THE Old Firm are set to quit the SPFL Reserve League after raising concerns about its suitability for producing the next generation of players for Rangers, Celtic and Scotland.

A proposal that could have seen players from the Old Firm Academy systems play within the professional setup as ‘Colt’ teams has been met with strong resistance from lower league clubs for several years.

Now the Glasgow giants are on the brink of removing their respective sides from the Reserve League, which is mainly an Under-20 competition, and go it alone, as Rangers did last term when they arranged a series of matches with their peers from across England and Europe.

And Celtic Head of Youth Development Chris McCart believes the rejection of ‘B’ teams in the SPFL structure will leave more clubs with no option but to pursue an alternative setup to increase the standard of player being produced in Scotland.

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McCart said: “We are trying to improve and bridge the gap between the Reserves and the top team. We wanted to create a Colts team in the lower leagues but that was knocked back.

“So now we are looking at other opportunities. It isn’t just Celtic and Rangers, there are about half a dozen clubs looking at what is best for their young players.

“Some of them right now might not be good enough for the first team on a regular basis, but they have outgrown the Under-20s.

“We have all put players out on loan which is a great opportunity but you don’t have the same care, or control over these players if they were at your club.

“We are looking how we can improve the structure and pathway so it is better for the young players, so when they do get the chance, that they are better equipped and keep their place.

“I think there is a lack of consistency in terms of the quality of teams in the Reserve League. One week you can be in a really tough game, but the next game you can be winning 6-0 or 7-0.

“One week you are playing on a quality pitch, but the next you are basically playing on a public park. It is about trying to get consistency. It is about the quality and competitiveness.

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“You want to come off after every game and think ‘that was a real game and we have learned something there’. A large percentage of the game just passes you by and it is about fitness, rather than taking something from it.

“About half a dozen teams are looking at how we can develop and stretch the ability of their young players.

“Rangers came out the league a few years ago and Craig Mulholland raves about it.

“When Neil Lennon was the reserve team manager ten years ago we did the same thing. Lenny would take teams down south every two weeks as well as European teams.

“James Forrest actually came through that model. He was someone who had outgrown the Under-19s.

“The cross-border games were a good quality and test for us. It is about striking the balance.

“There is something about the reserve league which is good and attracts us, but you need that consistency and quality in the matches.”

Rangers Director of Football Mark Allen has long been an advocate of Scotland following countries such as Holland and Spain and increasing the prominence of Colt teams.

The idea is unlikely to ever gain the required support within Hampden, however, and there seems little chance of the Old Firm being involved in the Reserve League in the long term.

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Rangers played some of the top teams in Europe as part of their Games Programme last season and Head of Academy Craig Mulholland was pleased with the progress his Light Blue kids made.

Mulholland said: “We will announce in the next couple of weeks what we are going to do.

“I think the Reserve League, going back in this year, while a lot of people have a romantic notion about what Reserve football was years ago, if that was still Reserve football then great.

“But you are not getting experienced players to come and teach young players. The variables in the competition was such that one week you were winning comfortably, the next week was a challenge. It is not right for developing our players.

“There is no crowd, no press, no real challenge. What we need to do, and we have got some real talent and 40 international players in the Academy, is take them and say ‘right, we are not doing what has been done before.’

“We need to do something different. What we might do next might work, it might not. I think last year’s programme, when we look back on it, was a real success.

“The boys have played Bayern Munich, played Feyenoord, played Manchester City. So they are used to playing in big games and we hope they go and perform well.

“You have to prepare them for that, you can’t just hope they get that, you have to prepare them for that.”