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Ibrox journey to top flight offers fare for youngsters

Lewis Macleod and Fraser Aird are still in their teens, but they are already role models.

Gasparotto will hope for playing time if Rangers win League 1 with games to spare
Gasparotto will hope for playing time if Rangers win League 1 with games to spare

By establishing themselves in the Rangers first team, they have showed other young players at Murray Park that they can prove themselves capable of playing in the senior side. "All the young boys know that it's round the corner," says Luca Gasparotto, the 18-year-old defender.

A run of form helps, and the under-20 side, managed by Gordon Durie, are currently top of their league and on Sunday will face Dunfermline in the quarter-final of the Scottish Youth Cup. The game will be played at Ibrox, in front of a crowd, and is a further opportunity for a crop of players to show that they have the potential to succeed. Ally McCoist is closely monitoring their development, since he attends the under-20s fixtures and several members of Durie's squad are regularly invited to take part in first-team training sessions.

Gasparotto made several appearances last season, while Andy Murdoch and Danny Stoney have broken through, and Charles Telfer and Craig Halkett were on the bench against Ayr United last Saturday. Along with Barrie McKay and Robbie Crawford, the success of Macleod and Aird in the first team has provided inspiration. "They came into the team at the start of last season and really put a marker down," said Telfer, an 18-year-old midfielder.

"Fraser wasn't getting a game at the start of this season, but now you can't put him out of the team because he is playing so well. I've been on the bench for the first team and I train with them all the time. It would be brilliant to make my debut because I've been a fan since I was nine."

Gasparotto was considered as a replacement for the suspended Lee McCulloch and Bilel Mohsni against Ayr, only for McCoist to opt for the experience of Emilson Cribari to cope with the aggression and aerial power of Kevin Kyle. Even so, the Canadian is highly thought of and could yet break into the side before the end of the season. McCoist has indicated that once Rangers have secured the SPFL League 1 title, he will look to introduce more of the youth players.

"There's always a chance [to breakthrough], with injuries and suspensions," said Gasparotto. "When it does, you have to grab it. I'm hoping the gaffer can throw in some of the young boys to get experience."

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