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Knocking on the door’ - should Rangers let youngsters in?DARRYL BROADFOOT, Chief Football Writer January 15 2009

Murray Park: waste of money or a misuse of an invaluable resource? It is a debate that has gathered momentum as Rangers' financial problems deepen and the militant element of their support rebels.

A facility hailed as the lasting legacy of its eponymous owner, an academy that would remove the need for the lavish recklessness that took the club £86m into debt, has not lived up to its billing.

The lack of productivity from the youth academy was cited as a primary concern in the 17-point statement released yesterday by the Rangers Supporters Trust under the melodramatic banner, "We Deserve Better". Had it been intended and promoted purely as a state-of-the art facility for the first-team squad, and not as a long-term solution to Rangers' problematic policy of spend, spend, spend, then there would be no such interest in its inner workings. But it was not. As Rangers' debts creep up to £25m and with no championship to show for it in three years, the club faces a serious decision on its entire philosophy for future prosperity.

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Jimmy Sinclair, the head of youth development, is optimistic his crop will reap the benefits of a financial downturn. On Tuesday night, Danny Wilson, a 17-year-old centre-back, joined John Fleck on the bench against St Johnstone. Along with Jamie Ness, the 17-year-old midfielder, they are the most advanced of the current crop of teenagers.

"Categorically, I can assure that the youth development system is strong and it is vibrant," Sinclair told The Herald. "In my own mind, what is being done is worthy of any scrutiny by anybody and I would welcome any independent audit. I am convinced we are on the right lines. What must always be remembered is that Murray Park is a facility, not a place that automatically turns people into stars. Raw talent is needed in the first place and then it has to be nurtured, but there are many perils and pitfalls before they even get to the first team.

"Youth development produces players for every team, some of whom will be mainstays and some will be bit-parts. We have a number of kids who firmly believe they have a good shot and to see both Danny Wilson and John Fleck on the bench acts as a beacon of hope for the rest. They will realise there are opportunities and those opportunities will increase in the future, I hope."

Yet there are more cautionary tales than success stories. Chris Burke was the original poster boy for Murray Park, but two years after signing a contract worth £14,000 per week, joined Cardiff City on a free transfer. Ross McCormack became frustrated by his lack of opportunities and has revitalised his career at Cardiff. Others have become staples of the SPL also-rans.

Allan McGregor is the only genuine product of Murray Park to endure. Alan Hutton earned the club £9m from Tottenham Hotspur, while injury has prevented Steven Smith from fulfilling his considerable potential.

"I cannot speak about what happened before my watch, but regardless of your ability, not everyone has the mentality to play in front of 50,000 every week," said Sinclair of the psychological demands of the club. "I have seen players who have left and done well, but many of them may have found the pressures of playing for Rangers too much, even though they had the physical talent.

"Sometimes when you are brought up in the youth ranks you automatically think the next step is the first team. Many more do not make it than than do make it. Some choose to ignore the facts and their careers suffer, others take it on board and prosper elsewhere.

"The perception can be different from the reality. It is a fantastic facility, but it cannot mitigate against the level of raw talent that is coming through the country. It cannot make great young players, it can only enhance what is already there. We have a shrinking pool of available talent in the past 10 years; kids aren't playing as regularly, we have computer game syndrome and obesity issues. Murray Park cannot be expected to right the wrongs of society."

Walter Smith has already revealed his intention to cut a bloated squad from 28 to 18, beefed up by a half-dozen of Murray Park's most promising talent. It is a step in the right direction, but only that.

"With Walter looking to introduce the number of youth players into the pool, it follows that there must be a greater opportunity for younger players to make an impact," added Sinclair. "People might say that puts more pressure on me and the youth department, but that is preferable to players not getting an opportunity.

"When you are involved in youth development, you give a big part of your life to it. You also have to accept criticism, but sometimes it still stings. All you can do is ensure you are doing your job to the best of your ability; that we are producing a decent product for the club and what goes on at Murray Park is as good as it can be. I am confident that is the case.

"Regardless of the current financial state of the situation at Rangers, any club with limited capabilities to deal in the transfer market must then look to youth development. That applies to every club in Scotland. In the current economic climate, with the credit crunch biting into football, you have to look at what is within your own ranks as a consequence."

If Rangers do not win the league, there may be no alternative but to give youth its head. "For talent, we have a number of players who are capable of competing in the first team," Sinclair said. "The ultimate test is do they have the necessary experience to bridge the gap and, if not, how do we get them that experience?

"I think there is an appreciation of the frustrations on both sides. The manager's job is to win the title, that is obvious, and mine is to help produce players capable of making it into that first team. Walter is very clear that if you are good enough, you are old enough. I understand his belief that some players can be exposed to the first team without earning the right, but from my point of view, if the team are winning comfortably, then there is a chance they might get on. It is better for them to be part of that possibility than not."

The cerebral majority of Rangers supporters, acutely aware of the financial constraints second-best has brought upon their club, would surely be more tolerant of struggle if they were given signs of hope from within, rather than the annual patch-up jobs that have been costly and unsuccessful. They would be prepared to cut Fleck more slack than they would another bargain-basement signing from the Coca-Cola Championship, likewise be more forgiving of Wilson slipping up than they would an ageing Christian Dailly. Rangers, with their vital arteries clogged, are in need of bypass surgery.

"At Rangers, we have around 30 players with international experience from under-16 to reserve level," said Sinclair. "That shows we have some of the most talented young players in the country. Now, I am fully aware that not all youth internationalists will go on to have great careers because it is a big ask to get into the first team. What I have no doubt in is that we will have a number of them knocking on the door."

Rangers, in their efforts to keep the wolves from the door, can no longer afford to lock out their own kids.

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Walter is very clear that if you are good enough, you are old enough

You could have fooled me.

Good article, it highlights some of the thing that we've been trying to put across. We've got young players who are good enough to be in the first team.

The likes of Fleck, Aaron and McMillan would be cut more slack from the fans than players like Dailly, McCulloch and Adam. What we need to do is start playing them or we'll halt their development.

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Walter is very clear that if you are good enough, you are old enough

You could have fooled me.

Good article, it highlights some of the thing that we've been trying to put across. We've got young players who are good enough to be in the first team.

The likes of Fleck, Aaron and McMillan would be cut more slack from the fans than players like Dailly, McCulloch and Adam. What we need to do is start playing them or we'll halt their development.

Well McMillan is out on loan. Looks a good thing.

Fleck and Aaron ? Who knows when Walter will start them or play them?

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Darryl Broadfoot's becoming quite outspoken on the issue of Smith and his disdain of young talent.

The more dissenters the merrier I say - something needs done about it before we ruin Fleck, Aaron, McMillan and the rest.

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Walter is very clear that if you are good enough, you are old enough

This should be changed to "Walter is very clear that if your miles better than any of the senior players in that position, then you might get a few 5 minute appearances over the season"

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Walter is very clear that if you are good enough, you are old enough

You could have fooled me.

Good article, it highlights some of the thing that we've been trying to put across. We've got young players who are good enough to be in the first team.

The likes of Fleck, Aaron and McMillan would be cut more slack from the fans than players like Dailly, McCulloch and Adam. What we need to do is start playing them or we'll halt their development.

On the other hand we've seen the following all too often from some of our fans:

"Get the boays in the team!"

Shortly afterwards:

"Get him tae f*ck! He's pish".

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Walter is very clear that if you are good enough, you are old enough

You could have fooled me.

Good article, it highlights some of the thing that we've been trying to put across. We've got young players who are good enough to be in the first team.

The likes of Fleck, Aaron and McMillan would be cut more slack from the fans than players like Dailly, McCulloch and Adam. What we need to do is start playing them or we'll halt their development.

On the other hand we've seen the following all too often from some of our fans:

"Get the boays in the team!"

Shortly afterwards:

"Get him tae f*ck! He's pish".

I think we're now at the stage where that simply wouldn't happen.

99% of fans (surely) have had it with Adam and McCulloch, it's time for the not-so-raw young talent.

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Walter is very clear that if you are good enough, you are old enough

You could have fooled me.

Good article, it highlights some of the thing that we've been trying to put across. We've got young players who are good enough to be in the first team.

The likes of Fleck, Aaron and McMillan would be cut more slack from the fans than players like Dailly, McCulloch and Adam. What we need to do is start playing them or we'll halt their development.

On the other hand we've seen the following all too often from some of our fans:

"Get the boays in the team!"

Shortly afterwards:

"Get him tae f*ck! He's pish".

This is true, and we are probably one of the most impatient supports in the world. Ultimately if Walter came out with a statement along the lines of "We need to sell one of our top players, but we have a number of talented young players ready to make the step up" then I think we as a support would cut the management team a bit more slack, but he has neither said nor shown anything along these lines. The only time he mentions youth is when he's complaining about the U21 rule

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The cerebral majority of Rangers supporters, acutely aware of the financial constraints second-best has brought upon their club, would surely be more tolerant of struggle if they were given signs of hope from within, rather than the annual patch-up jobs that have been costly and unsuccessful. They would be prepared to cut Fleck more slack than they would another bargain-basement signing from the Coca-Cola Championship, likewise be more forgiving of Wilson slipping up than they would an ageing Christian Dailly. Rangers, with their vital arteries clogged, are in need of bypass surgery.

A fantastic passage that encapsulates my thoughts towards the cynics who claim that the youngsters would be hounded out by the Ibrox crowd should they commit to error.

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The last couple of days, Darryl Broadfoot has said alot about Murray Park and the running of the club on Both Clyde Superscoreboard and in The Herald.

He was spot on the other day, when he was basically begging Rangers to give Fleck a chance and not to let him stagnate in the reserves.

All i can say hopefully Walter gives these boys a chance to prove thereselfs!

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There's no reason guys like Fleck, Aaron, Ness, McMillan, etc. can't at least get spot starts and frequent sub appearances. The youth academy should be serving as a conveyor belt to the first team so we can save money.

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I definitely believe the support would be less harsh on Fleck, Aaron, etc. Another point worth mentioning is that they simply couldn't be worse than some of the options we have, so they wouldn't need as much slack cut for them in the first place. Does anyone honestly believe that Aaron would perform worse than McCulloch or Adam, for example?

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Walter has always had a Nelson's eye view when it comes to bringing on youngsters and using the squad ... and he's probably too old to change his ways now

Then that begs the question, is Walter still the right man for the Job?

We all know we have to go down this route of turning to our youth team. SDM is saying we have to be realistic, so he should be looking to bring in somebody with a track record of bringing through youth players.

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He has really made a mess of things this season so I think a change will have to be made in the summer. With the financial situation we will probably have to find a manager who can bring through young players ... and that certainly isn't Walter

Regardless what happens with this season, Walter has to go.

Who we bring in has to have fresh ideas and a good record in bringing through youth players, and able to work with a budget.

We'll have to look long a hard to bring somebody like that in.

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Walter has always had a Nelson's eye view when it comes to bringing on youngsters and using the squad ... and he's probably too old to change his ways now

Then that begs the question, is Walter still the right man for the Job?

We all know we have to go down this route of turning to our youth team. SDM is saying we have to be realistic, so he should be look to bring in somebody with a track record of bringing through youth players.

I think Walter's reluctance to play youth is partly based on his past success of winning the SPL without introducing significant amounts of youthful talent into the squad. He doesn't want to risk throwing the pups into the lineup when he has his "tried and trusted" favorites like Lee The Bone Cruncher.

Walter is too far along in his career to alter his style dramatically. He thinks he knows what works, and in certain instances he does, but introducing an emphasis on youth will take a new manager.

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Walter will have to win vs Falkirk, Aberdeen, DU and Celtic in the next few weeks. That spell will foretell Walter's future and our chances of winning the SPL.

I think it's already been decided, i'll be shocked if he doesn't atleast move upstairs at the end of the season.

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in some ways this "financial crisis" we find ourselves in could arguably be a blessing in disguise - smith may be forced to blood more youngsters that potentially could offer rangers an olive branch in the fact that if 1 or 2 youngsters succeed then they could be sold on for massive fees and it will also give the manager the confidence to bring more youth through

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Walter has always had a Nelson's eye view when it comes to bringing on youngsters and using the squad ... and he's probably too old to change his ways now

Then that begs the question, is Walter still the right man for the Job?

We all know we have to go down this route of turning to our youth team. SDM is saying we have to be realistic, so he should be look to bring in somebody with a track record of bringing through youth players.

I think Walter's reluctance to play youth is partly based on his past success of winning the SPL without introducing significant amounts of youthful talent into the squad. He doesn't want to risk throwing the pups into the lineup when he has his "tried and trusted" favorites like Lee The Bone Cruncher.

Walter is too far along in his career to alter his style dramatically. He thinks he knows what works, and in certain instances he does, but introducing an emphasis on youth will take a new manager.

Exactly thats why i'm pretty sure regardless what happens this season, Walter won't be in charge next season.

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Walter has always had a Nelson's eye view when it comes to bringing on youngsters and using the squad ... and he's probably too old to change his ways now

Then that begs the question, is Walter still the right man for the Job?

We all know we have to go down this route of turning to our youth team. SDM is saying we have to be realistic, so he should be look to bring in somebody with a track record of bringing through youth players.

I think Walter's reluctance to play youth is partly based on his past success of winning the SPL without introducing significant amounts of youthful talent into the squad. He doesn't want to risk throwing the pups into the lineup when he has his "tried and trusted" favorites like Lee The Bone Cruncher.

Walter is too far along in his career to alter his style dramatically. He thinks he knows what works, and in certain instances he does, but introducing an emphasis on youth will take a new manager.

I take your point but you could just as easily argue that he should be all the more keen to have a youth policy this time after a lack of one helped cost us 10IAR ... after all it was his fault when Laudrup got chickenpox and Gazza went off on the piss and Negri gave up that the cupboard was bare and there was no up and coming young players to step in.

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I really think we need to go with a dutch manager. Now I know it could be argued that Dick Advocaat is partly responsible for the current financial situation, however it was also him that demanded a top quality training complex to bring through youth. Steve McLaren has previously spoken about the difference in philosophies between holland and Britain. Saying that over here the basis is on management, however over there the emphasis is on coaching. I would have no problem whatsoever with us being a selling club if we followed the PSV of Ajax model

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