MARK WARBURTON’S players were back training yesterday as the preparations started for this weekend’s Championship clash against Livingston at the Toni Macaroni Arena.

With the majority of the squad enjoying a few days off, the manager was delighted with the hard work put in as they returned to Murray Park with a spring in their step.

Of course, several under-21 and under-19 players were away on international duty and Warburton kept an eye on how they got on in the games they were involved in.

But with a busy spell of fixtures coming up, the Gers gaffer believes the international break came at a good time for the rest of his group.

Speaking on Monday, he said: “It was very important, to recharge the batteries.

“Two or three boys got away, other boys got some good family time. So nice to recharge, they’ve worked very hard up to that point and they came back in today and trained really well. So delighted with their focus and intensity today.”

On the international games his younger players featured in, Warburton added: “They’ve done well, you’ve seen Barrie and Ryan Hardie and Jordan Thompson, these guys are away playing, getting full games as well, so great for their experience and their development, but they will be keen to get here with a game on Saturday.”

For Gedion Zelalem, Nathan Oduwa and Fraser Aird – who were picked for the United States, Nigeria and Canada respectively – clocking up air miles is going to be the norm as their international careers progress.

Warburton insists this is all part of their development and it is something they have to get used to.

He said: “They have, the likes of Gedion has been to Brazil. He played a full 90 and had a very good performance in the first game. Only got 50 minutes the second game and thankfully he’ll arrive back in tomorrow.

“Fraser Aird gets back on Thursday so for the young guys it’s a lot of miles, a lot of travelling time and they’ve got to adjust accordingly.

“So hopefully we can look after them here and best prepare them for Saturday.”

Travelling long distances to play in international matches is not ideal for any club manager as they look to keep their squad fresh for upcoming domestic fixtures.

But Warburton is delighted his players are being rewarded for their efforts.

He added: “They’re big challenges. There is a lot of down sides, shall we say, in terms of Gedion having 27 hours coming back and travelling and acclimatisation and jetlag and everything else.

“But the benefits they gain in terms of experience and mixing with other players, best against best, seeing what the international standard really is. What is international football? What does it represent? There are so many benefits from it and we have to try and make sure we always work with the relevant association or federation to make sure the boys maximise the opportunity.

“They deserve it, they’ve trained really well, they’ve worked hard from the first day of pre-season, so delighted to see them get the reward they deserve. They are in the system now, their job is to focus and be the best they can every single day. If they can do that they’ll keep on progressing forward.”

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