RANGERS manager Ally McCoist has mounted a defence of his record in promoting young players to first-team level at the club following the contentious loss of highly-rated teenager Charlie Telfer to Dundee United.
The 18-year-old midfielder’s move to Tannadice last week, which looks set to be the subject of a transfer tribunal, has caused disquiet among a section of the Rangers support who believe Telfer should have been given more first-team opportunities by McCoist last season.
The Scotland under-19 international, regarded by SFA performance director Mark Wotte as one of Scottish football’s brightest prospects, made just one senior appearance for Rangers as a late substitute in a 4-0 win at Stenhousemuir in April.
Telfer rejected the offer of a new contract with the League 1 champions, instead opting to join United where he has stated he believes manager Jackie McNamara will offer him the chance to develop his career as a first-team player in the SPFL Premiership.
Speaking for the first time about Telfer’s departure, McCoist expressed regret at the move but insisted products of the youth academy at Rangers have been offered a path to first-team football under his management. “We wish Charlie all the best but we were obviously very sad to see him go,” said McCoist. “He trained with the squad and came on against Stenhousemuir last season and we feel he is a great prospect. He still is a great prospect but sadly for Dundee United now.
“We offered Charlie terms which he was well within his rights to decline and turn down and he did so. He has moved to Dundee United with our best wishes. The first thing people have to realise is it was Charlie’s decision. We wanted to keep Charlie but he obviously decided to turn down the offer that was put to him by the club.
“I can understand people questioning why would Charlie want to go to Dundee United rather than stay at Rangers. He can answer that, he has been quoted in the newspapers recently. But we have been delighted with some of the younger boys that have come through. Last year alone we had 13 academy graduates who played for the first team. Some of them will develop quicker than others. Look at boys like Lewis Macleod, Calum Gallagher, Barrie McKay, Fraser Aird and numerous more who have come through the academy.
“We are delighted with the academy, we want to get as many coming through as possible but 13 last year is good and we will never rest on it.
“Jimmy Sinclair and the lads in the youth department are very pleased that myself, Kenny McDowall and Ian Durrant have told them, and we stand by it, if we feel the kids are due an opportunity and deserve an opportunity then they will certainly get one.
“They will always get the opportunity. Even further back Allan McGregor, Barry Ferguson, Charlie Adam, Chris Burke, Stevie Smith – international footballers a lot of them – have come through the academy at Murray Park. Perhaps the whole thing has been blown up a little bit because Charlie has exercised his right to move on but we will continue to work hand in hand with the academy. The boys that warrant and deserve their chance, I can reassure everybody, will get it.”
Rangers chief executive Graham Wallace, meanwhile, says McCoist will be in a position to make further additions to his squad over the summer following the acquisition of former Scotland striker Kenny Miller last week.
“Things are going well,” Wallace told the official Rangers website. “We spent some time with Alistair working out what he wanted to do with the squad for next season.
“We’ve announced the signing of Kenny Miller, who is joining the club for the third time, and we are delighted about that. We have several other things we are in the process of working on so I think the fans can expect to see some further new faces coming to the club in the near future.
“We want to make sure we’ve got the capability to get the job done next season and get us back in the top division.
“We are constantly looking to improve the calibre of what we’ve got.
“We have been careful to balance the needs of the immediate term so that we’re successful in the Championship with the medium-term requirements. We’re looking at players who will have a part to play next season but who will have a bigger part to play in the seasons to come.
“I’m sure people realise we’re building and blending the squad and there’s a mixture of needs. We’re very comfortable with our plans there in terms of moving forward.
“Alistair and I are constantly speaking and we’re talking several times a day at this time of year as we look at the needs of the team and we are well positioned.”