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RANGERS Academy graduate Alex Lowry enjoyed a dream debut in a 4-0 Scottish Cup victory over Stirling Albion at Ibrox and the experience has made him even more determined to push for a regular place in the Light Blues first team.

The 19-year-old scored a fine opening goal after coming on as an early substitute for the injured Ianis Hagi and the smile on his face was as wide as the Clyde when his crisp right-foot shot hit the back of the net.

It was terrific to see his reaction after making a crucial contribution in the game and Alex had earned his chance to feature after more than a decade of hard work and dedication at Auchenhowie.

The Scottish youth international made his league debut a few days later against Livingston and went on to play five more games for Rangers last season – the highlight being another goalscoring performance in a 3-1 win over Hearts at Tynecastle ahead of a bench slot in the Europa League Final.

Injury has curtailed his progress this season, but he has still made a number of appearances and even made his Champions League debut against Ajax.

Lowry, who can play as an attacking midfielder or winger, recently signed a new contract that keeps him at the club until at least 2025 and his journey from Academy player to permanent member of the first-team squad is one he is extremely proud of.

His progress has also been assisted by annual donations from The Rangers Youth Development Company who have now provided more than £10 million to the Academy since 2002, with another £400,000 contributed at the start of the year.

Alex is just at the beginning of his first-team adventure but he has the right attitude and vows to work as hard as he can to try and earn more game time in Michael Beale’s side.

Reflecting on his spell at Rangers so far, Lowry – who made a late appearance in last weekend’s 3-0 win over Celtic at Ibrox – said: “I was at Calderbraes Boys Club and a few Rangers scouts came down to see me and I went in to the Rangers Academy when I was 7 and 8.

“I then committed to the club when I was 10 and I have been here ever since so it has been some journey for me so far.

“The time has flown by. There have been some obstacles to overcome but I have enjoyed every minute of it and I am learning every day.

“When I was young I was coached by Greg Statt, Gary Gibson, Jim McNee and Kieran Reilly and as I’ve moved up the age groups I’ve had David McCallum and Brian Gilmour and they have had a huge influence in getting me to the first-team.

“I owe a lot to them both. Playing for Rangers is something that can never be taken away from you. It is such a huge club with so much history and it is incredible any time I get to play.

“It was nerve-racking to train with the first-team for the first time but it was the next stage of my development and an important step forward for my football journey.

“Since then I have tried to work hard and show the manager what I can do in every session.

“I made my debut against Stirling Albion in the Scottish Cup last January and it was probably the best moment of my life. I came on after 15 minutes and scored the first goal and it was a dream come true to do that at Ibrox.

“The boys always ask me what my celebration was about, I just lost control of my body. It was unbelievable and a great experience but you have to keep working hard and I don’t think I have made it yet.

“I still have so much to prove and it’s up to me to prove to the manager that I’m worthy of a starting place or game time from the bench.

“Hopefully I can play as many games as possible for the club.

“The manager has given a lot of young players a chance but I know it’s not easy to get games for Rangers and I have experienced pros like Ianis Hagi and Scott Arfield who play in my position.

“Playing as an attacking midfielder or winger are my best positions so I need to play at their level and maybe do stuff they don’t do in games to try and get in the team.

“It’s obviously a huge challenge but it’s one I am up for. There is no bigger club than Rangers and I would love to play lots of games here, that’s my aim.

“I am now a permanent member of the first-team squad and that gives me a lot of hope for the future.

“That’s just one stepping stone to try and get into the starting XI though. It’s now up to me to show the staff and the manager what I can do in training and prove that I’m worthy of being in the team.

“I had a great grounding at the Rangers Academy and when first-team players would come round and train with the younger boys you could see their level immediately. It showed all the players what level you need to get to.

“It was a real eye opener and you could see the difference in levels right away. So I knew I had to get my levels up there too and I will keep working as hard as I can every day.

“It’s about kicking on for me now and hopefully playing as many minutes in the first-team as I can. I had a great experience as a youth player here and I know RYDC have donated an incredible amount of money to help players like me develop.

“Their donations help all the youth players reach the highest levels they possibly can and long may it continue.

“We have an incredible training ground and it’s a pleasure to come in and train here every day. It’s a great place for me to develop as a footballer and I just hope to play for Rangers and go as far as I can in the game.

“I’ve still got a lot to learn, all I can do is learn as much as I can and gain experiences to help me become a better player.”

Players like Alex, Leon King, Adam Devine, Nathan Patterson, Billy Gilmour and more recent graduates like Bailey Rice, Zak Lovelace and Archie Stevens have all developed thanks to RYDC support.

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