THEY say necessity is the mother of all invention. Dennis Bergkamp used to play the ball off a car wheel to help develop his one-two technique; Jinky Johnstone would organise the furniture in his kitchen in order that he could slalom round the stools; the Hearts, Spurs and Scotland legend Dave Mackay dribbled a tennis ball to and from school.

In the midst of the lockdown, social media has been awash with videos showcasing the best of young, elite Scottish footballers and their talents. But, make no mistake, they are working to strict programmes as defined by their clubs rather than merely freestyling for the cameras.

Since the coronovirus outbreak brought a halt to football in Scotland on March 10, youth players have been receiving highly-structured tuiton from their coaches via a variety of technological methods and then submitting them back for assessment. If that all sounds a little too stringent, then nothing could be further from the truth.

One youngster at Rangers has taken to blindfolding himself when performing exercises at home and according to Craig Mulholland, the club's head of academy, it is something he and his fellow coaches will look to incorporate into future exercises.

“No Rangers coach will ever shout at a kid for trying something different because if we do that they won't try it again and we don't want to limit their imaginations to our teachings,” says Mulholland. “What we have actually found is although we have suggested a number of practices which they are all working on, some of the videos coming back are quite different from what we laid down and that's fine, that's good. We want players who are exciting and creative because if you look at the Scottish game we probably don't produce many of them compared to other nations.”

For Mulholland, who usually oversees 18 hours of interaction with his 11-15 year old players through the club's Boclair Academy programme, the absence of daily contact has been a setback but also a positive.

“The feedback we have had from parents has been exceptional,” he adds. “The parents have probably looked at [the videos] in a way that they wouldn't get to see if their kid was at the training ground training normally. We need to consider how we can engage the parents in what is a big part of these kids lives. How can we engage them in the process and show them what we do on the training ground?”

Asked if he sees similarties with the methods of the stars of yesteryear, he says it is different now, it is more structured with greater input from coaches concerned with producing 'complete' players, on and off the pitch.

“Every Monday they get two Coerver online exercises, two Rangers skill exercises and they get two SenseBall exercises. They'll also get video outlining an aspect of our game model which will done be with a voiceover from the coaches and animation. Their challenge during the course of the week is to submit these videos back to their coaches; they will be graded by the coaches and then they will move on to the new levels from there.

“In addition to that we will have a webinar on Tuesday night which will not be technical – it will be on diet presentation, a range of topics like gambling, sectarianism, stuff like that to create this holistic player – and that by the time they come back whenever that may be they will come back having improved technically, physically and mentally.”

So has the lockdown actually given Mulholland food for thought about innovations that might enhance the way his young players learn at Rangers?

“For us, our motto is always 'we want to be better tomorrow than we were yesterday' that's just through the whole football department at Rangers. It won't change a lot of the good work and good practice that goes on currently but what it will do is give some additionality to the way we teach. We have players who live in Stranraer, players who live as far away as Dundee, some who live in Fife and often asking them to travel as often as some of the other kids is a challenge. What this has actually taught us is there are probably more remote ways that we can enhance their learning.”

“On the webinar there is an annotation tool, so any of the kids or the coaches can draw notes on the screen at any given time. Last night we had green pens, red pens, blue pens [all over the screen] as they are all debating what our structure is like, it's terrific. To be honest it has been driven by this crisis and we as a management team are looking at it and saying how can we use this tool when we start back to our normal practice?”

The hiatus has also allowed the Rangers players to open up their minds to the game more, encouraging them to self-asses much as they do at academies on the continent such as Ajax's De Toekomst and Barcelona's La Masia.

“Unsolicited by us, some of the under-16 players set up their own meeting online and they reviewed some of the footage so that they were prepared for the time when they spoke to the coaches at night to go and ask some questions. That was nothing to do with us, that was them going off their own backs to do that.”

You see, necessity really is the mother of all invention.