BILLY KIRKWOOD has known for some time the potential of the latest Murray Park graduates.

And the Rangers youth coach has revealed how the Light Blues' Lewis Macleod and Barrie McKay were tipped for stardom 12 months ago in Turkey.

The duo were part of the squad Kirkwood accompanied to Alanya at the turn of the year as part of the Leonardo da Vinci Programme.

Rangers will return to the continent in January for another fortnight in the sun, with the Gers supremo eager to see his current crop progress as quickly as his former students.

"There are people at the hotel who are in charge of the football side of the trip and they always look at the players and talk about this one or that one," Kirkwood told SportTimes.

"The two that the staff picked out last year were Lewis and Barrie.

"They have team photos of us up over there and I am sure it is good for them to look and see which players have come back on the trip.

"We say that if they don't come back, they are probably in the first team.

"We have got three members of that group in the first team now, which is great.

"The staff there take a great interest in the lads. I will be seeking them out to see which ones they rate this year and you never know, they could be in the first team next year.

"The whole department are delighted with the way things are going and the manner in which the boys have progressed."

A group of 17 players and three coaches will jet out to Turkey next month where they will spend two weeks sampling different training methods and unfamiliar territory on the continent.

Several current Rangers first-team stars have been on similar trips in recent years and Kirkwood hopes history will repeat itself once again.

He said: "It has stood the lads in good stead over the years and you look at some of them that have been on the trip and how well they are doing now.

"We are developing them all the time at Murray Park and when we go on the trip they bond really well together.

"Fraser (Aird), Lewis and Barrie were all there last year and it helps them in terms of their education. There are always different teams there, so you can develop by watching and talking to them.

"Hopefully they can come back and kick on like the lads have done from previous years."

The biggest benefit of their two-week Turkey trip is, unsurprisingly, the chance to escape the Scottish winter and enjoy some sun.

The kids have seen their training disrupted in recent weeks due to the big freeze but there should be no problems come January.

Kirkwood said: "We can get a month's training done in the time we are there, and it is on grass as well.

"Monday was the first time we had been on the grass at Murray Park for over two weeks because of the frost and the snow we have had.

"Hopefully we can go to Turkey and we can get the boys out in the sun. Their fitness will be better and their technique will improve because of the contact time they can get with the ball."