Potential future stars of Rangers kicked off a new programme of youth development in Portadown on Wednesday with the launch of one of five local soccer schools run by the famous Glasgow club.
Rangers’ legend John Brown was joined by DUP leader Arlene Foster as Uefa qualified coaches put the youngsters through their paces at the Brownstown Park 3G pitch facility.
The club said the Province’s five hubs – at Londonderry Park, Newtownards, Allen Park, Antrim, Ashfield Boys’ School, Belfast, Larne/Carrick Rangers Academy and Portadown – “will help identify ‘Light Blues’ heroes of the future by engaging and inspiring boys and girls to participate in football at grass roots level.”
If successful, Rangers plan to extend the soccer schools for five-14 year-olds to other parts of Northern Ireland.
Speaking at the launch John Brown, who played in the legendary ‘nine-in-a-row’ side of the 80s and 90s, said: “Programmes like these are not just essential for identifying future stars of the game but they help to create a safe environment for kids to come, build their confidence and express themselves through football.”
Commenting on the potential for progression, the highly decorated former defender added: “If we can take one or two through a programme, and bring them into our programme [in Glasgow] it will be great. But as it is, it is giving them something to get out of the house for, off the computer games and iPads, to get them some exercise.”
Mrs Foster said: “We really love the brand Rangers here in Northern Ireland. You guys have been through a tough time and it’s wonderful to see the way in which you have come back so strongly. When there was a suggestion that we would have these [Rangers] community hubs ... I really wanted to be a part of it, because it gives such aspiration to young people.”
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