RANGERS ACADEMY have once again qualified for the UEFA Youth League after the 2019/20 CAS Scotland league was brought to a close.
With the Light Blues leading the table prior to the suspension of football, it is they who will take Scotland’s place among Europe’s best Academies for the second season in a row.
Last year, they defeated Young Boys Bern and Slovan Bratislava on what was their first experience of the tournament before being knocked out in the Last 16 play-off by Atletico Madrid.
They’ll have the opportunity to build on that, however, and have even more tests against some of the continent’s most talented teams and individuals at under-19 level.
Academy coach, David McCallum, who led the team in the CAS league alongside Kevin Thomson last season, explained: “The boys got so much benefit last season playing in the UEFA Youth League, and with that being such a great experience for them, it is a huge benefit for them to be in that situation again.
“In recent years, we have had our ‘best v best’ programme running which has allowed us to go against some of the best teams in Europe.
“You look at Valencia, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Manchester City – we have played against these teams for a number of years now, but to then take that European challenge into a competitive environment was another level again and another step for them – and not just the players, but the coaches as well.
“It’s an environment where winning does become more important, and having the experience to go and do that, while you don’t get the immediate benefit, hopefully long-term, that exposure to that environment will stand them in good stead.”
The team’s final game of the campaign was away to second-placed Aberdeen – with Gers running our 6-2 winners.
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The performance that day was one which thrilled McCallum and the staff, and he added: “The game at Aberdeen, which turned out to be our last game before lockdown, was our best performance of the season.
“I think there are a number of factors which contributed to that – I think the fact Aberdeen had done so well played in the players’ heads, so the players realised to go and do well against them they had to raise their game.
“What it showed was the levels they could reach. Our pressing in that game made Aberdeen really uncomfortable, and once we got that right, the quality in possession and the six goals we scored off the back of how we played was excellent.
“We don’t want to use that as the only good performance of the season, but in and out of possession, by far it was the best we got.”