Rangers released a shock statement last night which confirmed that they will pull the B team from the Lowland League. This decision came on the back of the SFA pulling the vote on the proposed ‘Conference League’ which would have been the fifth tier in national football pyramid.
Firstly, Rangers would like to put on record our sincere thanks to the Lowland League for hosting a Rangers B team in their league for the past two seasons, and to the clubs for their fantastic hospitality and sporting challenges during that time. Rangers wishes each and every one of them the very best for the future.
Rangers has long been a strong advocate for the introduction of B Teams in the professional leagues of Scottish football, with a Conference League being an excellent step in that direction. Nations across Europe operate similar B Team systems with strong evidence of their development of players at club and national level.Rangers FC via the official website
It’s very hard to argue when you look at nations like the Netherlands and their successes with B teams plying their trade in the second tier of Dutch football. Them and Denmark seem to be the nations with the most starting eleven players who have played games at B team level, according to this tweet by ScotsAbroadPod;
Rangers appear determined in their quest to find the best pathway for our young players and that is encouraging to see.
The Success of The ‘B Team’
Focusing on the point previously made, let’s take a look at some of the names who played for the Netherlands against Croatia last night who had minutes at B team level;
- Frenkie de Jong – FC Barcelona
- Virgil van Dijk – Liverpool
- Donyell Malen – Borussia Dortmund
- Teun Koopmeiners – Atalanta
- Mats Wieffer – Feyenord
- Steven Bergwijn – Ajax
- Noa Lang – Club Brugge
Every single one of these players played at least some minutes in their Nations League Semi-Final defeat to Croatia. It’s worked out pretty well for the Dutch, hasn’t it? There are players now playing in the top five leagues that once played their football at B team level.
There HAS to be a better solution than the B team of Scotland’s big clubs playing in the Lowland League. That is genuinely said with no disrespect to the Lowland League clubs, but these young players need to be playing at a higher level.
The club had this to say in the rest of the statement;
Alongside the club’s participation in the Lowland League in the last two seasons, a challenging ‘best v best’ games programme has provided our young players with matches against clubs from the highest levels of British and European competition.
This has proved a success, with 10 recent Academy players featuring in the Rangers first-team last season.
Matches with the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool are among the fixtures to have featured and that programme will continue and indeed be enhanced alongside the club’s commitments in the SPFL Trust Trophy, City of Glasgow Cup and, hopefully, the UEFA Youth League, which provided an outstanding environment for our players last season. This will ensure our young players in that crucial 18-21 age group are given regular tests of a varied nature.
Rangers remains committed to finding the most innovative and challenging environments for our young players, not only for the benefit of our club, but also for the benefit of other clubs and the Scotland national team. We look forward to continuing our positive engagement with the Scottish FA and other bodies in the drive for young player development.Rangers FC via the official website
Even if you were against the Conference League being the fifth tier it’s clear that Rangers are passionate about it as a club and only want the best for our young players.
Competitions like the UEFA Youth League really do provide a huge platform for young players to play against the best from around Europe. It’s a competition that can only help the youngsters improve as they test themselves against the most talented players around for the same age group.
Rangers played against the likes of Ajax, Liverpool and Napoli last season and the B team lads put up a decent fight in most of those matches. I’m sure the players themselves would agree that a test at that level is key to seeing where the benchmark is and where they need to be.
I wrote this article back in April discussing Rangers participation in the Lowland League. There definitely needs to be some kind of competitive league for the B teams but the Lowland League isn’t it.
The Dutch are renowned for their ability to develop youth players into international stars and a lot of that starts from the B teams. They’re allowed to play in the second tier of Dutch football. The difference in standard from the Lowland League to the Scottish Championship is vast, there’s no doubt about that.
Imagine how much better player development could be if our youngsters could play three tiers up? Playing at a better level is either going to improve you as a player immediately or show you aren’t ready. That would be huge for youth development, if the players aren’t ready THEN you can send them out on loan.
I’m not sure what happens next but the Rangers board definitely will. There’s no doubt in my mind that they have a plan in place. At the end of the day, this statement suggests the board want the best for our clubs youth players and that is a hugely positive sign.
What do you think the solution is? Where do you see the next step taking the club?