CRAIG MULHOLLAND is confident the Rangers academy can emerge stronger from the Covid pandemic as the Light Blues bid to produce their own stars of the future.

Supporters have played their part in that ambition once again in recent months and the Rangers Youth Development Company this week handed over a cheque for £450,000 to the youth structure at Auchenhowie.

Defender Nathan Patterson has become the latest role model for the next generation to follow as he looks to go from strength to strength and become a key part of Steven Gerrard's side in the coming years.

And Head of Academy Mulholland is delighted with the position Rangers find themselves in away from first team level as several promising talents continue to catch the eye this term.

Mulholland said: “As ever we are hugely indebted to Colin, his team at RYDC, and of course the Rangers supporters for their ongoing backing and belief in what we are trying to achieve in the Academy.

"That gratitude is even greater this year given the challenges RYDC have faced in raising the money and Colin and his team must receive huge praise for the innovation they have shown to still raise such a fantastic sum in the unique circumstances.

“The pandemic has forced organisations such as RYDC to be creative and fresh in their approach and that has also been the case in the Academy this year.

"The dynamic online programmes designed in a short period of time have been industry-leading and have supported all our players through lockdown in a way that everyone associated with the club can be proud of. This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of RYDC.

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“In 2020 we also witnessed debuts for Nathan Patterson, Kai Kennedy, Ciaran Dickson and 16 year-old Leon King. Nathan has now firmly established himself in the manager’s first-team group and we are delighted that Nathan, Kai and Ciaran have all committed to long term deals within the last couple of weeks, ensuring Rangers retain some of the country’s best young talent.

"In 2020 we also achieved the highest number of youth internationals we have ever recorded with a third of the Scotland under-21’s squad coming from Rangers Academy. This is a significant achievement and highlights to all young players the quality of football education they receive at Rangers.

“Pre-lockdown our ‘best v best’ games programme also went from strength to strength with our first ever participation in the prestigious UEFA Youth League, losing out to Atletico Madrid in the last 32 - the furthest any Scottish club had ever reached.

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"We reached the semi-final of the SPFL Challenge Cup - further than any other Premiership Colt Team had ever achieved, and for the second year in a row, we had the Player of the Tournament at the Alkass Cup in Qatar when Charlie Lindsay followed Kai Kennedy, competing with players from the likes of Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid and PSG.

"These challenges are critical in the process designed to develop players for Rangers first-team.

“We now have 10 players across the top two divisions in Scotland undertaking their transition from Academy to first-team football on-loan with the likes of Josh McPake, Stephen Kelly, James Maxwell and several others all performing superbly for their loan clubs.

"In summary, this has been, despite the significant challenges, a very positive year for the Academy and an even more exciting future awaits. None of this is possible without the help and support from RYDC.”