GRAEME MURTY has praised his Development squad for an ‘excellent’ pre-season as they gear-up for their new-look season.
The Light Blues will compete in the new SPFL Reserve League this season, as well as the Irn Bru Cup, the Glasgow Cup and the SFA Youth Cup, while they will also continue an element of last season’s Games Programme with matches against some of Europe’s top clubs.
Murty has been delighted with their progress so far, and speaking on this week’s Official Rangers Podcast, which is available from 5pm this evening, he was keen to praise his charges for the hard work they have put in.
He explained: “Pre-season has been excellent, and I have to complement the players on their attitude and application – not only the players who have come back early to go in with the first team and have shown up very well in that environment, but the guys who have come back in and really embraced the challenges on some early tours we have had.
“Some of our play and some of our understanding has been outstanding early-on.”
So far, Gers have won the Viktoria Plzen tournament, defeating the hosts, Legia Warsaw and MSK Zilina, while they also performed well at the Kings Lynn tournament and, on Monday, defeated Premier League outfit Newcastle United 2-1 at the Hummel Training Centre.
Murty reckons last year’s Games Programme has improved the young side significantly, while he also spoke of the importance of the matches they have played, beginning with the Plzen tournament.
He continued: “It was really valuable as we played against three top teams, and we had some younger players out there too, and they showed up very well too.
“The main pleasing aspect was the intensity of our play and the ability to maintain quality while playing quickly. The players really showed some fantastic flashes of ability whilst working towards getting fit for that first game of the season, which is what pre-season is all about.
“To come away with a win in the tournament really revealed something about the quality and the standard of these players.
“And I have to say, I have noticed a real improvement. I have obviously been away from this group for a little while, but the Games Programme we had last year has undoubtedly stood them in good stead.
“We also went to Norwich, but actually for different reasons, to look at some team-bonding stuff over a long bus journey.
“We played particularly well against Legia Warsaw’s under-23 side having played against their under-19 side in Plzen, and we really stood up to a very stern examination from some really mature players – they had a 28 year-old and a 30 year-old in there.
“The guys really stood up to it well and we were unlucky to come away not winning that tournament. That stood us in good stead going into the Newcastle game, as they had some more mature and bigger athletes than we have.
“But the guys handled the test really well and continued to play in our style, even though we went a goal behind, we still managed to dominate the ball, move the ball really quickly and score two really good goals.
“I think we could have scored more, but the really pleasing aspect for the guys is the maintenance of quality when we are chopping and changing the squad to get people game time.
“Guys are coming in with points to prove and really excelling themselves. I have to compliment the younger members – at under-17, Murray Miller Kyle McClelland and Kai Kennedy and under-18s, Dapo Mebude and Josh McPake – they have all handled the transition really well and the biggest compliment I can give them is our speed of play doesn’t go down when they come on the pitch.
“So they have really elevated their game to match the older players, and the older players are really in a good place right now, and I hope this mentality and this attitude continues.”