The William Hill Scottish Cup match against third tier Stranraer tonight offers Rangers manager Steven Gerrard a longed-for chance to field some of the best youngsters who are coming through at the Hummel Training Centre and he is hoping to take it.

Gerrard has a definite affinity with the kids who are trying to make it in the professional game having been in the exactly same position as them himself once at Liverpool back in the day.

“I want to play academy kids yesterday,” he said. “I want to give them an opportunity because I have been there. I have lived it, I have dreamt it, I have done it. A couple of them might be involved against Stranraer.”

The failure of so many of Scotland’s best youth players to make a successful transition into the senior game has been a source of great frustration to those who care about the game in this country, and the fortunes of the national team, for some time.

Gerrard, who broke through at Anfield around the same time as his contemporaries Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen in the late 1990s and went on to win the Champions League and captain England, is better qualified than most to offer an opinion on how they can realise their potential.

“It’s a big debate,” he said. “I could sit here and talk about it all day because it’s an interesting debate. In my opinion you need a lot of different things in your locker as well as talent. Mental strength, desire, humility, you could go on forever, you need them all to be a top player.”

If any of Craig Mulholland’s finest prospects do get a run-out against their part-time visitors this evening Gerrard will be at pains to point out to them that a great deal of hard work still lies ahead.

“I was nowhere near ready at 16,” he said. “In my head thought I was, which happens to a lot of kids. I remember the advice I got off my dad when I signed as a professional. I thought I was there, but my dad told me it was just the start. That’s the difference. It’s the beginning of the journey when you get in and around the first team, but a lot of kids think they are there.”

Gerrard has, despite not lifting a trophy, impressed onlookers greatly since joining Rangers before the start of last season. But the distinct lack of teenagers to feature for his side has been noticeable. Only Glenn Middleton has really enjoyed a run.

That said, with the Ibrox club bidding to stop their Glasgow rivals Celtic from winning a record-equalling ninth consecutive Scottish title this season it is understandable that he has preferred to put his faith in experience.

“There can’t be any sentiment or just ticking an academy box,” he said. “They have to be good enough. It is as simple as that because when you are in my shoes you have got to win football matches.”

At the same time, Gerrard knows the Rangers babes need far more than ability to be involved in his squad on a regular basis. He feels his old Liverpool and England team mate and close friend Carragher is the perfect example of a player whose total devotion to his trade paid dividends.

“Jamie Carragher had talent, yes, but Jamie Carragher’s strength was his heart and his head and his desire and his sacrifice on a daily basis to make sure he was professional and stayed in the Liverpool team,” he said.

“He is probably the most mentally strong player I ever played with. If it was just about talent Jamie Carragher would have played for Liverpool maybe a dozen times. But he put everything around his talent that you need to be a professional and to stay at the top.

“He became one of the best defenders in Europe because he had the strongest heart and the strongest mentality you can have as a footballer.

“That’s why a lot of academy players don’t get there. I’m not sure they have the right people around them away from the game telling them this from a young age. Talent only gets you so far, especially at a club like this. It doesn’t work like that at the top.”