THE RANGERS Academy are taking their first steps back to normality with the recent resumption of training – and they are returning with a huge bank of new knowledge.
Through lockdown, the hard work continued virtually for the young players, with a number of fantastic initiatives from both the players and coaches.
Head of Academy, Craig Mulholland, has been speaking this week at length to RangersTV on a number of topics.
He began by explaining: "It has been quite an exciting period actually as something positive has come from what was a really negative time for everybody.
"We have spoken a lot about the work we have started - so there have been some really innovative online programmes, but probably what we have not spoken about is the work that the kids have done.
"Some of the videos they sent back, some of the imagination they used to combine our online activities and looking at a lot of technical and tactical stuff, and also, the integration of the first-team staff into that process as well has been terrific.
"The manager came on and spoke to the young players as did Gary McAllister, and we did some unbelievable webinars - we had Jermain Defoe come on and one of the stories he told was how he tries to finish as a striker - which is great for our strikers.
"The following week, Filip Helander came on and spoke about how he tries to stop Jermain doing what he does, and for the young defenders, that was some great education.
"I think everyone has been really engaged through it, and Ross Wilson, our Sporting Director was quite clear to say that he thought the programme we put in place was industry-leading, and credit goes to our staff for that.
"However, we are desperate to get back on the grass as for as much as we will take some of that into our new programmes, it would be great to get back to some form of normality."
WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE
Recently, there have been a number of changes of job roles and positions within the Academy.
Mulholland continued: "It was branded as a 'restructure' - I'm not sure if it is a massive restructure. I think what works for us is always moving forward and always getting better.
"So if you look at the project we have, we are coming towards the end of a five year programme and I have been saying, 'right, how do we get better and more leading and dynamic for the next phase.
"So what we have created is a 'B Team' in name and it has players who are coming out of the Academy or first-team players who are coming back down.
"The 'B Team' will have a different identity to the rest of the Academy, but it will follow the first-team in schedule, tactically and in-terms of practise.
"We have Kevin Thomson and Brian Gilmour who will go to work with that group, both being ex-Rangers players.
"Kevin played at that top, top level and can pass on that experience while Brian came up through the Academy.
"David McCallum will head-up the professional development phase. David has done an exceptional job over the last few years in the game by developing players like Andy Robertson at Queens Park, and at Rangers, in the Alkaas tournament and the Youth Cups.
"But he is a really, really good educator of young people and we think he is the best in the business at that role.
"And we have brought in Cameron Campbell to come and work with him. He worked at Right to Dream, and we like the fact he was brave enough to go and work in Africa, and he has also worked in Denmark and is a young, innovative, Scottish coach.
WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE
"So the top-end of the Academy has changed quite a bit, but really the concept is the guys won't always be in their positions. Ultimately, they are Rangers players, and the focus now is how we best aid the development of a young player.
"So the coaches in the professional phase will move from time to time and the coaches in the youth development phase headed up by Mark Spalding will move and the coaches in the foundation phase with Alan Boyd will also move.
"What it means is they are getting experience of all the players and they then have a view on the progress of all the players and it means that ultimately, we are all working together in a really collaborative way for the betterment of our players at Rangers."