AS role models go, there are worse players to look up to than Kevin Thomson. Now, even more aspiring kids have the chance to do just that.

At only 33, Thomson looks like he could still pull on his boots and do a job in the middle of the park. With his playing days behind him, he is looking to the future, though.

The Academy in his name celebrated its first anniversary in November but those youngsters and those commitments are not the only ones that he has these days.

Thomson recently returned to Rangers as part of a new coaching blueprint implemented by Head of Academy Craig Mulholland and takes charge of the Light Blues’ Under-13 side, as well as helping out with the 14s and 16s squads.

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It is all-action for Thomson. Given the way he played the game, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’m shattered. It’s seven days a week but I love it,” he said. “I’ve added this to my Academy and taking on an extra commitment was something I had to think about, but I’ve loved every minute.

“I was asked a few months back and I thought at first it would be difficult because my own Academy is so busy but when I spoke to Craig Mulholland they were really flexible in making sure my Academy could still work, along with integrating and taking on a team.

“Thursday was my day off from my Academy and a Tuesday was a day I went to clubs, so I’ve given that up and on a Saturday morning I get to kick off at 1pm with my Rangers boys so head straight through here after the games involving my own Academy teams. It’s working well, apart from my wife not being very happy.”

At Rangers, Thomson is working with players that must be the best of the best if they are to make the grade. At the other end of the M8, his kids have a chance to be the best they can be.

The midfielder reached the top of the game as a player but he has started his coaching career at grassroots level. It is a route not all former professionals would have opted to take.

“I probably, at 27, 28 if you had asked me if I would work with kids I would have said the same,” Thomson said.

“But after working with Lee Makel at Hibs, I changed my mind within one session and cast an eye over what I could give to make these kids better.

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“It was the same fundamentals when I started my Academy and I’ve come into Rangers with exactly the same belief. I’ve got a big passion to make a wee difference.

“Making a difference at a first team level will hopefully be a bridge I cross at one time. But I certainly want longevity as a young coach and to be the best I can be.”

It is 11 years since Thomson made the move from Hibernian to Rangers and he would go on to enjoy the most successful period of his career under the guidance of Walter Smith.

His personal characteristics and physical capabilities were honed and improved at Auchenhowie and he would win five major honours, and reach the UEFA Cup final, before he left to join Middlesbrough.

Injury may have curtailed his aspirations in later years but the standards he set himself are now being imparted on a new generation.

“The biggest thing for me was that I probably felt I wee bit hard done by in terms of prolonging my career and I always felt I would get a lot of luck as a young coach,” Thomson said.

“Probably the respect and the hard work for me didn’t start for me until it was a wee bit too late, but I was lucky I got there anyway. I probably never started being really selfish and narrow minded until I joined Rangers.

“When I was at Hibs it probably all came a bit too easy for me. I don’t want these generations to be the ones that start working hard when it’s too late. Fortunately for me I got to get there without doing the hard work to start with, but I want them to have that before they get there.

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“Hopefully that creates better players and an environment for each of them to push each other on. A lot of them will fall short, but I would hate for them to fall short because they failed to grasp they need to work really hard to get there.”

Much has changed at Rangers since the days when Thomson was flying into tackles and leading by example in a side that Smith managed with distinction.

The walls of the Rangers Football Centre are adorned with pictures of Academy graduates and silverware successes and the traits that were at the heart of those tales remain as important now as they were then for Thomson.

He said: “I say to mums and dads at my Academy....people see me as the player and get different vibes off different people but one thing I always say to parents is that in my opinion to be a young football player you need to be hard working, but also respectful and thirdly you need to try and be the best you can be. I’m trying to instil that in every kid who comes into my care.

“They are great fundamentals for a player. I saw a youth team player there sweeping the floors and he told me he hated that job. I told him I hate doing lots of things, but it’s important you do them always with a smile on your face.

“The harsh reality is my habits...if I see a bottle of juice lying I’ll pick it up and put it in the bin, even though it wasn’t mine.

“That doesn’t make you a better footballer but if you appreciate your surroundings you’ll try to make the best of them and that’s something I’m trying to implement.”

It will be some time before the kids that Thomson teaches have a chance of making the grade at Rangers and realising their own ambitions in Light Blue.

Few will ever scale the heights that he did, but everyone will be given the chance to live the dream at whatever level they aspire to reach.

Thomson said: “My biggest hunch right across society and grassroots football, pro youth and first team is we don’t work hard enough.

“Some say they work 20 hours a week but the harsh reality is you only need to work at my academy for 45 minutes and you crawl off the pitch.

“People can kid themselves on coming in here and kicking a ball about if they’re not doing it at the right intensity to try and get better.

“That’s something we’ve tried to create in the Academy that when you train, it’s with a purpose and when you do something you do it to make a difference. That’s something I’m trying to implement into all the kids who come under my care.”

*Kevin Thomson was pictured promoting the Rangers Youth Development Company and their £8k in 2018 Lotto campaign. £10 million in prizes has already been won in recent years and it costs just £1 to play. Full details on RYDC and their portfolio of products can be found at