RANGERS are capable of reclaiming their position as the dominant team in Scotland in the coming seasons - if they focus on bringing through their best academy players instead of making multi-million pound signings.

FIFA yesterday gave the SFA the go-ahead to open a summer transfer window that will run until midnight on October 5 – not the end of August or start of September as has previously been the case – due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ibrox manager Steven Gerrard has strengthened his squad considerably already by signing Ianis Hagi for £3m from Belgian club Genk and also bringing in Calvin Bassey from Leicester City and Jon McLaughlin from Sunderland.

However, fans of the Glasgow club are, with city rivals Celtic set to bid for a record-breaking 10th consecutive Scottish title in the 2020/21 campaign, eager to see Gerrard make more acquisitions in the coming weeks.

Former Rangers winger Pieter Huistra, though, believes his old employers can ensure their long-term success by shunning the international transfer market and putting their faith in developing outstanding young prospects.

Dutch internationalist Huistra played in this country during the Nine-In-A-Row era in the 1990s and can recall how first Graeme Souness and then his successor Walter Smith spent lavishly on renowned international stars at that time.

But the 53-year-old, who has worked as both a manager and sporting director across the world since retiring from playing, appreciates the game has changed beyond recognition since then and knows the Govan club no longer has the resources needed to bring in the same standard of footballer.

He feels they should follow the examples of Ajax in his homeland, Porto in Portugal and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria - and concentrate on promoting home-grown kids to their first team and bringing in and developing raw youngsters.

“Rangers have improved a little bit every year since they have returned to the top division,” said Huistra. “Every season they have got a little bit closer to Celtic. If they keep the momentum they have built up going then I believe in the next two or three years they will be past Celtic.

“They’re not back to where they were yet. When I was there we won everything (Rangers lifted five consecutive Scottish titles between 1990 and 1995 when Huistra was in the team). But if they keep on going they way they have been, keep working together and keep making the right decisions on which players to take to the club, they will get there.

“Rangers have to say what kind of club they want to be in the European game. It is completely different to when I was there. There was big money, there was investment and they brought in top international players who had played for their country at the World Cup. Now they can’t do that. They need a different strategy.

“They have to be more like Ajax to succeed in the game today. I have been at their academy in Glasgow and I thought there was a lot of talent there. They have to develop them. They have to make sure these players are ready to play in the first team. For me, it is the only way to do something.

“They should look at teams like Red Bull Salzburg, Ajax and Porto and try to emulate their success. There are always ways. It is possible. They need to keep investing in good young players. Of course, they need the right manager on board to develop these players as well. But I believe in Steven Gerrard, who came through the youth ranks at Liverpool, they have the man to do that.”

Huistra is currently, after spells in his native Netherlands, Indonesia, Japan and Slovakia, working under former Rangers striker Shota Arveladze on the coaching staff at Pakhtakor Tashkent in Uzbekistan. His forward-thinking philosophy is clearly paying off in Central Asia.

“We’re doing well,” he said. “Last season we won the quadruple. We won every competition apart from the Asian Champions League. This year the plan was to go really far in that tournament before football was suspended because of coronavirus outbreak.”

Huistra revealed how he and Arveladze, the Georgian forward who won every honour in Scottish football during his four seasons at Rangers in the 2000s, regularly regale their Pakhtakor players with tales of their trophy-laden stints at Ibrox.

“I’m assistant coach,” he said. “I am a mentor, an advisor, to the manager. But Shota is the leader of the project, he pulls it all together. It is nice that we both have the Rangers background. We share stories with the players every week.

“We both had spells at Ajax, Shota as a player and myself as a coach, too. But, strangely, I didn’t know him until we came to Tashkent. We were introduced by an agent and that is how the association came about. He is a great character. He has got huge charisma. It’s important to have an individual like that to lead a club.

“Rangers certainly have that at the moment with Steven Gerrard in charge. I still check to see how Rangers are doing and it has been good to see them getting closer to Celtic than they have been for some time now. I am sure if they keep progressing the way they have been they will be ahead of them soon.”