Written by Andy
Welcome again to The Sports Lab and today we will discuss an issue that at times divided the Rangers support has Auchenhowie (I refuse to call it Murray Park) been a hit or a miss success wise?
It was back in the tenure of then boss Dick Advocaat in 1998 the suggestion was made to build a state of the art training facility. By July 2001 the training base was opened at a cost of around £14 million and named Murray Park despite the funding allegedly coming from Dave King board member.
The site covers a size of thirty-eight acres (over fifteen hectares). It is divided into three areas: the administration wing, the professional wing for the first team and the youth development wing. The professional and youth wings have their own separate receptions, dining areas, changing rooms, kit stores and lecture rooms. Both share facilities including the gym, medical suite and the indoor synthetic pitch.
Outside there are six full size pitches along with two half sized ones and a practice area. Two of the full-sized and one half-sized pitch are used just by the first team, these have undersoil heating, the others are used by the youth sides.
The state-of-the-art gym equipment, costing £150,000, are all linked to a computer system which can activate a personalised fitness programme for individual players. The gym also houses an isokinetic machine, which allows players to work out despite being injured by testing muscle strength and reactions. There is a hydrotherapy pool that has an angled, moveable floor and a series of massage jets and currents that allows a range of rehabilitation exercises to take place.
There is also a media editing suite costing £50,000 which is where a video analyst will video each training session. The footage will be used to conduct tactical lessons in the lecture room afterwards.
So that’s a little bit about the facilities now lets examine who has been produced from the youth system and transfer fees received.
The first batch of players that came onto the scene after 2001 would be Allan McGregor,Chris Burke,Tom Brighton,Andy Dowie,Alan Hutton and Steven MacLean. 3 of these players have all gone on to do really well for themselves career wise in McGregor,Hutton & Burke but in terms of money back the £9 million we got for Hutton stands out. McGregor and Burke of course left on free transfers the former in a unforgivable and controversial fashion.
Next on the list would be Darryl Duffy,Alex Walker,Charlie Adam,Gary MacKenzie,Ross McCormack,Robert Davidson & Steven Smith. Duffy has done well for himself in the lower leagues of England for various sides and MacKenzie is a regular at MK Dons after doing well at Dundee. McCormack has done ever so well since being released by Paul Le Guen for Motherwell,Cardiff and now Leeds. Steven Smith made an impact on the Rangers first team but sadly for him a knee injury hampered his career, he is now at Portland Timbers in America with Kris Boyd. Charlie Adam has done well for himself with Blackpool, which then led to an unsuccessful spell at Liverpool and he is now at Stoke. We only got around £500,000 for Adam but due to his big money move to Liverpool we got a percentage due to a sell on fee reportedly between £1 to £1.5 million
The next few seasons would see the following graduates Alan Lowing,Lee Robinson,Steven Lennon,Andrew Shinnie,Paul Emslie,John Fleck & Rory Loy. Lowing played a few games for East Fife after his release and now plays for Fram in Iceland.After stints in Ireland and Wales Lennon is also at Fram with Lowing. Emslie was at Peterhead after release but now plays for Cove Rangers. Rory Loy was signed from Kilmarnock but was trained in our academy but after his release has gone to do well for Carlisle United. Shinnie as many will know has done very well at Inverness and is a main player for them. John Fleck was seen as the jewel in the crown for many years but for whatever reason his career never got started here and he signed for Coventry City in the summer.
2009 would show the next batch of young players and one of which is now a mainstay in the team. Andrew Little,Gregg Wylde,Jordan MacMillan & Danny Wilson. Little got his chance at the tail end of last season and scored a few goals and hasn’t looked back, he has been on fire this season scoring goals only to be out injured but his return will be welcomed. Wylde left last season ending his contract and waived his redundancy payment in the hope that it would save jobs at the club,Bolton is where he now plays his football. Jordan MacMillan was at Rangers a long time but only played in a handful of games and he was sold for £50,000 and is now at Dunfermline. Danny Wilson looked the part and made and immediate impact at Rangers only 17/18 years old and playing at the heart of the defence alongside Davie Weir. He was sold to Liverpool due to him not wanting to stay on and sign a long term deal. We got £2 million up front but the fee could rise to £5 million depending on appearances. Finally we get some decent money for our young talent!
2010 saw some more good young graduates in Kyle Hutton,Darren Cole & Jamie Ness. Hutton showed last night against Motherwell he has a part to play and I was impressed with him against Man United on his debut few seasons back. He excelled at Partick on loan so lets hope he becomes a big player for us. Darren Cole also got a debut in the Champions League this time away in Turkey against Bursaspor in which he excelled that night, lets hope his loan spell also at Partick helps him get games here. Jamie Ness made an instant impact and scored a great goal in the Scottish Cup against Celtic….I was literally 20 yards away from him when he struck it and its one of the finest goals I’ve seen at Ibrox. But sadly Jamie took the same route as McGregor,Naismith,Whittaker & co when they moved elsewhere when the company was changed, he goes to Stoke City in the EPL and we have to fight for compensation.
Kane Hemmings and Ross Perry were the latest to come through the following season and are both young players that will feature in our team in years to come. Hemmings has to get over this injury thing he has going on at the moment as he is very promising striker who is quick and strong who will score goals. Ross Perry made his debut last season and impressed in a few games. He has been given a regular spot next to Emilson Cribari and that partnership is one that is thriving especially last night against Motherwell.
Now onto the class of 2012 and many superb young players have graced our team. Rhys McCabe,Andrew Mitchell,Barrie McKay,Lewis MacLoed,Kal Naismith,Robbie Crawford,Chris Hegarty & Fraser Aird. McCabe impressed early on particularly in the derby match but now finds himself at Sheffield Wednesday after refusing to join the journey. Mitchell signed from Man City has a lot of talent very quick and decent technically got a taste for it last season and I hope he can do well this season. Barrie McKay has shone this season and is a tricky winger with pace and skill, winger is the hardest position to always get consistency from especially young players but Barrie has been excellent so far, I just hope burnout doesn’t affect him too much as is the case with a lot of young players so expect to see him rotated a lot. MacLoed has impressed me a lot especially in the game at the weekend against Montrose. Very good technically in the pass and tackle this lad has a great future here and I hope he continues to thrive in the first team. Kal Naismith is a young striker who has had a couple of loans at Cowdenbeath and Partick. Not many goals have came and he may struggle to break into the team but there isn’t a better chance than now to break into the side. Robbie Crawford is a player, scored his first goal for the club at weekend and has been used as a sub in a lot of our games. He has the ability to make the step up and be a regular in my view. Chris Hegarty may well find himself playing a lot more as we don;t have great numbers in defence so again its time to step up and stake a claim. Fraser Aird has really come to the fore in the last two matches. changed the game against Montrose at weekend and terrorised Motherwell last night. Only 17 years old this lad has a massive future at the club and will only get better. I expect Aird and McKay to rotate regularly to prevent burnout as both give it everything and are up and down those flanks the whole game.
So to sum it £14 million has brought us back roughly that much back in transfer fees but there is no question it has produced several quality young players. Some have made an impact at Rangers and some haven’t but for me its unfair to judge the training base only on transfer fees received its all about the quality it produces and the current crop are arguably the most exciting to come out of it yet.
One will question the current climate and circumstances now compared to ones of the past where the youth may not have been appreciated as much then as they are now. But there is no question we have some exciting young players at the moment and have produced quality ones in the past also. Youth academies take time to produce and there isn’t a guaranteed conveyor belt of talent all the time.
It might even be this crop while exciting are the signs of thing to come and we haven’t produced our best batch yet.
So my answer to the question is yes it has been a hit over and over again. Not only for youth but it has attracted many top players in the past who want to go to their work in such a wonderful training base and it will attract top players in years to come.
Young players at Auchenhowie keep working hard to grace your skills in such a fantastic setting and don’t take it for granted. Hard work always works in football and is mostly rewarded with great success.
Keep up the good work Rangers we are all behind you
Thanks for stopping by The Sports Lab