As Scottish football continues to wrestle with reconstruction and the best way forward, Rangers – backed by Celtic – put a thought-provoking proposal on the table to senior clubs that the Old Firm duo place their ‘B’ teams into the lowest tier of the current pyramid system.
he aim would be to help their younger players attain some much-needed experience against seasoned professionals to enhance their development.
For the privilege of doing so, both clubs were willing to invest a combined guaranteed total of £1.2m over four years that would have helped the lower league clubs survive and flourish.
That alone showed the seriousness of the plan – which failed to gather enough support – and how much they feel senior football would be advantageous to their young talent.
I have to say their suggestion was very detailed and had plenty of credibility but unfortunately when the Old Firm come up with ideas many people become cynical and sceptical of it all and shoot it down without due diligence.
We are talking about young players wanting to fulfil their potential and live their dream.
Do Rangers and Celtic sign too many players? Yes, they do, but surely the young players shouldn’t be punished because of that. They should be allowed to grow and find a level to excel at.
I understand the Old Firm have the biggest resources and budget so many feel it makes both sides even stronger and gives them an added advantage.
However, when you look at the number of young players who go on to become regulars at both clubs, it’s minimal.
With this in mind, if these players are competing in the lower leagues on a regular basis then by the age of 20 they could have 50-70 senior games under their belt.
They then become a more attractive proposition for every other club in Scotland.
Managers have first-hand evidence of what they can do as opposed to the player being released at 20 years of age having had very little exposure.
It’s not just the Old Firm who benefit, Scottish football does with more rounded and polished players ready for first-team football at all levels.
The bigger picture is that too many young players are being lost to the game because the pathway for them is clogged.
Whether we like it or not, Rangers and Celtic attract the majority of talent at younger age groups and integrating them into senior football early will, at worst, prepare them for life after the big time and extend their careers.
We already have some young Northern Ireland talent in the system at both clubs. I know Ben Wylie is progressing nicely at Celtic, having spoken to ex-Celtic captain Stephen McManus. He’s now a coach at the club and said Ben has good attributes and is doing well, which is great.
Only last week, young Charlie Lindsay signed for Rangers from Glentoran, which is a wonderful opportunity for him. It’s also exciting for the future of our national team if he can progress the way many hope he will.
Both players will naturally be looking at the challenge they face to make a breakthrough into their respective first teams. I feel playing competitive football in a ‘B’ team every Saturday would give them a better possibility of doing that.
The question that has recurred is why not just put players out on loan?
Well, this has been happening for years and I’m not sure it’s as productive as all clubs would like it to be, not just Rangers and Celtic.
The difference with ‘B’ teams is the players are in their own set-up and system that they’re used to.
Playing against experienced players would allow coaches to see them out of their comfort zone. It would highlight who shows leadership, who can cope mentally in the spotlight and, physically, if they can stand up to the challenge that faces them.
These are characteristics Steven Gerrard and Neil Lennon would need to see before promoting players into their set-ups.
I genuinely hope this is something that can be spoken about in more detail and everyone sees the benefits for Scottish football as a whole.
Let’s hope that where there’s a will, there’s a way.