Alex Russell put in charge of Bristol City's under-21 development squad
BRISTOL City's academy revolution continued today when former Ashton Gate star Alex Russell was put in charge of the club's under-21 development squad.
The 39-year-old, who helped the Robins win promotion to the Championship in 2007, will lead the club's youngsters in their first season in the Professional Development League Southern Division.
Russell, pictured, coached City's under-15 team last season while playing in the Blue Square Premier for Bath City. But the former City, Torquay and Cheltenham midfielder has since decided to hang up his boots and take a full-time position at Ashton Gate.
Robins manager Derek McInnes has overseen a significant turnover of staff since taking over the Championship club in October last year and the experienced Russell will work closely with academy director Tim Kirk and head of coaching Willie McStay.
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Crosby-born Russell said: "When I left City in 2008 I spoke to the chairman (Steve Lansdown) and said I'd be keen to return for some coaching at the end of my playing days. I always had a good relationship with the people at the academy and it was great to get involved with coaching the under-15s last season while still playing with Bath City. This opportunity to work with the under-21s is one that really excites me.
There's a massive transformation taking place within the academy at the moment, with so many people putting in a great deal of work."
Russell backs the introduction of the Professional Development League, which sees City's youngsters play against the likes of Cardiff, Ipswich , Brighton, Swansea and QPR.
He said: "It's a big change from the old reserve league because, although you can play three over-aged players in matches, the majority are all youngsters who are striving to make it in the game.
"The tempo in the matches we've played to date has been good and you can see the desire in everyone's eyes. Whereas reserve-team games were often packed with older professionals who'd rather not be there, these young lads are desperate for these games and want to impress.
"We're trying to build a development squad at the moment, looking at a lot of trialists in the process. That will come over time and it would be great to get to a position where we've a close-knit group of youngsters competing regularly together in the under-21 league."
McStay, pictured, said: "I'm delighted to appoint Alex into this role, which is one that holds huge importance for the club. He has the knowledge and understanding of developing players for the first team. I've watched and listened to him and he's very much of the same philosophy as Derek (McInnes, manager) and myself.
"Alex is very well respected by everyone at the club, from the young lads to those dropping down from the first team.
"Achieving the potential of our young players and bridging that gap to the first team is a strong focus for the academy and Alex's appointment will certainly strengthen that area."
Russell holds a UEFA B Licence and has begun his A Licence.