Views: 286

Former Rangers midfielder Lewis Macleod has returned to the club as an Academy coach and is delighted to be back with his boyhood heroes.

A product of the Light Blues youth programme, he knows exactly what it takes to break into the first-team at Ibrox and it’s a journey he can explain in great detail to the latest crop of Academy hopefuls having started here as a 10-year-old.

The talented Scot made his debut in July 2012 and was a regular in Ally McCoist’s side until 2015 when he was sold to Brentford.

He went on to feature for Wigan and Plymouth before being forced to retire prematurely due to injury but remains immensely proud to have worn the Rangers jersey despite it coinciding with one of the worst periods in the club’s history.

Now aged 29, Macleod has developed a genuine passion for coaching and he is working with the Rangers under-14 group at the training ground.

In a wide-ranging interview as he showed his support for The Rangers Youth Development Company – who have provided more than £11 million to the Academy and assisted his own breakthrough at Ibrox – Lewis is grateful to have the chance to share his football knowledge with our young players.

He said: “It feels really good to be back.

“You obviously need to change your mindset from being a player to a coach but from the moment I came back through door everyone has welcome me.

“I’m really enjoying this side of football.

“I’m part-time with the 14s, we train three times a week and have a game at the weekend – usually on a Sunday.

“I am focused on that age group but if I am needed elsewhere I am happy to help out and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

“The standards are high around the place and the facilities are great.

“I’ve come back and it’s great to see a few old faces. There is still a core group of people who were here years ago.

“I wasn’t expecting to retire as early as I did but I was always interested in coaching.

“To retire because of injury at 29 is obviously difficult but on the other side it is good to get into coaching so quickly.

“Hopefully this will stand me in good stead for years to come.

“I’m a Rangers Academy graduate, I started here when I was 10-years-old and managed to break into the first-team so if I can pass on the knowledge from my years here I will gladly do so.

“I really enjoying being on the pitch and coaching.

“When I first came in, it was almost like your first day at school but the more I do it the more I realise how much I enjoy it.

“I’ve heard this from people in the past, you do definitely get the bug for coaching.

“I’m starting from scratch as I’m just beginning as a coach but I’m learning new things and that’s the good thing about being at Rangers.

“The coaches here are top class and every day you come in you learn new things.

“Zeb (Jacobs) and all the coaches have a real vision for the way they want the youth set up to go.

“I think it’s a good thing we have ex-Rangers players as part of the coaching staff.

“It’s good to have a mix that includes people who have played here and know what it’s about. It’s a good dynamic.

“We can pass on our experiences to the young players and I am learning here every day too.

“It was 2015 when I left and I had to work hard to get the opportunity to go round to the first-team side of the building.

“That’s what I say to the kids nowadays. It’s probably more difficult than when I broke through.

“You have to be at the top of your game if you want to play for the first-team because the standard is excellent.

“You have to have something about you to make an impact, whether that’s ability, mindset or attitude. You really have to go round and make an impact.

“There are a lot of high potential players in the youth team and it’s always really good to see young players breaking through.

“Ross McCausland has done so well and it’s good for the young players to see what he has been able to do in the first-team.

“He doesn’t look out of place and is thriving. It gives the young players something to aim for and try to emulate what he is doing.

“I look back on my playing career here with a lot of joy.

“I grew up a Rangers fan so playing at Ibrox in front of that crowd really is something to cherish.

“In a perfect world it would have been at a different time. It was the right job at the wrong time but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

“We were still playing in front of 50,000 at Ibrox and the demands and expectations from the fans were the exact same.

“That’s what I have in common with any of the young guys coming through now.

“The first season I played was maybe a bit difficult as players were thrust into the first-team with zero experience of playing for Rangers.

“We had Jig, Lee Wallace and other experienced pros who had been about the leagues and knew what was expected but I’m sure it was difficult for those players as well at times, playing alongside younger guys like myself that didn’t have that experience.

“I still had good times here though and that’s what every kid wants to do when they come through the youth set up and become a professional footballer with Rangers.

“Hopefully now that I’m in here, I can help as many boys as possible do just that.

“You never expect to retire early but at the same time I had a lot of injuries and it was in the back of my mind.

“That’s in the past now and I’m just looking forward and focussing on coaching.

“Hopefully I can make as much of an impact as I can.

“I’ve had different experiences at different clubs and it was good to see how they operate.

“At Brentford it was very analytical and they got promotion to the English Premiership.

“The way the club was run was fantastic and the guys they have in do a brilliant job.

“I then moved to Wigan and Plymouth and they were completely different but every place I have been has been a good learning experience and I can pass that knowledge on to the young players here.

“I’ll knuckle down and try to learn as much as possible about coaching and pass on my experiences to the young boys.

“You learn here every day and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.

“I’m going to enjoy every minute and see where it takes me.”

Lewis was speaking as he showed his support for RYDC.

Our annual donations to the Academy since 2002 have helped players like him progress and another £400,000 was provided in January and that’s now more than £11 million going to youth development.

All profit from products like Rangers Lotto, The Union Jackpot, Scratchcards and Rangers Bricks assists the Rangers Academy.