THE Stirling Albion players who will take to the field at Ibrox to play Rangers in the Scottish Cup on Friday evening will doubtless feel a mixture of excitement and trepidation about what lies ahead.

The chance to square up to the Glasgow giants in front of a capacity crowd does not come around very often for part-time footballers - but it will be quite a step up from facing Stranraer at Stair Park in cinch League 2.

Albion manager Darren Young, though, will appreciate the conflicting emotions his men will be experiencing and be well placed to help them handle the occasion.

The former Aberdeen midfielder was in their position in his first season in the first team at Pittodrie when he was just 17.

He had only featured in six Premier League matches when he was pitched in against a Nine-In-A-Row-chasing side that featured Richard Gough, Brian Laudrup, Paul Gascoigne and Jorg Albertz in a league encounter back in 1996.

Despite his tender years, Young helped Roy Aitken’s visitors to come from 2-0 down and draw 2-2 with Walter Smith’s celebrated charges.

“It was great for me as a young boy coming through,” he said as he looked ahead of the fourth round tie with Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side.

“The year before I had still been at school. Suddenly I was up against Gough, Laudrup, Gascogine and Albertz in front of 50,000 fans in an unbelievable atmosphere. It was an amazing day.

“But I felt sick after that first game against Rangers at Ibrox. I was dying. I remember I ended up just sitting in the shower I was that exhausted. So I know what my players will be feeling on Friday.”

It is highly unlikely that Albion, who are currently sitting mid-table in the fourth tier, will be able to pull off an upset against top flight opponents who are bidding to retain the Premiership and progress further in the Europa League this term no matter how well they acquit themselves.

Still, Young will savour being in the dugout at Ibrox regardless of what transpires. He parted company with East Fife after four years at New Bayview back in November following a disappointing run of results and did not enjoy being out of the game in the slightest.

“I am delighted to be back involved,” he said. “I had been in football since I was five and in professional football since I was 16. To find yourself out of a job after 26 years was weird. What do people do at three o’clock on a Saturday?

“I got nice messages from fans on social media which meant a lot. I got some good messages from other managers, from older managers, as well telling me ‘you’re a proper manager now you’ve been sacked!’.

“Fortunately, I was only out for 29 days. The Stirling Albion position came up and I spoke to the people at the club. It is a good challenge, a good project. We have been in League 2 for seven seasons now. Can we get out of it? Can we get to the play-offs and go up via that route?

“We need everything to go in our favour and Rangers to have an off night, but I do believe that we will create chances. We need to make sure we take them.”

Still, Young feels that Van Bronckhorst, who is undefeated in the nine games since succeeding Steven Gerrard as manager at Ibrox in November, has improved Rangers in the short period he has been back in Govan. He is anticipating a demanding night. 

“I came up against Van Bronckhorst as a player,” he said. “I am sure it will be a different experience coming up against him as a coach. Maybe I’ll be able to get a bit closer to him than I did on the park!

“Seriously, though, I think they have kicked on under him. From the games I have seen, they look like they have improved, have stepped up another level. They were doing fine under Steven Gerrard and were getting the results. But I think they are playing better football just now.

“They have got a hard match against Aberdeen on Tuesday night. But they could rest 11 internationalists and bring in another 11 internationalists.”

Young has been pleased to see Stephen Glass, his former Aberdeen team mate, come through a difficult spell at Pittodrie this season and expects his old club to compete strongly with their Premiership rivals, who they drew 2-2 with at Ibrox back in October, once again.  

“I played with Stevie when I was a younger,” he said. “I am friendly with him and I speak to him now and then. I think he has done well. He has a good idea about how he wants to go about the job and how he wants his team to play. His team started well, had a slight dip, but have now picked up again. I am sure Stevie will get to where he wants to be.”

Young’s first game in charge of Stirling at the start of this month proved problematic – he only had 10 first players available for the league meeting with Stenhousemuir at Ochilview due to positive Covid-19 tests and injuries.

He was, despite his team coming from behind to win 2-1, irked that an appeal to have the game postponed was dismissed. But dealing with the complications caused by coronavirus is nothing new to him. If his preparations for the Rangers match are disrupted he will take it in his stride.

“We were told we had to play the Stenhousemuir game because we had under-20 players available,” he said. “But none of our under-20 players had ever played in the first team.

“Other teams are allowed to cancel their games. I think it just depends who you speak to on the day. There doesn’t seem to be a hard and fast rule for it. It seems to me there is one rule for some and one rule for others.

“Last season when I was at East Fife we were forced to play Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. We had seven games in 15 days. Most of the guys were coming straight from work and then going straight back in to work. We just dealt with it. We wanted to get into the play-offs.

“But guys did end up suffering injuries. If you asked Celtic or Rangers to do that they would refuse because of the risk of injury to their players.”

Young added: “Rangers are a full-time Premiership team so we are under no illusions about how hard it will be on Friday, but we will go to Ibrox with a game plan and try to nick a goal.

“It is an opportunity for my guys to go and showcase their talents, to maybe get back in to full-time football. They should go and work as hard as they can and see where it takes them.”