IF Rangers fans still needed convincing they’ll see improved fitness levels at Ibrox this season, they surely got what they were looking for from this weekend’s win at Bristol City.

The 1-0 success at Ashton Gate was satisfying for a number of reasons and the main one was the way Ally McCoist’s players handled themselves in sweltering conditions.

Three weeks of intense training – often in the form of punishing double sessions – have now passed since the squad returned from its summer break.

And with a fortnight left until 2013/14 begins with a Ramsdens Cup first round tie against Albion Rovers in Livingston, a very clear plan is being adhered to ever so well.

Yesterday provided the most substantial proof yet those painful hours working under Jim Henry are leaving the group much better equipped physically for this term than it was before.

While overall standards of passing and finishing weren’t what they should be yet, they will rise soon enough. It’s the high endurance levels which are perhaps most crucial at this stage.

The only surprise against the Robins was that it took until Lewis Macleod’s introduction almost midway through the second half for the Light Blues to score their goal.

While the chances they created probably weren’t as plentiful as the manager would have wanted, the visitors were the better side for much of the contest nonetheless.

Most encouraging was the fact that after they went in front, Gers were extremely comfortable leaders and as their opponents wilted in 28-degree heat, the away side remained strong.

McCoist opted to start all bar one of his seven summer recruits so far at City, with only Arnold Peralta not involved and trialist Belil Mohsni also in the first XI.

In turn, he fielded a team which is likely to be close to his first-choice line-up once the club’s transfer embargo ends at the start of September.

Cammy Bell, Richard Foster, Nicky Law and Jon Daly all appear to be certain starters barring injuries, while the same will surely apply to Mohsni if he puts pen to paper.

Stevie Smith could miss out on such a regular role due to Lee Wallace’s presence but Nicky Clark is another who should get frequent game time.

The likelihood is he’ll be part of a more attack-minded 4-1-3-2 formation, with McCoist appearing to favour that over the 4-4-2 shape he has also tried in the warm-up campaign.

Where the likes of David Templeton and Dean Shiels fit into that – given both are continuing their recoveries from injuries back home in Glasgow – remains to be seen.

Law, Macleod and Andy Little are the leading contenders for the three attacking-midfield spots at present, with the first two in particular developing a good understanding.

McCoist gave a notable acknowledgement of the work Kyle Hutton has done to improve himself over the last couple of months in his post-match interview yesterday.

Describing his efforts as ‘top drawer’, it was hard to disagree following another powerful display and the 22-year-old might just be edging ahead of Ian Black in the pecking order.

In defence, Mohsni looks to have brought out more confidence in Emilson Cribari and a permanent move for him could be the making of the ex-Lazio stopper at Ibrox.

That said, it’s preposterous these days to discuss the make-up of a strongest Rangers side and not include captain Lee McCulloch anywhere.

Now 35, sustaining the levels he has reached in the past will naturally become harder for the skipper but he has looked after himself well.

It could be that he flits between attack and the back in the months ahead without holding one specific position down. Time will tell on that one.

Whatever happens, the squad will keep edging towards its peak in the days ahead at their fantastic German training base near Bielefeld.

The pictures adorning the walls of the reception area at the Hotel Klosterpforte in the sleepy village of Marienfeld say enough about how highly rated the place is.

Owner Reinholt Frie is pictured with many of the guests who have brought teams here in the past to work, including Jose Mourinho, Louis van Gaal and Luiz Felipe Scolari.

As Rangers checked in last night, FC Twente had just left and Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa moved out a few hours ago after they’d had lunch.

Games against local side FC Gutersloh on Wednesday and Dutch outfit Emmen on Saturday will each serve a purpose, of course.

But the work done in between times using the fantastic facilities at the travelling party’s disposal will be invaluable.

With two pristine pitches, a fully-equipped gym, plunge pools and first-class accommodation, the Klosterpforte has everything the players need to excel.

Even the weather is to the manager’s liking. He said after the game in England he’d like it to be cooler in North-Rhine Westphalia and sure enough, it’s a more workable 16 degrees today.

It’s all there for Rangers to push on and reach much greater heights this season if they so desire. Thus far, the hunger to do that is there and I’d expect they’ll only keep getting better.

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