ROSS WILSON, Southampton’s Director of Football Operations, has left the club to become Rangers’ new Sporting Director.
The 36-year-old replaces Mark Allen, who announced in September that he was leaving Ibrox for family reasons.
Wilson started his career at Falkirk and moved to Watford and Huddersfield Town before joining Southampton in 2015, initially as Director of Scouting and Recruitment. In 2018, he was promoted to Director of Football Operations.
The Scot, who held talks with Rangers two years ago but opted to stay in England, said: “Firstly, and I am sure it goes without saying, I am delighted to be joining Rangers. The vision and passion shared collectively by the Board and by Steven (Gerrard) in terms of the plans to continue to build the club are exciting.
"Equally, it was important that both the club and I shared the same understanding of the what this role is and what the football model and culture inside the club needs to look like going forward.
“The board have been resolute in all of our discussions both now and when we spoke in the past about what the club needs to look like and I am proud that they believe that I can help build the club upon standards that we all agree are right for Rangers.
“Having worked in football leadership for the last 15 years and for almost a decade in England now is a good time for me to return to Glasgow and be a part of this famous club. I am excited to start next month.
“Steven and his coaching team are doing a great job with things on the pitch, along with the players of course. I know some of the squad already and the others I will get to know quickly in the coming weeks. Steven and I are in regular contact and I am looking forward to working with him and developing our relationship further.
“This role is of course about continuing the development and growth of the club’s football operations and football infrastructure across the whole club. In that regard I am looking forward to working in and developing all areas of our football departments and none more so than the Academy with Craig Mulhollandand his team.
“I have chosen to leave a fantastic job and people who I am really close to. Southampton isn’t an easy place to leave and it had to be a really interesting opportunity to consider leaving behind what I had there.
“This job, at this stage in my career, was one I felt I had to take and I am both excited and determined to ensure that in working together with the board, Steven and all of our staff we can continue to build an excellent, modern football infrastructure and a winning Rangers.”
Rangers Managing Director Stewart Robertson added: “We have been aware of the capabilities and expertise of Ross for a long time and when we found we had to move for someone to fill the role left vacant by the departure of Mark Allen, we had no hesitation in looking again to Ross, who is highly regarded within the game.
“He has a terrific track record and he shares our view of what is required to restore Rangers as the dominant force in Scottish football.
"Ross also shares our vision, and that of our manager Steven Gerrard, of where we want to position this club in the years ahead.
“We are delighted Ross has chosen to join us to guide and add greater momentum to the progress already made and I look forward to working with him.”
Although Southampton insisted this was a case of Wilson wanting to return home to Scotland, his departure represents a serious blow to them.
The club has seen the departures of Head of Performance Analysis Natasha Patel (to New York Red Bulls) and assistant manager Danny Rohl (to Bayern Munich) this season, while Vice Chairman Les Reed and Technical Director Martin Hunter were eased out in November 2018.
Southampton CEO Martin Semmens said: “From the moment Ross made me aware of the opportunity to return home to Scotland, it was clear that this was an opportunity he could not turn down at this time.
“I would like to put on record, on behalf of everyone involved in the club, our thanks for the tireless hard work and energy Ross has given to Saints over the last five years. Ross will leave the club with our best wishes on Tuesday 15th October.
“As the club has made clear over the past six months, we are reviewing all our football and non-football operations, to make sure we are best placed to enable a successful future for The Southampton Way. We will now seek to appoint a new Football Director in keeping with this vision for the club.
“We will update our fans when we can on any future appointment. For now, the expert and experienced team around Ralph Hasenhüttl will continue to support him to drive the team forward and up the Premier League
Wilson added: “It has been a privilege to work for Southampton FC. In good times and in more difficult times I have enjoyed the challenge working alongside our outstanding staff with whom it has been so energising to work with behind the scenes. I will be forever indebted for their work, unwavering support and friendship.
“The club will continue to move forward with a strong board in place and an excellent Manager in Ralph Hasenhüttl driving the team. Our Academy has a proud tradition and is heading in a positive direction and delivering players for the first team.
“Finally, I moved to the South Coast with no connection to Saints but leave a Saints fan, having made friends for life at the club. This is a special football club and I am proud to have been part of it.”
The Scotsman graduated from the University of Strathclyde with a degree in Social Science before spending seven years as Head of Football Development and Football Administration at Falkirk.
While at Falkirk, he completed a Masters in Sports Management at Stirling University and went on to join Watford as Football Business Director in 2011. In July 2012, he took up the position of Executive Director and Head of Football Operations at Huddersfield Town, before joining the Saints in March 2015.