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FEATURED USER 🙌🏻 Rangers Football Club

Rangers FC has given 12 Scottish Premier League debut appearances to academy graduates in the past 3 years of what has been a tremendously successful period. 2020 saw Rangers win their 55 titles, under the guidance of now Aston Villa Manager, Steve Gerrad, the most titles of any football club in the world – and the first in 10 years following one of the most arduous decades in the club's history.

18-year-old Alex Lowry is the latest academy graduate to move into the first team after scoring on his debut against Stirling Albion in the Scottish Cup. A notable win away to Borussia Dortmund in February saw them go back to Scotland with a 4-2 victory.

Rangers FC Academy Coach John Lawson recently stepped onto The Coaching Lab podcast to share how he is using a games-based approach to develop the future player MatchPlay Cards©.


On the transition of young players through the phases to senior football, John shared the importance of having players with attributes that can help them adapt, problem solve and be self organising.

"I certainly try not to just look at the kid now and not judge him on his performances because you can play well and lose and played really poorly and win. We try to look at potential, say there is a kid who handles the ball really well, then how will he handle the ball in 5/6 years time."

Adding that "Academy football can't be dictated too much by first-team styles of play. I think our job is to create as well rounded players as we can by creating the best environment and giving them the best attributes we can to experience different problems to solve. I am a big fan of good players who will adapt to the formation or style of play providing they can handle the ball, have good attitudes to learn"

"The good thing about the cards is that they see it as a fun way of learning, it is almost the cards telling them what to do and not me. If we set the environment right, we then get the creativity to let them have their game back and let the kids solve the problem"


Sharing an insight into his own philosophy on player development, John shares the impact of using a player centred approach where the game sits at the centre.

"We are hoping to develop attributes and habits that will carry on into different sessions, formations and the further players go.... for me constraints are massive." Rangers Football Club, John Lawson

"Constraints play a huge part when we are using themes, I will try to select MatchPlay Cards© that fit the theme we are working to. We can't predict what will happen next in the game so we want to give them different problems to solve and make things chaotic with underloads and overloads."

"When I saw the cards I thought they really match up with the individual stuff we're trying to do, as much as we want to develop teams and groups, it is always about the individual. They fit in well with giving players their wants and needs." Foundation Phase Coach, Rangers Football Club, John Lawson

Aware that a player's journey is an unpredictable one, John is conscious to develop skills that have a much wider impact than just on the pitch.

"We may give a kid who is really quiet and needs to work on their communication so we choose cards around that. A big part of his development long term is going to be after he stops playing the game, whether that be at 15 or 35, a lot of the skills we are working on sets them up for life"

"You can challenge players individually, you can do that in front of other players or just do it 1-1 where the player is choosing their own MatchPlay Card©The individual part is really important because at the end of the day it is about developing individuals"

"If we can give players autonomy, confidence and ability to hold conversations at the younger ages we will have better learners and hopefully people who can make better choices"

"One way I use MatchPlay Cards© is 1-1 before the session where players pick a card as a target. It gives them an individual challenge to work on during the session and a chance for them to reflect or ask the group what they noticed about that player, that way they begin to understand it as well."


"We will have 30 minutes of games at the end where we will do an accurate score, 10 rounds of 3 minutes and each team will take turns to then pick a card and shout it out to the group. Come the next 3 minutes a new card is picked. The score will carry over between the games, it is that constant chaos and variety that they have to think about"

"It keeps the kids on their toes, you could choose a different card every week and not have the same one. It adds variety, it's new and keeps their eyes wide open." Foundation Phase Coach, Rangers Football Club, John Lawson

"Constantly changing the environment, it adds to the fun and that excitement part about what MatchPlay Card© will they pull out next. They are always desperate to see what is next. They want to pick the card to see what happens next"

"You could do it in blocks as well, where you choose the same round of cards... 5/6 cards for a few weeks to measure development individually and collectively and then change the environment again with a new set of cards. It all depends on what you are trying to achieve"

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Thanks to John for sharing his ideas on MatchPlay Cards© and appearing as a guest on The Coaching Lab Podcast -


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