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Leon King is immensely proud of his progress with the Light Blues so far – a journey that has taken him from the Rangers Academy to the Champions League.

The 19-year-old defender joined the club after attending a Soccer Camp at The Ibrox Complex and he has combined first-team involvement with appearances in the B Team programme – which included the Lowland League, UEFA Youth League, SPFL Trust Trophy and City of Glasgow Cup.

This schedule prepared him for life as a professional footballer at his beloved Rangers and such was the level of Leon’s recent development, he became the Under-19 player with the most Champions League minutes this season.

Leon will learn from those experiences against Ajax, Liverpool and Napoli and he has come a long way since making his debut against Falkirk as a 16-year-old in November 2020.

A late appearance in that League Cup tie was followed by a league debut against Livingston and the following season the Academy graduate made 6 further first-team appearances.

This season, he has progressed even further and featured in 19 games ahead of the Christmas schedule before picking up an injury at St Mirren late last year.

It was a setback for the talented centre back but there is little doubt Leon has a bright future ahead of him and he was thrilled to agree a new long-term contract with the club in December.

His progress has also been assisted by annual donations from The Rangers Youth Development Company who have now provided more than £10 million to the Academy since 2002, with another £400,000 contributed at the start of the year.

King is grateful to the support he has received from RYDC and all the coaching and support staff at the Academy who have developed him from an early age.

Reflecting on his Rangers journey so far, the Scotland youth international – who featured from the start in last weekend’s 3-1 win at Hibs – said: “I started at the Rangers Soccer Camps at the Ibrox Complex. It was either an Easter or Summer Camp and the coaches at the time were Alan Boyd and Kieran Reilly, who are actually both still at the club.

“They invited me up to the Elite Centre in the Indoor Hall at the training ground on a Sunday night and that was 12 or 13 years ago.

“All the coaches have been an amazing help to me in my career so far.

“I just want to play as many games as possible in the first-team squad. It has been a dream of mine to play for Rangers and to actually do it and kick on is an amazing achievement.

“But it’s still going and I am not stopping here.

“It’s always nice when the Academy boys come through and get opportunities in the first-team and a lot more are getting that chance.

“Players like Nathan Patterson and Billy Gilmour have done it in the past and a lot of young players are doing it now.

“Fans always like to see Academy players breaking through too and I am proud to be one of them.

“RYDC donations have helped my development and the development of a lot of other young players too.

“I know more than £10 million has been raised for the Academy and that is an incredible amount of money to donate. We are all really thankful to The Rangers Youth Development Company and to the Rangers fans who back us.

“I’ve had opportunities to play in big games this season that I never thought I would have and I’m learning all the time.

“I’ll just get my head down and keep working and learning every day to give myself the best chance to get more games.

“I remember training with the first-team for the first time and that was a really special moment.

“It was two or three years ago now when Steven Gerrard was the manager and Michael Beale was there too of course.

“I remember being asked to go with the first-team squad for the first time to the Standard Liege game in the Europa League, the game when Kemar Roofe scored from the halfway line.

“I thanked the manager for the opportunity and he told me they wanted to keep me round in the first-team side and that was great to hear.

“The senior players have been great with me, they are amazing with all the young boys that go round.

“I feel part of the first-team squad now and I feel I have worked hard for it and earned it.

“I actually started out as a striker but because I was the tallest in the team they pushed me to central defence and I’ve been there ever since.

“It has been great to play in the Champions League this season, the players there are at a ridiculous level.

“The players are all so fast and have great technique but I learned so much from the experiences.

“I’m a young player and have made mistakes in games but it’s all about how you bounce back and learn from it going forward.

“I’ve grown as a player and learned so much in the past few years.

“It has been a long journey for me from the Academy to the first-team and Alex Lowry and I both attended a few Academy signing nights.

“It’s always great to see young players join the club and start the same journey I am on.

“Hopefully I can be a role model for the younger players at this club and they can progress like I and many others have too.

“I just want to play as much as I can here and eventually break into the Scotland squad. I can only do that by playing here so I will keep working as hard as I can to earn the chance to play.”

Players like Leon, Nathan Patterson, Alex Lowry, Adam Devine, Billy Gilmour and more recent graduates like Bailey Rice, Zak Lovelace and Archie Stevens have all developed thanks to RYDC support.

For full details on RYDC and their portfolio of products which generate funds for the Academy visit www.rydc.co.uk or call 0141 427 4914.