THE investment - in time and money, in personnel and infrastructure - has been significant. The dividends could soon be paid out for Rangers.

For those looking to make their name at the Hummel Training Centre, there are reminders all around the building of players in whose footsteps they are attempting to follow at Ibrox.

That, of course, is easier said than done. The Academy remains a key part of the operation as a club and a business and Rangers’ long-term sustainability will rely in part on the work done in the youth wing of their Milngavie training base.

The facility itself has been upgraded and updated in recent months as boss Steven Gerrard has had an influence off the park as well as on it, while the blueprint devised by Craig Mulholland, the Head of Academy, has been in place for a couple of seasons now.

Around 20 per cent of Academy kids play up an age level every week to ensure they are tested out of their comfort zone. The loads placed on each must be managed and the logistics of moving players between squads and teams carefully plotted.

The Games Programme of two seasons ago has been reintroduced this term, while the Under-18s look set to progress in the UEFA Youth League once again following their domestic title success last season.

It is easy to always look further down the line, to say that the next group will be better than the current crop. The stars of tomorrow must be produced today.

“I think we are showing good signs but the ultimate test is when our young players go round and train with the first team,” Graeme Murty, the former Rangers boss that returned to his role with the Under-20s last summer, said. “They are seeing themselves having more opportunities, they are doing well when they go round there and we would like our players to continue that upward trajectory.

“We will do everything in our power to deliver good, quality players to the first team environment. Ultimately, though, it comes down to the players displacing good players in the first team and playing well, which as it should be.

“If ever there is a lesson to a young, aspirational footballer as to what it takes to get into any first team, there is a player wearing a shirt that you have to take. How do you do that? It is not easy, it is not for everyone. And when you are at a big club like this, that is really difficult.

“What we feel is that the education we are giving our young players in the Challenge Cup, in the Youth League, with the Games Programme that we have put on, we are preparing them better than we have done before and giving them a good chance to improve their education.”

The technical, tactical and physical attributes of a young talent can be moulded over time, but the mental aspect required of a Rangers player can be harder to fine tune if it is not instilled early on.

The successes Murty’s side enjoyed in the Development League and Youth Cup last term feed into that process. The medals will ultimately mean little if first team contracts are not signed, though.

“It is not the be-all-and-end-all for us, but it was almost a validation of the year out that we took the year before,” Murty said of the silverware his side won. “We saw a great deal of growth in our young players and those players that played significant minutes in that team that won the League have gone out on loan. You have got Matthew Shiels, Jordan Houston, Stevie Kelly, Cammy Palmer, they are all on loan, as are Zak Rudden and Josh McPake.

“These guys are following their individual plan and have gone out on loan at the right time, we feel, to get that level of exposure. Would it change the dynamic in our building if we kept them? Yes. Would it strengthen some of the teams we put out? Yes.

“But it is not right for them. We don’t want to keep our players in-house if it is not right for them individually. We like to get them that next challenge when we deem them ready for it.”

The work that Rangers do at youth level is already acclaimed but the targets must always be shifted, the bar continually raised. In time, could the Academy system become one of the best in Europe?

“I don’t think that is for us to say, I think that is for other people to say about us,” Murty said. “What we have to do is exceed the expectations.

“We have put a mission statement in place about how we want to operate and how we want to be viewed in the pantheon of football and one of the key messages, whenever you come into this building, is to never be satisfied with what has gone on before. We are striving.

“Whilst we are respectful of what has gone on before, we are striving to be better, to do better, to do more. That is something we did at the end of last season when we reviewed our curriculum, our teaching programme and made some alterations because we felt they would make us better and we will continue to do that.

“Everything we will continue to do will be assessed and adjusted to continue in this upward movement.”

For some, like Chelsea midfielder Billy Gilmour, that journey won’t include a stop in the Rangers first team and there will be talents that the Light Blues make money from before a ball is kicked at Ibrox.

There are high hopes for a handful of up-and-coming kids but those that show promise must become players that Gerrard can get the best out of.

“We think we are improving but we still think there is more to come from us,” he said. “So while we are happy with what we have done thus far, we are not content. We always look outside our model, we look at the bigger Academies, look at elite Academies, and say ‘are we on a level? Do we need to do something that they do?’

“We are always looking for that next step, next stage, that is going to give better quality to our players because ultimately they are what is important.

“It is not about us saying how good we are, it is about the product that we have at the end of it and we feel that the players are hitting a good level.

“But we always want to do more, always want them to do more.”

*Rangers Academy coach Graeme Murty is pictured promoting Rangers Pools for the Rangers Youth Development Company and fans can sign up now at

Existing subscribers and anyone who joins up before November 30 has the chance to win VIP tickets for the Cheltenham Gold Cup next year, a Mini Cooper plus tickets for Rangers v Hearts at Ibrox on December 1.

Rangers Pools profits are ring-fenced exclusively for the upkeep and maintenance of Ibrox Stadium.