STEVEN GERRARD has urged his Light Blue kids to prove they are good enough to handle the demands of playing at Ibrox and earn a first team berth with Rangers.

The 38-year-old has involved the likes of Ross McCrorie and Glenn Middleton this term as they continue to go from strength to strength.

Now the next crop of up-and-coming talents have the chance to stake a claim as Gerrard assess his options for next season.

Rangers will face Celtic in the Scottish Youth Cup final on Thursday night at Hampden.

And Graeme Murty’s side set up a final day title shoot out with their Old Firm rivals after beating Hamilton in the Reserve League on Tuesday.

The silverware is a secondary objective for Gerrard, though, as he keeps his eye out for the next youngsters capable of making a name for themselves at Ibrox.

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Gerrard said: “There is no point having an Academy if you are not going to give opportunities to players. But, having said that, in my position, the message to all the Academy staff is ‘get them ready’.

“I can’t play players with just talent. They have to be ready from a physical point of view, from a mental point of view.

“Talent will only get them so far. But, as someone who has been through an Academy system, as someone who has worked in an Academy system, and also being a fan, I understand what it means to the Rangers fans to have their own local players coming through and being produced.

“But my job is a very pressured job, probably one of the most pressured jobs out there.

“So I can’t take risks or risk us not getting the right result because I am playing too many youngsters or playing youngsters that are not ready. I can’t just play on talent. They have to be ready in every department.

“I think the guys are doing a good job at the Academy.

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“Winning the Reserve League and winning the Youth Cup, I don’t want this to come out the wrong way, it is not the priority for me.

“It’s where is the next Ross McCrorie? Where is the next Glenn Middleton? Because they are the players that are going to help us achieve things with the first team, and that is the priority.

“If, along the way, we manage to win a Reserve League or a Youth Cup, great. Good for the kids, good experience to win and get them used to winning.

“That is all fantastic, but my priority is who is next? Because it saves the board an awful lot of money having to go out and buy people or loan people.

“The constant message from first team down is ‘who is next?’”

Boss Gerrard had a chance to cast his eye over several youngsters as Rangers hosted the Liverpool Under-23 side in a behind-closed-doors bounce game at Ibrox.

The Light Blues boss also used the fixture to give some of his fringe first team players a run-out ahead of the final four games of the Premiership campaign against Aberdeen, Hibernian, Celtic and Kilmarnock.

Rangers came from behind to draw 4-4 with their Reds counterparts and Gerrard had mixed emotions after the friendly outing.

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He told RangersTV: “It is a couple of different reasons really. The first one is to give people game time who maybe haven’t played much and we want to try and keep them as sharp and as fit as possible for the run-in.

“And the other big reason is to have a look at some of the young talent that has been doing really well in the Reserves or the 18s and give them an opportunity be around the first team lads and see whether they could cope playing against good players at Ibrox.

“It was a very useful game and I probably learned more in that 90 minutes about the players than I have done all season because it was a game of two halves.

“First half was an embarrassment and the second half was fantastic.

“It was a very useful exercise for different reasons and, in terms of us as a staff, we learned so much about the players individually.”