By Andy Newport, PA
Steven Gerrard believes Steve Clarke will have Rangers and Celtic to thank if proposals to enter Old Firm B teams into Scotland’s Lowland League go ahead.
Clubs in Scotland’s fifth tier have voted in favour of the controversial plans, which will see the Glasgow giants blood their young players in the Lowland League for one season only.
The league’s 17 member clubs will now make a final call at their AGM in a fortnight’s time having already given their blessing through an indicative vote this week.
The junior Old Firm sides will not be eligible for promotion to Scottish League Two and are understood to be willing to make offer a financial offer to secure their involvement.
Rangers last week expressed frustration over the lack of progress for their idea that they and Celtic be allowed to enter B teams straight into the bottom division of the Scottish Professional Football League.
But with the Lowland League now set to open its doors, Ibrox boss Gerrard reckons Scottish football – and Clarke’s national team – are set for a huge boost.
The Rangers manager said: “I have been involved in some of the conversations.
“I think it will be fantastic for everyone if people decide not just to think about themselves.
“If you’re thinking about the country and improving the Scottish national team at all levels, then what we want is to give the kids a better chance to develop into better players.
“If you can play against men earlier… if you can play for important points and give these kids more responsibility, put them in more pressurised situations with bigger crowds, I think that can only be for the benefit of the country.
“Obviously I’m sitting here as the Rangers manager and some will think, ‘you’re only saying that because you’re at Rangers and you’re being a bit selfish’.
“I understand those opinions as well but if I try to take myself out of the Rangers environment to answer the question and to think about the Scottish game and the national team, I think this is a big plus for Steve Clarke and any future national manager.
“A lot more Scottish kids will be getting challenged earlier playing men’s football, playing for points, playing in front of crowds. That brings your development on a lot quicker than playing games that have less significance and pressure.”