Murray Park youngsters a Brit too much for Europeans

Rangers looked on with no little envy as the Celtic under-19s got a European education against their counterparts from Barcelona, Marseille and Manchester City in the inaugural NextGen Series tournament earlier this season.

That feeling of being left out is set only to increase after it emerged Rangers fear their application to join the youth competition themselves next season will be refused because there are already too many British clubs involved.

With former central defender John Kennedy taking charge, Celtic exited after finishing third in their qualifying group with a respectable three wins including defeating Manchester City home and away.

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Celtic are one of five British teams already members, with Chelsea now confirmed as a sixth for next season. The competition will expand from 16 clubs to a possible 24, but the likes of PSG and Olympiacos have been approved ahead of Rangers.

Rangers Academy director Jimmy Sinclair, speaking ahead of his club’s under-17 Glasgow Cup final against Celtic tomorrow, admits force of numbers suggests they are unlikely to figure.

“We have applied to join,’ said Sinclair. ‘The issue that the organisers have is that there’s already Manchester City, Aston Villa, Liverpool, Tottenham and Celtic.

“They maybe feel if they take on too many teams from the British Isles it skews the competition’s European context.

“We’ve certainly been strong in our requests to get involved. Initially the soundings were positive, but the last information was that the geographical spread wasn’t right. I would hope there’s still scope for us, but I don’t know. I want to get into the tournament because it was really successful last year and the word is that UEFA are going to embrace it.”

Sinclair is already under fire from critics who maintain that Murray Park, opened back in 2001, has proved a waste of money for Rangers, an assertion he shoots back as unfair comment.

“We feel like we are batting away these questions all the time,” he added. “We get the odd article that says Murray Park isn’t working and that becomes the perception.

“My own view is that this place was so far ahead of its time, the perception was ‘by God, if you can’t produce kids here then you shouldn’t be in the business’. I think the magnificence of the place is working against us. We’re lumbered with the view it should be a conveyor belt.”

n Rangers U17 v Celtic U17, Ibrox, tomorrow, 7pm.