SIGNING as a professional with Rangers and moving over to Scotland from his native Northern Ireland to train with his childhood heroes full-time was the realisation of a lifelong dream for Ross McCausland.

The reality of life in Glasgow, though, proved to be far tougher than he had anticipated at first.  

“It was hard coming over at 16,” he said at Auchenhowie yesterday as the Rangers Youth Development Company donated £400,000 to the academy to take their total contribution since 2002 to over £11m. 

“I always remember the first time that I stayed overnight without my mum and my dad. It was difficult. It’s almost like you’re in jail! I was thinking, ‘It’s like I’m in jail here!’ But you’re obviously not.

“I then came in here for my first day and once I got to kick a ball with the boys I was fine. With the coaches and all the facilities, I settled straight away and ever since then I’ve been fine. But that first time wasn’t easy.”

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McCausland added: “I stayed with a family and there were two other boys from Northern Ireland who lived with me, Chris McKee and Lewis McKinnon. Chris is now with Linfield and Lewis is with Carrick.

“Both of them came from Linfield so I knew them. The family only stay around the corner from where I stay now so I go round and see them when I can.”

It is maybe little wonder McCausland has appeared, outwardly at least, to have made the step up from the Rangers B team into the first team so effortlessly this season after coming through that ordeal as a teenager.

The National: The 20-year-old, who has established himself as a regular starter since Philippe Clement replaced Michael Beale as manager back in October, has met all of the on and off-field challenges which he has faced in his career to date head on. 

“It is difficult,” he said. “Some people don’t expect how big the jump actually is. But I think you need to get yourself ready for when the opportunity provides itself. Ultimately if you don’t take your chance you might not get another one. So you just have to take the chance that you get.”

The winger has found becoming part of the first team dressing room and spending more time around experienced professionals like Jack Butland, Connor Goldson, John Lundstram and James Tavernier to be hugely beneficial to him.

“I moved into the first team dressing room just a couple of months ago after I signed my first team deal,” he said. “It’s a big deal. I’d played a few games before then so was already familiar with the boys. But they were so welcoming with me in the dressing room.

“It’s great to be able to see the way they live their day-to-day life - what they do during training, before training, after training, what they eat for breakfast, all that stuff.

“People might not think moving a locker from one place to another is a big deal, but in this situation it is. Ultimately, I’m going from a B team dressing room into the first team dressing room which is something I dreamt of as a kid, growing up a Rangers fan.

“I’m beside wee Ridvan (Yilmaz) and Adam Devine. To be fair, Ridvan is quite quiet, although he’s always on the phone with Facetime full volume! I’m close with everyone. They’re all good with me.”

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Clement stressed the importance of Rangers having a sustainable business model last week and both buying and bringing through young players who can be developed over time and then sold on for a profit. McCausland is convinced there are many more gifted kids who are set to follow in his footsteps in the youth teams at Auchenhowie.

“You see from the spell I’ve had there’s bags of talent in the B team,” he said. “Everyone can see it. It’s about when you get your chance you just need to take it. I believe some boys in that team are going to get that chance.”

The National: The Antrim lad, who made his full international debut for Northern Ireland against Finland back in November, was linked with moves to clubs down in England and across Europe back in November before he signed a contract extension with Rangers that keeps him at Ibrox until 2027. He has, though, no desire to move elsewhere.

“That’s the most common question I get asked,” he said. “Is this a stepping stone? I don’t look at it like that. It’s the club I have always wanted to play for. I want to be here as long as I can be and keep doing what I’m doing. 

“Some things are out of your control and you might end up somewhere later in your career. But I just focus on what’s in front of me, game by game. I love playing for Rangers, it’s what I’ve dreamt of.”

McCausland has found being suddenly thrust into the public eye to be an unusual experience. However, there is no prospect of the player ever refusing to sign an autograph or pose for a selfie. He stood outside Ibrox after games in the hope of catching a glimpse of one of his idols when he as younger himself.

“I used to be able to go out for lunch with my girlfriend, but now I can’t without getting tortured!” he said. “Even wee kids, it makes their day getting a photo. I remember being that age as well trying to get photos.

“I’d wait outside Ibrox to get photographs and autographs. I remember getting one with Daniel Candeias. I was a fair age then, probably not so young! But going right back I tried to get into as many as I could.”

Ross McCausland’s main objective at the moment is helping Rangers to record as many victories as possible at home and abroad - and he is enjoying a fair degree of success.

Ross McCausland was speaking as the Rangers Youth Development Company made a £400,000 donation to the Rangers Academy and took their overall contribution since 2002 to over £11m.