GRAEME MURTY believes his Rangers players gave both he and Peter Lovenkrands all they had in this weekend’s Mercedes-Benz Junior Cup.
Making their debut in the tournament and played in a six-a-side format Gers had never competed in before, the Light Blues turned in a strong performance and claimed notable wins over eventual runners-up Rapid Vienna and an impressive Schalke 04 outfit.
Eventually, Rangers claimed a fourth-place finish, with Murty so pleased with the efforts of his players.
Speaking to RangersTV, he explained: “I don’t think they could have given us any more than they did. We suffered a couple of injuries on the first day which meant we were depleted on the second day, but in terms of commitment, effort and attitude, they were excellent throughout.
“There has been lots of learning taking place and there have been some fantastic challenges for them to try and overcome, and for the most part, we are really, really pleased.
“We just got caught out a few times with poor decisions and not quite taking our chances, but we got most of what we wanted out of the experience and one of our players, Cammy Palmer, reckons it’s the best tournament he’s been to.”
The way in which Gers got up to speed so quickly in the tournament was so commendable, with Murty continuing: “Like I said, I would be alright if they got there by the third game, but they had kind-of figured it out by the first game, and some of our play – some of our incisive play – and some of the goals we scored were exceptional.
“We just had to iron it out at the other end and they have got to realise, when they make a mistake, it is magnified as the pitch is so short and the game is so quick.
“We got caught out a little bit but in terms of learning, we sat them down at the end and rather than shouting and screaming as your old-school coach would have done, we asked them what they learned and what they need to go away from here and work on.
“Each and every one of them were really clear, really precise and got it down to a tee what they need to work on and improve.”
In not one of the seven games played by the Light Blues were they totally outplayed by their opponents, with their technical ability also matching up well against some of Europe’s top sides.
On that, Murty said: “I spoke to a local yesterday and he said, not to be condescending, they didn’t expect us to be any good.
“They expected us to be strong and physical, but they didn’t expect the level of technical ability we had.
“I was quite pleased with that actually – once I got over the little bit of anger I suppose – and thought, do you know what? For us to come here, and him to say that, against some very, very good teams and some teams that are renowned for their technical ability, is a real good plus for the boys and a real good plaudit for what we are doing in the Academy.
“As with all things, we can’t stop still. We have to keep pushing it on and bringing us to places like this to play against these good teams will obviously enhance our players’ learning and make them deal with the ball even better than they currently do.”
Gers were 3-0 down at one stage of their semi-final with Rapid Vienna before fighting back to 3-2 and then eventually going down 4-3.
On that, Murty added: “I talk about decisions at critical moments in the game, and we were lax. In the semi-final, we went three goals down due to us – it was nothing to do with them – it was down to our poor play.
“We then got ourselves back in it with two goals in 10 seconds which was fantastic, and then we went and gave them another goal through poor decision making from us.
“But the learning aspect and the learning curve from it has been fantastic and I have watched our young players grow and lots of them in different ways.
“It’s not just about the ball, but about them as people, understanding what resilience looks like and having to be a little bit hard-nosed and professional.
“It’s all to their learning and it’s all to the good and they have all grown from it.”