EXCLUSIVE: Murty - Focus on youth beginning to pay off
Written by Simon Austin — November 14, 2017
RANGERS caretaker manager Graeme Murty says the club’s focus on youth is beginning to pay dividends for the first team.
The former Scotland international has been interim boss at Ibrox since Pedro Caixinha was sacked on October 26th.
So far he has a record of two wins from two and homegrown youth has played a prominent part in the successes, with Ross McCrorie, 19, scoring his first senior goal in the 3-0 win over Partick Thistle on November 4th. Ryan Hardie, 20, also came on as a sub in that game, while Jamie Barjonas, 18, was on the bench.
The progress of the trio is a source of particular pride for Murty, whose permanent job is as Lead Development Squad Coach responsible for the Under-20s team.
“We’ve got Ross, Jamie and Ryan in the squad, which is fantastic to see, and Robbie McCrorie and Liam Kelly coming up behind them as well,” Murty told TGG.
“If I’m looking at the Under-20s, I’d say 95% of them have trained with the first team squad at some stage this season, which is great. They get to see the best players doing what they do and what it takes to stay there.
“Jamie Barjonas’ development has come on apace, because he’s training with Ryan Jack, Graham Dorrans, Niko Kranjcar and Kenny Miller. He’s seeing it first hand.
“These players are aspiring to be first-team players, so they need to see it. Pedro was very open. If the 20s had a session, we would often schedule it so we were able to go and watch the first team train – to see what it’s like to be a Rangers player, to look and listen.
“They’d always come back and talk about the noise, the intensity, the demands. That led to their own sessions improving in those regards.”
There is no denying this has been another difficult season for Rangers though. The club is fourth in the SPL, behind not only Celtic, but also Aberdeen and Hibernian.
This is Murty’s second spell in caretaker charge during a turbulent nine months, as he also took the reins when Mark Warburton was fired in February.
His overall record so far is five wins, a draw and two losses from eight games. The draw was away at Celtic – Rangers’ only result against their Glasgow rivals in seven attempts.
And Rangers skipper Lee Wallace says "everybody is buzzing" with Murty at the helm. Although the former Reading defender admits he would love to take the job on full time, he insists - to coin an old phrase - that he wants to take things one game at a time.
“You think about the people who have sat in the seat I’m currently in, and it’s wild,” he says. “It is still very, very special to me. I’ve enjoyed it. What I’d like to do is concentrate on doing the job and not worrying about what might happen in the future.
“I’ve had lots of questions - ‘Do you want it?’ ‘Do you think you should have it?’ – but I just want to crack on with it. The reason I got into coaching is to help players get better and perform. If I’m doing that, you will eventually get to the level you’re supposed to be at.”
Although the focus is inevitably on what the Rangers first team does on the pitch, Murty says big things have been happening behind the scenes.
The club has committed to developing homegrown players for the first team; the Under-20s have pulled out of the SPFL Development League so they can play high-profile friendlies against some of Europe’s biggest clubs; and they have developed a ‘game model’ to be followed all the way from first team down to the younger age groups.
RANGERS GAME MODEL:
"All Rangers teams will be prepared to defend and
maintain our culture of playing relentlessly attacking football. Teams will demonstrate
our exciting and dynamic brand of purposeful possession-based football with the
highest level of technical ability and creativity. This will be married to an
intense high-energy pressing game designed to prepare our players to excel in
the four moments of the game, winning for Rangers in the SPL and in Europe."
“We are trying to change what we’ve always done,” Murty says. “We’ve opted out of the games programme to test this method and find out whether it works. We’ve played Man City, Liverpool, Feyenoord, AZ Alkmaar.
“The best thing has been the discussion among the players afterwards – often they say, ‘we’ve not seen this style before,’ or ‘we’ve not encountered this problem.’
“It’s challenging them and they are really enjoying it. In terms of progression to the first team, we’ve had a mini success with Ross [McCrorie], who’s established himself, but it’s our job now to make sure this progression is consistent, that we are bringing through youngsters of the quality and standard and mindset to be Rangers players.”
Rangers have also developed a ‘game model’ to be followed by all teams at the club - which you can read in full above.
“We went to the performance centre in Largs during the close season - all the coaches, the sports science department, and we thrashed it out.
“We changed our terminology, our curriculum, our principles and our sub principles. We made sure it all fitted together. We’ve got something we are quite proud of, but it’s always evolving.”
In football it can often be difficult for people to look beyond the short term – to consider the two-thirds of an iceberg below the water - and Rangers have had some very vocal critics because of their recent problems.
“People who don’t see it on a daily basis can say what they like,” Murty said. “We think you can see a development in our young players across the board. The sessions are bright, clear and hitting the objectives.
“I would recommend any journalist and pundit to come and visit us – they are welcome to. We’ve had a lot of visitors and they’ve tended to walk away saying the culture runs through everything we do.
“This isn’t just on paper, we are living it every day. Lots of people are putting themselves out there about what is right for us, but we are confident this will bear fruit in the long term.”