THE approach to management is the same as it was to playing. It is no-nonsense and straight-talking, the messages clear and concise yet delivered with a firm authority.

When Steven Gerrard speaks, Kevin Thomson listens and learns.

The 38-year-old was always a player for Thomson to look up to, now he is a coach that he can aspire to follow.

After launching his own Academy when he hung up his boots, Thomson took another step up the coaching ladder when he returned to Rangers.

His task with the Under-18s is to provide Gerrard with up-and-coming players, but he takes personal inspiration from the Rangers boss as well.

“The best thing that the manager said to me is that it is open door here and that we are all learning,” Thomson said.

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“It was brilliant to hear a world class player, an icon of the game and someone that played at the very top say that.

“For me, the most refreshing thing is when I hear him speak or do press conferences. I am always listening to him and I feel he speaks the way I do, he has the same demands and ideas.

“I have heard him say that he has met loads of people that have all the fancy lingo, all the fluff, and he is just a straight talker. I feel I am the same.

“I am desperate for him to do really well and be really successful here. He was an inexperienced manager, but the club gave him one of the biggest jobs in the world and gave him that opportunity. In my opinion, he is making massive steps to go on and be a real top manager. That gives me massive inspiration to keep on backing myself, that I could do that.”

The ultimate ambition for any Academy is to produce first team players and the investment in time and money must pay off for Rangers.

Thomson has a part to play in that process, but the kids under his guidance are not the only benefactors.

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He said: “I feel as though I have made big steps quite quickly, but from a personal point of view I am quite greedy, very driven. I want to be the best, I want to get to the top.

“When I sit back, I am proud of how hard I have worked since I retired to build up my own Academy and then to be back at this club.

“I am greedy and I want to keep progressing. I love working with the players, love being back here. It is a club I feel whose DNA is matched by me as a person and I am really humbled to be at Rangers again.”

When Gerrard was appointed last summer, he spoke about the need to raise standards off the park as well as improve performances and results on it.

The changes have been welcomed by Thomson and remind him of years gone by. Once again, there is a symmetry between the way things are run and how he feels they should be done at Ibrox.

“I certainly wasn’t the best player, by a country mile, to ever play for Rangers but I think as a character and a person, I fit with what this club represents and what it stands in terms of its demands,” Thomson said. “When I was here under Walter, there were better teams than Walter’s team, but we were a very successful team with very good players.

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“The side that I saw of the club was me to a tee as a person. I have never really liked the limelight. When I think of us winning leagues and cups, I’m not at the front. It is not me as a person. I just like to do my job, do it to the best of my ability and then go home and relax. I switch off and then I am ready to go again the next day.

“I feel as though the club and me as a person are a good match. But this club never owes anyone anything and I will never take anything for granted working for Rangers.”

It was in January last year that Thomson returned to the club where he enjoyed such success under Smith and became a favourite with fans.

His career has been enhanced once again and he is in the perfect place to learn for the next stage of his life.

“I feel as though the pathway is there within the club if I want it,” Thomson said. “Going down the lower leagues was something that I was offered before I done any coaching really, so if I wanted to go down that road I could have done it two years ago. I feel as though now I am going on a different path.

“I have got the upmost respect for the lower leagues, there are some really good players and managers, and if that was my path I would have embraced the challenge and chance.

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“I felt as though going to youth level and really learning and putting the hours in, taking the time to perfect what I am is a person, was the way to become a top coach and a top manager. I will make mistakes, but I will learn from them and keep on growing as an individual.”

If he can continue on that path, Thomson seems set to become a manager. But how will he know when the time is right for him?

“When someone gives me an opportunity that I feel is right for me and I just have to say yes to,” he said. “It was the same when Craig Mulholland approached me. I had to give up a big part of my own Academy that I had worked really hard for to come and be here full-time.

“It is a big commitment to drive from Edinburgh five, six times a week and your hours as a coach are different to a player. You feel as though you could have a sleeping bag and stay here. I don’t love sitting in the car on the M8, but I love being with the boys and on the training pitch.

“I would do it 24/7 if I could, so that part is easy for me. Until I get asked to do something different, that excites me and I feel I am moving in the right direction, I am very, very happy and humbled to be here.”

*Rangers Academy coach Kevin Thomson is pictured promoting the Rangers Youth Development Company.

Since 2002, RYDC profits have been directed to Rangers Football Club’s youth programme - with almost £8 million provided so far.

And in January, Academy Head Craig Mulholland and youth graduate Glenn Middleton accepted an RYDC donation of £400,000.

For full details on RYDC’s growing portfolio of products – the re-launched Rangers Pools, Rangers Lotto, Rising Stars, Scratchcards, Stadium Bricks and the Youth Members Club - visit www.rydc.co.uk or call 0141 427 4914