Gers legends hail Scottish supporters

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Artur Numan is a man who has seen and done most things in football.

Worn the armband of his boyhood club? Check.

Becoming a national hero? Check.

Starred at a World Cup. Check?

Enjoyed a clean sweep of domestic trophies? Check.

Earned a big money move? Check.

So when Numan leans forward and locks his eyes on yours and tells you that Scottish football is streets ahead of their European counterparts in some regards, you have to listen.

As Numan explains his former Ibrox team mate Jorg Albertz is nodding in agreement, chipping in regularly with the two players, so obviously still great pals with how they interrupt and playfully poke fun at one naother, finishing one another’s sentences.

“All the foreign players who have signed for Rangers never expected this to last so long,” began Albertz when asked if he expected to still be talking about his Rangers days, nearly two-decades after he left Govan.

“We always talk about this. If we tried to do these kind of supporters events in Germany or Holland where fans pay for a table to chat to ex-players, it would be impossible.

“Wouldn’t happen,” laughs Numan, “a question and answer with Artur Numan in Holland? Who on earth do you think you are is what we would get.”

“PSV supporters are not one bit interested. They are only bothered about the current team playing and not the old players. This make Scotland so special. Clubs like this one in Stornoway are full of club history and memorabilia and you think it is typical Scotland.”

“This is where European clubs are far, far behind Scottish and British clubs,” continued Albertz.

“Because clubs here live the history of clubs and players and what they meant to you as supporters. When you walk in to a club like this one (Lewis and Harris) you can see and feel the history all over the walls.

“It is amazing and we can’t believe how well we are still treated 20-years down the line .”

“It is hard to find...no, it is impossible to find in Germany and Holland,” smiles Numan.

Numan and Albertz were the latest to leave their famous studmarks on the blue carpet of the Lewis and Harris Rangers Supporters Club where they were the star guests of the most recent fans question and answer session while they shared a tale or two about their time at the top, with the Gers and all in between.

Yet while both players hail Scottish football’s relationship with former players form the clubs they love, they admit they can’t say the same for the development of young players which is something we Scots still lag way behind our continental cousins.

Having recently watched Ajax from his native Holland turn over European giants and financial heavyweights Real Madrid in their own back yard, Numan is asked whether teams like Rangers or Celtic can follow the Ajax route to compete with the Champions League big boys.

“I’m not sure they can,” admitted Numan. “Ajax have such a tremendous history with young players. They have just sold De Jong to Barcelona for £20 million and he is only 20-years-old.

“De Light is 19 or 20 and he is looking to go to Spain or Italy for a similar amount. They have other players with so much quality.

“I think it’s the whole set-up in Holland and in places like Germany too. When I was young I went to a local amateur club and every amateur club there have their own facilities, pitches and dressing rooms.”

Albertz picks up the conversation. He explains: “My nine-year-old son plays for a small club in Germany and his team can make three teams at each age group. “Everybody wants to play football and they have twice weekly training and league games every weekend and it is very competitive.

“My home town of Mönchengladbach has 300,000 people but we have 80 or 90 football clubs and every single one has their facilities.”

“I signed for Rangers in 1998 and I lived in Hamilton,” recalls Numan.

“After a few weeks I saw these guys waiting on a bus around the corner from where I lived to go to Motherwell. One day I stopped to speak to them and they told me they were preparing the parks for the first team. I said ‘do you mean to tell me the Motherwell first team train on a public park here every day?’

“So for me it was a big shock and I couldn’t believe a team at the top level in the country were using public parks.”

“It was the same when I first came to Rangers,” revealed Albertz.

“We had three pitches we would use and we would have to take a couple of buses to these pitches to train then come back to Ibrox.

“Now they have built a beautiful facility of their own which is wonderful but this is a facility every football club in Germany and Holland has.”

“Even the lowest amateur clubs in Germany and Holland can have better facilities than 90 per cent of the top flight clubs here in Scotland which I think is a key reason why we produce better young players. That’s where it starts,” says Numan honestly.

Both players have hailed the first-season impact of Steven Gerrard and urged patience with Numan and Albertz agreeing there are hugely encouraging signs of improvement on the park.

“I haven’t seen the boys live in around four seasons but I’m talking to friends and most are biased but there have been a lot of good results and it looks like he has got the boys going and he has the dressing room backing which is what you want to get going in the first place,” commented Albertz.

“I’m looking forward to getting a really good pre-season this summer and give him a whole new season then with his own team.”

“It will be difficult to win the league but you have to try and get the winners mentality back,” picked up Numan.

“In our time every single time we reached a cup final we won it. League Cup or Scottish Cup – we just won it. Those memories are wonderful.

“I saw Rangers twice last year but not this season. Steven Gerrard was one of the best players of his generation and if he can bring his winners mentality to the players to fight for the jersey and give it all then it will be good.”

“It was a good decision to give the job to Gerrard but it is a great, great opportunity for him as well to step in to management and he is doing a good job so far and I wish him all the best,” stressed Albertz who revealed he is due to attend Ibrox in the coming weeks to take a game in person.