FROM his office that overlooks the pitches at the Hummel Training Centre, Mark Allen can keep his eye on everything and anything to do with Rangers’ football operation.

He may not be able to see into the future, but he is confident that it will be bright for a club that went through more than its fair share of dark days before his arrival last summer.

With new personnel and strategies in place on and off the park, Allen has every piece of information he needs at his fingertips. When he glances out of his window, the lush green parks in view are the field of dreams for a generation of Ibrox hopefuls.

The successes or failures of Steven Gerrard’s side this season will shape the opinions of supporters and will form the judgements on everyone from the Liverpool legend down through the trail of responsibility.

It is Allen that is above him, though. Where Gerrard can afford to focus week to week, game to game, the Director of Football must be able to stand back and look at the bigger picture.

The Academy system at Rangers was underfunded and understaffed during the barren years for the club as a once in a lifetime opportunity was spurned and cash was burned on overpaid players throughout their climb back from the Third Division.

The steps to make up for lost time started before Allen was appointed last summer but the efforts continue to be increased as he works alongside Head of Academy Craig Mulholland and the new band of coaches, and new batches of players, making their way in blue.

“There is an opportunity here and one of the parts of me taking this job was that there had to be an acceptance that there was a place for youth development and that there was a pathway through to the first team,” Allen told SportTimes.

“I have put that very high on the agenda in terms of the strategy of the football club. What I need to do is ensure we invest in the right facilities, the right players, the right programmes, and we make sure that the managers of Rangers Football Club believe in youth development. Then, the pathway has been created and it is down to the player to tread the boards.

“I don’t see any reason why this can’t be a successful operation but what we need to get right is all the things that support it so the recruitment has to be right, the sports science has to be right, the analytics has to be right, the coaching has to be right. Everything has to be of the level that gives the best environment for a young player to develop.”

It is, of course, one thing being able to impress at youth level and work your way up through the ranks, but quite another having the talent and mentality to forge a career for yourself at Rangers. For the majority, that challenge will prove beyond them.

That won’t stop the kids and coaches from trying, however, and their efforts won’t be overlooked at Ibrox while Gerrard is at the helm.

The 38-year-old’s own rise to prominence at Liverpool should inspire any player that dares to dream, while his coaching experience with the Reds’ Under-19s has given him a fresh perspective from the sidelines.

“It was all part of the recruitment policy, obviously, when I was looking for a manager,” Allen said.

“One of the significant factors was someone that believed in youth development and someone that was prepared to give youth a chance, if they are good enough.

“They have to be good enough to be given that chance and no manager would want to be in the position when they aren’t. But I think we are very fortunate that we have a manager that has come through a very successful Academy development programme himself and reached the highest levels in the game.

“He is an advocate and a supporter of a youth development and I think he would like nothing better than to promote young players, if they are good enough.”

The question of quality is as important at Under-17 or Under-20 level as it is when it comes to the first team that Gerrard overhauled in the summer. If you are not good enough, then you are no use to Rangers.

The nurturing of their own talent was once an added bonus for Rangers as the likes of Allan McGregor and Barry Ferguson supplemented and starred in squads that were full of international players and cost significant sums to assemble.

But it must become the norm rather than the exception in the coming years as Allen looks to ensure the investment, both in time and money, pays off and leaves Rangers with something to show for their efforts.

“It is a very dedicated group of people that are very good at their jobs,” he said. “There is a very clear plan, a clean structure, and it bodes well for a solid foundation upon which to build.

“Obviously my goal is to try and ensure that we produce players out of the Academy that are good enough to play part in our first team squad.

“At the heart of any successful club is a successful Academy, it is the lifeblood. It is what fans really want to see, Academy products coming through into the first team arena, and we are no different to that.

“It is a vital part of our business strategy and we have got to produce the right players.”

If Rangers are to polish rough stones into diamonds, they must first source the right raw materials. It is a search that is constantly ongoing at every level.

Unearthing and then recruiting the finest prospects from across Europe is an increasingly difficult task, though, as the richest clubs snap up the most promising players long before they become household names. It is closer to home where Rangers have the advantage, however.

“I think we all have to be cognisant of where and how we can make that possible,” Allen said.

“Look, I am no different to any other Director of Football in that you want to attract the best talent to your football club, whether that be youth or first team.

“First and foremost, what we can’t miss is the best talent locally, that is absolutely imperative to the success of any Academy. You don’t miss the local talent and that is the something that the primary focus will be on.

“I think when you set out on these things, there has to be a goal and that is that you produce your own. That is the most economical and sustainable part of any business, there is no secret there.

“The more we can produce and the more we can get through, the better the financial model looks. However, they have to be the right talent and it has to be talent that forms part of a winning Rangers team.”

*Rangers Director of Football Mark Allen is pictured promoting the Rangers Youth Development Company.

Since 2002, RYDC profits have been directed to Rangers Football Club’s youth programme - with more than £7.5 million provided in those 16 years.

For full details on RYDC’s growing portfolio of products – the re-launched Rangers Pools, Rangers Lotto, Rising Stars, Scratchcards, Stadium Bricks and the Youth Members Club - visit or call 0141 427 4914.