STEVEN GERRARD is reflecting on the international break with mixed emotions having seen a number of his charges provide major contributions to their nations but had to watch as one had to be substituted with injury.
First-team men Steven Davis, Kyle Lafferty, Glen Kamara, Eros Grezda, Lassana Coulibaly and Alfredo Morelos all saw action at full international level, while Ross McCrorie, Robby McCrorie and Nikola Katic played at under-21 level for their respective nations.
While results were (naturally) mixed, highlights included Steven Davis netting against Estonia and Borna Barisic grabbing his first international goal for Croatia against Azerbaijan – though he was dealt a blow having to go off in their second Euro qualifier as they were beaten 2-1 away to Hungary.
Speaking to RangersTV, the manager explained: “First and foremost they have obviously done well to be called up and it is great to see them getting international recognition.
“But from my point of view, I was just sitting at home hoping they all come back fit and available. Obviously we have had a bit of a setback with Borna [Barisic] who has a bit of a hamstring problem, which makes him a huge doubt for the weekend.
“So that is disappointing, but the rest, so far, seem to be okay. My main concern is they come back healthy and ready to go at the weekend.”
Davis, having started Gers last match against Kilmarnock, featured heavily for Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland in their two excellent successes, with Gerrard delighted with what he saw from the midfield man.
The manager continued:“He has been building up and looking a little bit better and a little bit sharper, but I’m sure he’ll benefit from the two 90 minutes and it will do his confidence the world of good.
“He has come back healthy and will be available for the weekend which is good news for us.”
It’s not just full international level where the Light Blues have been represented, with plenty of Academy starlets featuring for a variety of different age groups at
“It is brilliant, and we have a number of young lads who are doing extremely well. Zak is one who I have a lot of admiration for and is someone who was very keen to go out and play and be involved in a man’s game.
“He could have stayed here and been quite comfortable, but he has gone out to test himself and has done extremely well. He is someone who is very selfless and works his socks off.
“I see a future here for Zak. He will come with us on pre-season and depending on how he does, how he looks and how much he has improved over the 12 months will determine what part he plays next year.
“In the last couple of weeks he has done well, but it is no surprise as he gives you everything he has got.”
For those remaining at the Hummel Training Centre, the hard work has continued, and Gerrard said: “We gave them a couple of days after the Kilmarnock game to wind down and then we pushed them hard – we did three sessions in two days and pushed them physically.
“Then we gave them a long weekend with the families to freshen up as they have played a lot of games.
“It is that stage of the season where you don’t really have to put the hours in on the training ground – it is more about maintenance and ticking over.
“Hopefully they will be fresh physically and mentally going into the weekend.”
Gerrard too was kept busy over the weekend, playing at a sold-out Anfield for Liverpool legends against AC Milan Glorie on Saturday, before taking part in a Q&A for the Rangers Charity Foundation at Ibrox Stadium on Monday evening.
The manager added:“I loved it, and I always like to play my part for charity. To get the invite to play in front of a full house for great causes locally and around the world, I will always give my time up to do that whether it be for Liverpool or Rangers.
“I did the Q&A at Ibrox as well for three hours and really enjoyed that. I do like to give some of my time back for good causes and really enjoyed both occasions.”