20-20 vision for Durie as he shapes the future of first team

THE call came from the Light Blue.

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Gordon Durie is revelling in his role as Under-20 coach at Rangers
Gordon Durie is revelling in his role as Under-20 coach at Rangers

The voice on the other end of the phone was a welcome one for Gordon Durie, with the offer forthcoming from Ally McCoist just what the doctor ordered after a health scare that shocked Scottish football.

Just minutes after seeing his East Fife side take on Queen of the South last August, Durie collapsed in the shower and was rushed to hospital.

It took him time to get back on his feet after being floored by the mystery virus and now he is back in familiar surroundings and amongst old friends.

After stepping down from his position at New Bayview to focus on his recovery, he was approached by McCoist in the summer about joining the Gers manager's backroom team at Murray Park.

The 47-year-old is now an important member of the coaching set-up, working alongside Billy Kirkwood as the head of the Rangers Under-20 side to nurture the next crop of Ibrox idols.

"It is great to be back in the game," Durie said. "It was obviously a tough year for me last year but I am delighted to be back involved in football.

"If the boys keep playing like they are, it makes my job easier.

"It was a hard few months for me but I was delighted when Coisty gave me the call.

"I came in to work with the 20s in the summer and I am loving it. I am back involved in the game and that is important for myself and I am looking forward to the rest of the season."

Having been forced to take a back seat from the game he loves, Durie is now making the most of the chance he has working behind the blue crested gates at Murray Park.

It is not just first team hopefuls that he has taken under his wing so far this term, with those out of McCoist's reckoning taking a step back to hopefully stride two forward.

Fraser Aird has won his chance to shine in League One courtesy of his showings for the Ibrox second string, with the likes of David Templeton and Dean Shiels using their time with the Under-20s to strengthen their case for first-team inclusion.

"Airdy is the prime example for the boys to follow," Durie said. "He has played a few games for us and he has taken his chance with the first team.

"The boys will be disappointed that they are not playing in the first team but they have got to come to the 20s and show a good attitude.

"If they play well here, they will maybe then get their chance with the first team.

"I have been there before. Playing with the 20s is not what the first-team boys want to do but they have got to get used to it and use it as a chance to impress.

"Their attitude has got to be right. The boys we have had from the first team have been excellent and long may that continue.

"The two of them (Templeton and Shiels) have showed their class at this level but, unfortunately for them, they have not had as much match time as they would have liked so far this season.

"The only way they can get time on the park and build their fitness is by coming and playing with us. Their attitude has been spot on."

The Under-20 league has been the ideal proving ground for those that harbour dreams of regular first-team football with Rangers but making the step from Durie's side to McCoist's squad is easier said than done.

Of the host of Murray Park kids that burst on to the scene last season, only Lewis Macleod has held down a regular starting berth as the champions have romped into a commanding position in League One.

The arrival of a host of summer signings has blocked the route the Gers kids took 12 months ago but Durie insists the chances will still come for the brightest budding blue talents.

"There were a few young boys in the team last season that all did really well," he said. "Airdy and Barrie McKay have been around the first team again this year, as has Luca (Gasparotto).

"It is going to be harder for the boys this year.

"But if they show the right attitude and promise they will get their rewards.

"The manager comes to our games with Kenny (McDowall) so they know who is doing well. If the boys are called upon, they have to be ready.

"The boys know the situation and they know that it is going to be a lot harder for them. But if they keep producing at this level their chance will come."

The Gers' second string may not have enjoyed the superb early-season success of their first-team counterparts but there have been plenty of reasons to be cheerful for Durie and his players.

The Under-20 league takes a winter break after the next round of fixtures and, having got themselves well positioned in the table and advanced to the fifth round of the Scottish Youth Cup, it has been a productive few months for the Murray Park contingent.

Durie said: "I have been delighted with how the boys have done over the last few weeks.

"We have drawn a couple of games but we have won a few games in the league and got through against Hibs in the cup.

"There will be boys disappointed not to play but it is important that the first-team boys get match time as well.

"It is all about the development of players and getting the first-team boys some match practice as well.

"It is working well at the moment and long may that continue."


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