to Liverpool and Swansea City respectively.

Going back a wee bit futher Lee Miller and Mark Kerr both have had decent careers. Two players who I thought may have made a move up from Falkirk are Kevin O’Hara and Kieran Duffie, but they are now at Alloa Athletic and Clyde respectively.

Hamilton Accies:- In my opinion Accies have a knack of producing really good teams rather than focusing on individual talents. Like other clubs of their size they also try to develop players discarded by bigger clubs.

Youth league winners the year before last I took in their Champions Youth League game against Basle and a few of that squad have made the first team breakthrough. In my opinion the pick are centre-back Jamie Hamilton who at eighteen still has a bit of physical development to come. And winger Lewis Smith who scored twice against Rangers this season.

They seemed to have a special player at a young age a few years ago in Aidan Laverty. A small slight player he played in the number 10 role and really caught the eye. At 13 he was going back and forward to Manchester United, when their interest waned he was one of SIX players Celtic paid Hamilton a development fee for from the same age group. Where other players were growing he wasn’t and he struggled for game time at Celtic, certainly against the better teams. I can only remember one late sub appearance against Rangers. I was surprised to see him in the Falkirk/Hearts select that took on Rangers in David Hagen’s benefit game. He played wide right, had grown a bit but was still slightly built although you could see he was a skilful player. He suffered an ACL injury in January 2019 and is working his way back to fitness now aged 20.

Aidan Laverty now at Falkirk

Ali Crawford, Danny Armstrong and Stephen Hendrie were all talented players. Crawford was around a while before moving to Doncaster Rovers and then on to Bolton Wanderers. Winger Armstrong moved to Wolverhampton Wanderers at seventeen but is now back in Scotland with Raith Rovers. A bosman deal took full-back Hendrie to West Ham where he went out on loan a couple of times before signing for Kilmarnock this season.

Danny Armstrong moves to Wolves

One that was lost to the game is Steffen Connelly a highly rated midfielder in the 2000 age group. He resisted Celtic’s approaches as five or six of his team mates made the move. He was culpable for a challenge that put Grant Nelson on the sidelines for well over a year. He was seventeen when he left Hamilton and appears to have given up the game. One of the players that made the move I thought had a chance was Kieran Campbell. He was a striker at Hamilton but played wide right at Celtic. To add a bit of confusion it appears Celtic had a defender player of the same name. I think the ex Hamilton player became Kieran P Campbell. Anyway he never progressed and I think he is now at Cumbernauld Colts.

There was a period when it seemed Celtic would buy few a Hamilton Accies academy players every year. A couple really surprised me and was quite pleased to see them spend money on them. Mark Hill a midfielder think he is still there, always looked to be carrying a few extra pounds. Size and physique gave him a bit of an advantage as a youngster. Goalkeeper Joshua Rae came to prominence when he was allegedly offered a trail by Atletico Madrid when he played for a local team when on holiday in Spain. Celtic followed the hype and paid a significant development fee for him as one of the Accies 2000 group. Celtic continued the hype when they gave a late sub appearance in a reserve game when he was 14, but they actually had two sub keepers on the bench for that game. Never seen the hype myself and he is now at Cowdenbeath.

The player I would have to say that came under the radar is our own Greg Docherty. I know I seen him play for Accies youth as I have both lineups for some older age group games. I must have seen him at younger age groups but can’t say he really stuck out.

They have a young player around 13/14 that has caught my eye but like many I seem to notice he is really small. Credit to Hamilton they actually play him up a year when it would be easy to leave him in his own age groups or play him down. I’ll watch his progress with interest.

If their is enough interest I’ll work on Part 3 next week, might be hindered a wee bit as the horse racing is back on Monday !!

Opposition Youth Players Part One

May 27, 2020

A few people have suggested a post on the best opposition youth players I have seen playing against Rangers. It is something I have thought about for a while but its not straightforward for a number of reasons.

For CAS fixtures from U13’s through to U16’s the team lineups are difficult to come by. I “learn” the Rangers squads through watching the games usually with the help of one or two parents. Opposition players may become known when Rangers, Celtic or both are trying to sign them. Or when Scotland gatherings are announced, although this is not the be all and end all as there is a bit of politics involved in these selections.

Another problem is I almost exclusively watch Rangers teams, so apart from the odd youth International I only see opposition players around twice a season. I also may only have identified them from around the age of fifteen or sixteen.

Having had a wee look I also think I may have an unconscious bias towards former Rangers academy players. I tend to have seen more of them and I also feel there was a period where we made quite a few mistakes in releasing players. Also maybe a wee bit biased to those that became Rangers players later on.

The economics of Scottish football mean Rangers and Celtic generally have the strongest squads at most age groups and are always looking to pillage the rest. Other clubs can hit a high spot and produce a good group and at other times a “hidden game” can be difficult to spot in a poor group playing against Rangers.

In addition I am trying to write about these players as I saw them as “youth players” and not the player they have become. The way I have decided to approach this is to look at each club and split players into my top rated, ones I thought would make the first team, maybe some where I didn’t see the hype and a few that came maybe under the radar.

The youth league started in 1993/1994 season prior to that games were few and far between. Games at younger age groups were always difficult to get location and kick-off times before the training ground opened.

Aberdeen:- Aberdeen have had a few top youth players over the years and I would put four in that category. Two from a while back who didn’t quite fulfil their potential and two who are making there way in the game.

Fraser Fyvie and Jack Grimmer were a year apart but as youth players they were as good as any player in the country.

Fyvie’s one substitute appearance in the Premiership for Wigan against Aston Villa was the peak of his career. He has suffered a few injuries over the years and now at 27 years old find himself at Cove Rangers. He gained eight Scotland Under 21 caps.

Jack Grimmer had only played a handful of games when he moved to Fulham at 18. His career didn’t quite take off in London but he did make thirteen Championship appearances. Still only 26 and now on the books of Wycombe Wanderers. A solitary U21 cap is the peak of his Scotland career.

Billy Gilmour was far and away the best player in the country in the 2001 group, but Aberdeen had two midfield players that were at the level below, Dean Campbell and Terry Taylor. Campbell has already made close to forty top team appearances while Taylor chose to make a move south and signed for Wolverhampton Wanderers at 16. He made his first team debut as a sub in this season’s League Cup against Aston Villa.

There are quite a few in the second category and some have achieved more than others. Our own Ryan Jack, Peter Pawlett, Nicky Low, Elvis Costello Declan McManus and Daniel Harvey to name a few. The biggest disappointment would be Craig Storrie who I think is now out of senior football at 24.

I’ve never really seen the hype on Scott McKenna and still don’t. A young player who I was surprised when Celtic paid a significant development fee for is Christian Antonazzi. He returned to Aberdeen after a year and is still there now aged 20, was on loan at Cove Rangers recently.

Ryan Fraser has to be the one that got under the radar, for most of his youth career his was playing full-back. It was then thought he was too small for that role and his career really took off when he moved further forward. By that time he was in the final six months of his contact and moved to Bournemouth, who were in League One at the time for £400,000.

Aberdeen have a few really good players in various age groups at the moment.

Celtic:- No doubt some people might not me saying this but this would be the biggest group. I could have listed a few more Aberdeen players and this list with be significantly edited.

I’ve picked three based on their performances against at youth level that would suggest they would be top players. Shay Given, James Forrest and Kieran Tierney.

When Shay Given was at Celtic, Rangers were miles ahead at youth level and was a few games where he really did keep the score down. I believe Celtic lost him to Blackburn because he was only on a YTS contract.

Forrest always gave our teams problems and we found it difficult to cope with him at times. He was a significant player any time I seen him.

Tierney had a few injury problems as a young players but when he was fit you could see if he overcame these issues he would be a top player.

I thought about Callum McGregor for the previous group but in my opinion he developed a bit later,. Through the academy age groups he was a very good player but not quite at the level where he really influenced games the way he does today.

Some of the players I thought were very effective at various youth groups against Rangers are as follows. Steven Boyd, Tony Ralston, Liam Henderson, Jamie Lindsay, Michael Tidser, Cillian Sheridan, Paul George, Marcus Fraser and Michael Johnston. I was very surprised when they didn’t offer David Wotherspoon a pro contract and he moved to Hibs.

Didn’t quite join the Islam Feruz hype, he had obvious talent but equally obvious issues that would have to be over come. I saw him around ten times, man of the match twice, red carded twice, two strops for being substituted playing for Scotland. The other has just been released by Celtic is Calvin Miller, didn’t see what others were seeing there. Played for Rangers SABC and I believe was briefly at Rangers at a very young age.

My under the radar choice I have gone for Stephen McManus, Celtic have always seemed to go for a particular type of centre back. And as a youth player i felt when Stephen got the ball I knew we would get it back. I was really surprised when he broke into Celtic’s first team but it’s a credit to him and who ever was coaching him that he became a really good defender for club and country. He also comes across as a genuine guy.

When I started this post I didn’t realise it would be so long, so I will spilt it over a few post and look at a couple of clubs on each post. It is really just my opinion and everyone would see all these players mentioned differently.

2002 Youth Cup Win

May 24, 2020

Having covered the first two Youth Cup wins in a previous post I though it was time to look at the 2002 win over Ayr United.

In 2002 Rangers successful run began at Hamilton Park, the home of Girvan FC. A goal from Gary Martin and a double from John Adam secured a comfortable if unspectacular win. Next up was a home tie against Ross County at the training centre, and singles from the previous round goalscorers saw Rangers win 2-1.

Not sure if there was another tie before the last eight clash with Celtic. If there was it may have clashed with a first team game. The Ross County game was in November and another home game against Celtic came in February. Rangers opted to take the game to Dumbarton and a superb Alan Hutton strike separated the teams. The Semi-Final threw up a trip to Brockville to take on Falkirk, a side much missed from youth football. The game finished goalless with Rangers edging through on a penalty shootout.

This matched Rangers with Ayr United and the final was played at New Douglas Park on April 10th. Rangers took the lead with a Chris Burke solo effort just before the half-hour mark. With the Rangers defence struggling to clear former Rangers academy player Scott Chaplain sent a looping header over Graeme Smith to draw the sides level just before the break.

A Charlie Adam double, a contrasting twenty-five yarder and close range finish had Rangers 3-1 up before the hour mark. Ayr reduced the deficit with an Aaron Black lob, but Chris Burke soon restored Rangers two goal lead with his second of the game to ensure Rangers victory.

Back Row:- Tom Brighton, Chris McLeod, Fraser Coyle, Gary Martin, Anton Nugent, Darryl Duffy, Brian McLean. Front Row:- Charlie Adam, Kevin Morrison, Alan Hutton Graeme Smith, Andy Dowie, Chris Burke, Alex Walker, Steven Smith, John Adam.

Graeme Smith:- “Buzz” never made a first team appearance but has had a varied career and is currently on the books of Stenhousmuir. He played in the premier league with Motherwell and Hibernian, he made the Scotland squad during his time at Motherwell and although he never got a full cap he did make a Scotland B appearance against Republic of Ireland in November 2007. His biggest headline was probably signing for former England Internationalist Tony Adams at Azerbaijan side Gabala where he spent a season.

Graeme Smith

Alan Hutton:- One of many from this squad that needs no introduction. My early memories of Alan was as a midfielder but his career really took off when he moved to right-back. He made his first team debut in December 2002 and really came to the fore with his performances in the 2007/2008 Champions League games. This saw him reluctantly move to Spurs in January 2008 for a reported £9 million. His time at Spurs was interrupted with a short loan spell at Sunderland. In August 2011 he moved to Aston Villa where he would spend the rest of his career, although there was loan moves to Notts Forest, Real Mallorca and Bolton Wanderers. He made a total of fifty appearances for Scotland. He was released by Aston Villa at the end of 2018/2019 season and announced his retirement in February this year.

Steven Smith:- Despite his injury problems Steven made over 100 appearances during his two spells at the club. He made his first team debut in November 2004 against Hearts. He was part of the 2010 League Cup winning side as a late substitute for Nacho Novo. Injuries meant he never nailed down a place and left for Norwich City in the summer of 2010. Further injuries limited his appearances there and he moved to Aberdeen on loan in January 2011. Spells at Preston North End and Portland Timbers followed before returning to the club in June 2013 as Rangers prepared for their League One season. On leaving Rangers at the end 2014/15 season he had a successful spell at Kilmarnock with his contract ending in May 2018. His representative appearances for Scotland peaked with a B international appearance against Republic of Ireland in November 2006.

Andy Dowie:- Captain and highly rated Andy made his one and only first team appearance a month after the final. Coming on as a late sub for Christian Nerlinger at Dunfermline Athletic. A loan spell at Brechin City gave him a taste of first team football and on leaving Rangers in 2004 he went on to make over 500 senior appearances with clubs as varied as Partick Thistle, Stranraer, Ross County, Queen of the South and Dumbarton. But his career peaked at Dunfermline where he was a regular is their 2011/2012 season in the Premier League. He signed for Cumnock Juniors earlier this season and has scored three goals in eleven appearances.

Chris McLeod:- Never manged to make the first team at Rangers but from 2004 through to 2012 he made close to 100 senior appearances with various clubs. The peak being the 2009/2010 season with around thirty appearances for League One Stenhousemuir. He also played for Morton, Arbroath, Raith Rovers, Montrose and Berwick Rangers.

Chris McLeod at Berwick Rangers

Fraser Coyle:- Fraser was another that never made the first team break through. On leaving Rangers he spent season 2005/2006 at Airdrie United, scoring their seventh goal in a 7-0 win over Dundee !! He was a regular in the Forfar Athletic side the following season but then seems to have dropped from the senior game.

Chris Burke:- Another that needs no introduction Chris had already played and scored for the first team against Kilmarnock in March 2002. Illness set back his early career missing almost a year before coming back strongly and featuring well in 2005/2006 Champions League. By 2008/2009 he was out of the first team picture and moved to Cardiff City in January 2009. He made around 300 appearances during his time in the English League all in the Championship with Birmingham City, Notts Forrest, Rotherham United as well as the aforementioned Cardiff City. After a brief stint at Ross County he has been a mainstay in the Kilmarnock side for the past three seasons. He played seven times for Scotland, scoring a double against Bulgaria in the Kirin Cup in 2006.

Charlie Adam:- Made his first team debut against Livingston in April 2004. Loan spells at Ross County and St.Mirren then followed, with the time at St.Mirren being particularly successful, winning the First Division title and Challenge Cup. The following season saw Charlie established in the Rangers team culminating in winning the club’s young player of the year. Played in a number of games during the run to Manchester but was an unused sub in the final. Having lost his first team place Charlie moved to Blackpool on loan in February 2009, the transfer being made permanent in August that year for £5000,000. A strong performance during Blackpool’s season in the Premier League saw Liverpool pay £6.75 million for his services. He did well in hist first season at Anfield but slipped out the picture the following season and moved to Stoke City for a reported £4 million. Seven seasons in The Potteries took his Premier League appearances to over two hundred. He moved to Reading for the current season and has made fifteen appearances. He has played twenty-six times for Scotland but surprisingly has never scored for his country.

Darryl Duffy:- Striker Darryl made two first team appearances, in a league cup tie against Forfar Athletic in November 2003 and his league debut two months later against Dundee. A brief loan spell at Brechin City saw him score four goals in eight games. He kept up this ratio when he left Rangers for Falkirk, including nine goals in sixteen games in the Premier League. This earned him a move to Hull City for a reported £250,000 and the his nomadic period really began, taking him to his current tally of fifteen clubs. Another successful brief loan spell prompted Swansea City, then a League One club pay £200,000 for his services. He was soon on the move again, to Bristol Rovers, a loan spell in the SPL with Hibernian among others followed. Next to come was an Indian adventure, playing for Salgaocar FC, FC Goa & Mohun Bagan during a four year period. On return to Scotland he played for St.Mirren, Airdrie United and his current club Stirling Albion. He gained two Scotland B caps while a Falkirk player in 2005.

Darryl Duffy in India with Mohun Bagan

Alex Walker:- Alex made two substitute appearances in 2003/2004 season against Motherwell at Fir Park and at home to Partick Thistle. While at Rangers he had a successful loan spell at Clyde. On leaving Rangers Alex spent five seasons at Morton and a single season at East Stirling before dropping from the senior game.

Alex Walker at Morton

Tom Brighton:- Another that made a single first team appearance, in a 1-1 draw away to Dunfermline Athletic. He had a brief loan spell at Scunthorpe United before leaving Rangers for Clyde in pre -season of 2005/2006. The highlight if his time at Clyde was being voted man of the match in their shock Scottish Cup win over Celtic. An injury hit couple of years at Millwall followed before returning to Scotland. A spell in the SPL with St.Mirren was the highlight and he also played for Dundee, Stirling Albion and Queen of the South before dropping into the junior ranks with Irvine Meadow.

Kevin Morrison:- Some supporters will remember Kevin from the “Blue Heaven” TV series. He was the only sub used on the night coming on for Darryl Duffy in the ninetieth minute. He had always been on the fringes of the youth team that season making a few substitute appearances. On leaving Rangers he had a short spell at East Stirling.

Anton Nugent:- Backup goalkeeper Anton only started a handful of games for the youth team that season, he did play in the first tie at Girvan and I seem to recall he saved a penalty but I may be wrong. On leaving Rangers he had spells at Doncaster Rovers, Stirling Albion, East Stirling and Dumbarton before playing for several Junior clubs with a spell at Albion Rovers sandwiched in between.

Gary Martin:- My memories of Gary are a bit vague and I needed a prompt to spark any real recall. He was a fairly regular member of the squad that season mainly featuring from the bench. I believe he had a spell at Clyde on leaving Rangers.

Brian McLean:- As one of the younger members of the squad his time as a youth team regular would come a wee bit later. Never made the first team but played in the Premier League with Motherwell, Falkirk, Dundee United and Ross County. He also had a spell in England with Preston North End, in Iceland with IBV and two spells with Brunei club DPMM FC who play in Singapore League. He also played for Hibernian, Dumbarton and is currently at Morton. Capped at youth level for Scotland he changed his football allegiance to Northern Ireland, playing in a friendly against Estonia. His father Stuart made over five hundred appearances for Kilmarnock and Rangers provided the opposition for his testimonial in January 1990. His brother is grade 1 referee Steven McLean.

John Adam:- Another fringe player I have a few problems recalling, he played and scored in the first two rounds. After Rangers he had spells at Morton, Montrose and Australian side Green Gully Cavaliers. He then returned to the Scotland and played for a few junior clubs.

John Adam turning out for Glenafton

Looking at the Ayr United side most of them had careers in the junior ranks but a couple had decent senior careers.

Stewart Kean achieved the most making almost sixty Premier League appearances for St. Mirren. As well as Ayr United, he also played for Queen of the South, Morton and Stenhousemuir.

Former Rangers academy player Scott Chaplain played for six Scottish clubs, coming close to four hundred senior games. His peak time was two years in the Championship with Partick Thistle. He is currently Head Coach for Scotland’s National Futsal squad.

Willie Lyle clocked up well over a hundred senior appearances for four clubs before dropping into the juniors. Peaking at League One level with Stenhousemuir for three seasons.

They also had two Northern Irish youngsters, Aaron Black from Larne and Aidan McVeigh from Glenavon. Black made a significant number of appearances for Ayr United before returning to play for a few Irish League Clubs, with McVeigh returning to Glenavon.

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.

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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.

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Lee Dair at Cwdenbeath